My name is Achlas Ashtaya and I live in the village of Salem in the Nablus District
Anat Marnin - "Long Ago, I Loved the Autumn"
Long ago, I loved the autumn. The gust of chilly winds bringing with them repose from the heavy heat of summer, before the rainy winter set in; the festive spirit that prevailed, the longing for renewal, the hope for fulfillment of all things good.
But for thirty years now, the autumn winds have also carried with them the memories of that terrible war, the intensity of unforgettable pain, and the sorrow of loneliness. When I was asked to write some words on behalf of the bereaved families, I had my qualms. Indeed, we all share a common fate, but each family reacted in its own way to the tragedy, which was so personal. Each family gave different expression to its pain and created its own unique methods for dealing with their loss.
In our home too, the broken and incomplete family that remained, each of us reacted and behaved differently. So I can only speak for myself.
Mommy kept herself busy with incessant activity, interweaving the instruction of the English language with education of values and perpetuation her sons. Her ability to express her thoughts and feelings, and her willingness to give and receive love has helped her cope till this very day.
Daddy fell silent. Days on end he was silent. And on those long sleepless nights, he would sit and write about Pinki and Yair, and send them letters that bore no address. Until there were no more words left, and his heart, which could no longer bear the pain –– broke.
And I? I felt I must be strong for them. Get back to my routine and pretend all was normal. My close friends, who have been there for me ever since, and have stayed by my side throughout – even when I lost that passion of youth and my joie de vivre – will attest to the fact that I functioned normally nonetheless. Inside me there was turmoil, but I shut it out and hid it well so that I could be a support system for my parents. They, in turn, kept their own composure to support me and support each other. And so it happened that each one of us cried alone. We could not share the pain between us. I feared that if my Box of Pain would open, it would spill over and consume everything in its way.
Idit gave birth to Shahar – whose arrival she and Pinki had so looked forward to – the day after the bitter news hit us. She sang to the baby in her soothing voice and repressed her own tears deep inside her heart. Shahar ("dawn" in Hebrew), who was born to lighten up the darkness of our days, was a blessed child. And yet such a heavy burden to bear for such a newborn.
And for thirty years I have been asking myself, “what if… what would my life look like today; how would I feel; what would I choose; how would I cope in all sorts of situations. If only...”
If only the leaders had not failed in their most important role – to ensure our safety. If only you my brothers, Pinki and Yair, so young, innocent and handsome, so confident and so trusting of those who failed – if only you had not gone out to battle. But you went out, and did not come back. If only we did not stay behind, helpless as we were, to receive the bitter reality.
There is nothing worse than losing a special loved one, –son, brother, husband, father, there is nothing worse. To lose two – it’s unfathomable. We have been forced to cope with this unfathomable situation for the past thirty years. And there is no consolation for the pain, the void, the loss.
What would the State be like today if not for that terrible crisis?
Every Yom Kippur, the wound is torn open yet again, fiddled with, aggravated. More versions are suggested, more explanations offered, more guilty parties found,– all intending to shed truth on the matter.
And I skim over the new scraps of information that once again expose the depth of pain. I cannot cope with the rage and the frustration of the realization that all of it could have been spared. If only...
In my everyday routine I feel that you are with me, partners in my life, –through the happy times, the successes, the difficulties, the fears. And yet you are so missing from it. Longing has become a feature of mine, both of character and of face. Sometimes, the imagination can play tricks on one, and a fragment of a smile, a soft look, the contour of a body, bristles on a chin – be they an acquaintance's or a stranger's – suddenly catch my eye and seem to belong and feel so close, and yet they are so distant and so out of reach.
Every member of the family and every friend are dear to me because of who they are, but not only; they are also dear because of their connection to you, both of you. I am able to talk and they are able to remember and know and understand. One can find oneself arguing, –was it Pinki or Yair who said this sentence? Was it Pinki or Yair who made up this nickname? And who was the best at this game, passed on to my children as family tradition?
I think of you jointly and severally. There is much similarity between you, and a lot of difference too.
The quiet, noble leadership, the reserved sense of humor, the determination, maturity, thought–out conduct, the responsibility, the confidence projected outwards – that was Pinki.
The smile radiating from the heart, –sometimes shy and embarrassed,– the warmth, the love for family, the sensitivity, the ability to spoil others and self, the developing independence,– that was Yair.
Devotion, loyalty, a sense of justice and responsibility for all, the natural talent to bond with both old and young and the great love for each other – these are traits you both shared.
And I was so young, character not yet formed; and from that breaking point I had to grow and mature. Counting the years that have elapsed confuses me. Emotionally, I still feel like your kid sister, sixteen years of age. Although I am now thirty years older, something in me stood still, froze. Just like you: Yair is still 19 and Pinki is 23.
And yet I still feel as if you are both getting older with me.
I imagine you at every age and every stage, comparing you to friends your age, as if you have never left us. As if you were still not that much older than I am and nothing has changed, developing through your own life–phases, as my sibling–partners, my supporters. I talk to you often, but nobody hears. I tell you things; I wonder at things; I feel pain.
And I contemplate such questions as: what would each of you have chosen to study, and where would you have chosen to live? How would I have felt about it? How many kids would you each have had? What kind of uncles would you have been to my own children? On more than one occasion, at different points in my life, I tried taking counsel from you, and in my internal dialogue I could sometimes imagine what you would have said or done. There were also times when I was angry. How could you two have gone together leaving me on my own? For years I felt guilty at the fact that I alone remained, without being asked for my opinion, without my choosing it.
There are moments when the pain and the responsibility are too heavy to bear.
But in spite of everything, I chose to continue; I chose life – to remember you with tears, but also with smiles; to pain for your leaving me, but to be happy that you were my brothers. And to be thankful for the gift I was given, –of worthiness to grow up in such a family until the age of sixteen.
The passing years pose new challenges and new opportunities to see you from different angles. The desire to get closer to you has not worn off; nor has the urge to meet Yair's friends and touch him through them; to take pleasure in Pinki's daughter and granddaughter and see the thread of life continue through them; to know always that dear family and friends are loving and supporting partners, who are educating a wonderful new generation, which has never known you, but will also never forget you, nor will they forget the lessons of that terrible war, or the unnecessary and terrible wars that preceded and followed it.
This new generation is no longer as innocent as we were back then. It is critical, and yet filled with hope; a generation that does not give up on itself, nor is it forgiving towards itself; one that is not forgiving towards the leadership, nor has it given up on its State. We–you are the next generation, and we have a mission:– to do what we can to end the bloodshed in our area and prevent loss, pain and suffering on both sides. We must be a generation that promotes peace, freedom and hope for all. And the intensity of our pain gives us the strength to do so.
Anat Marnin Shaham
Words written by Anat Marnin–Shaham, sister of Pinchas (Pinki) and Yair, both combat soldiers in the Armored Corps, who were killed in the Yom Kippur War on 7.10.73, during the defense battles in the Golan Heights, and in the attempts made to rescue the soldiers situated on the Bar–Lev Line in Sinai –– commemorating thirty years of the war.