SOMETIMES YOU CAN'T LOOK BACK
by Rabbi Moshe Kempinski - Jerusalem Insights #445
January 23, 2004
A group of students had entered our shop and we began what became a very heated discussion about the situation in the Middle
East in general and in Israel in particular.  As we were speaking a man had entered the shop with his wife and he stood by and
listened to our conversation.

As we began a discussion of the June 67 war the man became animated and in a very heavy Israeli accent asked to say some
words.

He pointed to a large poster showing three paratroopers after the liberation of the Western Wall. 
"You see that picture," he
pointed urgently,
"that's me." I asked him which one of the three soldiers were him.  He said, "no, no, see the nose, the man
whose face is covered except for his nose... that is me."


He then continued to describe how he had succeeded in surviving those terrible years of evil in Europe and was brought to
Israel as a teenager.  Those were the days of the State's birth and they were years of war.  He described how he had been
quickly taught how to shoot  a Sten rifle and was sent into battle.  The fear was overwhelming but that war in 1948 was not
destined to be the last war.  He grudgingly and fearfully participated in all of them.  He joined the armour corps and made a vow
never to leave his armoured car or tank during battle.  After years of fear and lack of protection in war ravaged Europe he was
not able to disengage from the protection of the steel walls of his vehicle.

That was until that day.

In June, 1967 he was in Jerusalem with his unit and he remembers clearly the message he heard on the tank radio.  "
We found
it, we found the alleyway to the Kotel ... its in our hands".


He does not remember how or why but he remembered that he soon found himself out of the tank.  He started running through
the streets of the old city, past smoldering buses and turned over cars.  There were still shots being fired but he remembers only
a burning passion to get to the wall.

When he got there he heard the prayers and the blowing of the shofar and he felt overwhelmed.

Then he said to us,
"You know I never turned around to look at the wall."

He did not continue and none of us dared to say anything - we sensed there was great pain in that comment.

" You see," he continued, "I knew that if I looked back I would see my mother, father and sisters at the wall.  Even though they
were butchered in the camps.  I knew they were there.  So I could not look back."

At this point he apologised, turned and walked out the door.

Sometimes you can't look back.

Sometimes all you have is the view that is ahead of you.

Therein lies the comfort and the hope.

moshe kempinski (
http://www.shorashim2u.net )

NOTE:
to see the picture of the three paratroopers go to  <
http://www.shorashim2u.net> and go to poster art
JERUSALEM INSIGHTS is a journal of insights, stories and torah thoughts from Jerusalem's Old City
A project of Shorashim of the Old City
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