Tuvia is not a name one often hears. Recently I heard my name twice on the same day in the most unusual circumstances. On that particular day, I was guiding my “Write On for Israel” group in Jerusalem at Yad Vashem and Mount Herzl.
At Yad Vashem we visited the Children’s Memorial designed by Moshe Safdie. The powerful memorial has a main chamber that seems to show a universe of burning candles symbolising the one and a half million Jewish children who were murdered in the Holocaust and whose lives were snuffed out. In addition to the visual element there is also a recording of the murdered Jewish children’s names and ages in Hebrew, Yiddish and English. As I stood there with my group absorbing the sensory moment I heard my own first name being read out. I got goose-bumps as the realisation hit me that, “there but for the grace of God go I.” It could have been me. If I had lived just over seventy years ago I would have been the Tuvia killed for the “crime” of being Jewish at the wrong place at the wrong time. A time when there was not a Jewish state or a Jewish army and there was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.
Following the morning at Yad Vashem we headed over to the other side of the hill to the Mount Herzl national military cemetery. We arrived to witness a memorial ceremony for a fallen solider. For the second time that day I heard my name.
Tuvia Yanai Weismann z”l was brutally murdered in 2016 by a pair of Arab teenagers as he heroically, with his bare hands, charged at them in a supermarket where they were carrying out a terror attack in order to prevent further loss of innocent lives. “You are a true hero. You didn’t have a gun, but still you ran without thinking twice,” his young widow Yael Weismann said in a tear-filled voice as she stood by her husband’s grave. It is not just the way that one lives ones life but the way one dies that tells us about a person. Tuvia was twenty-one with his whole life ahead of him, newly married to Yael with a four month old daughter Netta, and was shopping with his beloved family before Shabbat when he was murdered in cold blood by hate-filled children who are the product of incessant incitement against Jews and who in their warped delusion think that they can “heroically” murder themselves towards a state.
As I stood with my group at the yahrzeit ceremony at Tuvia’s grave on Mt. Herzl, tears of sadness, anger, frustration and despair welled up as I thought about the young widow, and the daughter who will grow up and only know about her gently smiling father through stories. Yael sobbed as she eulogised her husband and thanked him for the,
best present you could have given me, our daughter Netta. I couldn’t ask for something more perfect. I promise that Netta will know who you were and how much you loved her. We will never part from you. Give me the strength to look Netta in the eyes and tell her that everything will be fine.”
Whilst both of these Tuvia’s were killed and died young their deaths were different. When the little boy Tuvia was murdered during the Holocaust his life ended in silence. He vanished, in the wink of an eye. He was snuffed out like a candle, and no one saw or heard. No one took notice of who he was, what he had done, or what his life had meant. To live and die in Poland was an empty and barren experience, containing only sadness and regret. It was a waste of precious life. The IDF soldier Tuvia gave his life, as have all the fallen soldiers, for all the people of Israel, so we can live and be free, and safe, and independent. So that “never again” truly means never again. This is not a waste of life. It is a celebration of life. Tuvia is not a name one often hears.