From the Editor
BY RABBI ELIE MISCHEL
“Life with an ideal worth dying for is a life worth living” (Dov Indig).
I didn’t live through the Yom Kippur War, nor the pain, mourning and disillusionment that followed it. I’ve always known the facts – that 2,656 brave young men died, and over 9,000 were wounded, sacrificing themselves to hold off the Syrian and Egyptian armies until reserve troops could arrive. But it wasn’t until I read Letters to Talia that I truly understood what our people sacrificed during those dark and painful days fifty years ago.
Letters to Talia records two years of correspondence between Dov Indig hy”d, a deeply idealistic hesder student, and Talia, a high school girl from a secular kibbutz in northern Israel – a correspondence that tragically ended when Dov was killed in a holding action on the Golan Heights on the second day of the war. The letters began after Dov met Talia’s father during his military service. Taken by the young religious soldier’s thoughtfulness, Talia’s father urged her to reach out to Dov and ask him her questions about Judaism.
The letters reveal both Dov and Talia to be deeply thoughtful young people. A bookworm, Dov was conversant in Jewish philosophy, Religious Zionist thought and a broad range of secular subjects, knowledge he drew upon to passionately defend and explain the Torah’s perspective on an impressive array of topics – from mixed dancing and intermarriage, to evolution and the Holocaust.
Most striking of all is Dov’s intense idealism and his pride in serving in the IDF. As he began his third tour of duty in March, 1973, Dov wrote to Talia: “Hurray! I’m a soldier!… Every time I put on my uniform and receive my rifle I’m filled with joy and pride and strength… What pride I feel with my weapon in my hand!”
The child of Holocaust survivors, Dov was painfully aware of the significance of Jewish strength. After the horrific murder of eleven Israelis at the Munich Olympics, he wrote: “Alongside the sadness I was also happy – the world remains the same, but how different the state of the Jewish people thirty years after the Holocaust! This time, when Jews are being killed, the Jewish people have a state, they have an army, and they are capable of taking retribution on their enemies… What an enormous difference there is between the Jewish people in the Holocaust – “like a sheep being led to slaughter” (Yishayahu 53:7) – and the Jewish people of our own generation – “poised like a lion, to tear off arm and scalp” (Devarim 33:20)… Here G-d has done us this great kindness, establishing a state for us immediately after the Holocaust and giving us superhuman powers to beat all our enemies… When we race along in tanks, storming a target and firing, and there is the loud noise of engines and shells bursting, with every shell that I load into the turret I shout, ‘Jewish blood is not cheap!’”
Indeed, Jewish blood is no longer cheap. We are fortunate to live at a time when every soldier sacrificed, every victim of terror, is properly felt as an incalculable loss. What path would Dov have taken, what impact would he have had on our people, had he lived? Where would we be today, if those 2,656 young men who gave their lives to defend us had lived? Fifty years later, these questions are no less painful.
“If the State of Israel is a Jewish state, in which the life, culture and spirit of the Jewish people are being renewed, in which the Jewish people are living their ideals and heritage, in which the Jewish people are strengthening their Jewish identity and developing it, then it’s worth living here, and even fighting if necessary – and even dying for it, if it is so decreed.”
Dov wrote these words only a few months before he gave his own life in defense of his people. They are at once a comfort, for after two millennia of exile, our generation is blessed with a Jewish state. But they are also a challenge, to we who must carry on his legacy. Are we doing our part to strengthen our people and our Land, to advance the final redemption, to build a state worthy of Dov’s sacrifice?
May this year bring only blessing and peace, to all of Am Yisrael. And may we soon see the day when Dov, and all of his brothers in arms, are reunited in joy once again.
Rabbi Elie Mischel is the Editor of HaMizrachi magazine.