At Half-Mast

Today is Yom Hazikaron – the day for the commemoration of Israel’s fallen soldiers and civilians. Tomorrow (that is, starting this evening right before sunset) is Yom Ha’atzmaut – Israel’s Independence Day. Of course, the dates go according to the Jewish calendar, and I don’t know the dates by heart, and I should be ashamed. But moving on…
Last night, I went to a Yom Hazikaron ceremony with my parents. My mom and her sister had the honor of placing one of the bouquets (or whatever you call it) on the stage in memory of Israel’s fallen soldiers, one of which was my uncle (my mom’s brother).
My uncle, Victor Arzouan, whom I called dod Victor, was serving in the IDF’s Modi’in (Some secret intelligence department) and he wasn’t allowed to talk about it, not even with his family. My grandfather, however, had a feeling that his son was hiding something, and told him that whatever it is he’s doing, to be very careful.
Some time later in 1987, my uncle was supposed to come home for the holidays of Rosh Hashana and Sukkot, but he never made it.
I was five at the time. I remember waking up at 2 a.m. because of a loud and terrifying pounding at the door. My parents opened the door and there stood two soldiers. They asked my mother if she was Victor’s sister, she said yes, and they delivered the news. My uncle was shot in the Gaza strip by a Palestinian. It turns out my uncle wasn’t on any mission. Somehow, he found out one of his colleagues was in trouble. When he went after him, he sealed his fate. He was 27 (ironically).
Again, I was only five, so none of it made too much sense. My family members explained to me that my uncle was hit by a bullet. But the word "bullet" in Hebrew (kadur) also means "ball." So basically, in my five-year-old mind, it was the time of the Jewish holidays, and on top of that it was also my birthday, but instead of celebrating, my family is crying because someone shot a soccer ball into my uncle’s chest.
While explaining the story to my then two-year-old cousin, this is basically what I told him. When you play with a ball, you may have fun, but you may also die. When my mom overheard our conversation, she asked one of her brothers to explain to us what a bullet was. So he took us to my grandparents room and showed us different size bullets.
Today I don’t remember much about my uncle. Most of what I know, I learned from my parents. But from what I know, it appears my uncle and I have very much in common. I was told that he was very artistic, he loved animals, and he was very quiet and introverted. We would have gotten along quite nicely.
My cousins and uncles living in Israel are now serving in the army, some sporadically, some permanently. I don’t suppose any of them are working for Modi’in, but then again, I wouldn’t know. What I do know is that my uncle’s shadow is cast over all of them, and any of them, at any given moment, can potentially meet the same untimely fate.
Peace, love, and R.I.P dod Victor.
P.S. – My family and I have a space dedicated to my uncle. The link is in my "Blogs" list. 

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