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The end of the world

למעבר לגרסה בעברית - לחצו כאן

Landing in Ushuaia, I said goodbye to the lovely Argentinean doctor, not forgetting to take her phone number at the medical centre she was going to be working at.

The end of the world
 

After a few rings an unidentified voice answered the phone and I asked to speak with Sagi, my son. After long seconds of silence I was surprised to hear him say “Daddy, where are you?” Jokingly, I told him to go to the atlas, go down the length of Argentina and there I was, near to the southern point near Antarctica. I didn’t understand why he was asking and didn’t give it much thought, only later did I hear that at that moment there were lots of people at my home together with my daughter, Einat who was in the last month of her pregnancy together with Sagi awaiting to hear what had happened to the combat soldiers who had flown in the two helicopters that had crashed in the northern part of Israel.

We left the airport, stopped a tender and asked the driver to take us to a small but clean hostel, most important a cheap one! After a few moments we were already in our room and as usual I switched on the television to watch the news on CNN. On the screen I saw ‘breaking news’ and pictures of apple orchards near the settlement of Dafna and then moving on to another nearby settlement, Shaar Yeshuv. The reporter was talking about two Yasur helicopters with 73 soldiers on board that had crashed into each other in mid-air and had scattered all over the area. While the reporter was talking, the camera zoomed onto a colored army beret of the Nahal unit. My heart missed a few beats and my face turned pale. I turned to Momo and said “My son is gone!” Momo said that I was talking nonsense and that there were many units being flown by helicopter into the various outlying posts in Lebanon. He suggested we try and phone home again and a few minutes later I was again talking to my son, Sagi and this time I asked him straight out if Shahar was on the list of missing soldiers. He simply answered “We don’t know anything yet”. A buzzing sound filled my head and I tried to think what I should do. I gave him the number of the hostel where we staying at and told him to contact me as soon as they heard anything. All that I can remember is that Momo and I returned to the hostel, he tried to calm me down but two hours later while we were sitting in the pizzeria next to the hostel the phone rang and I was told that the call was for me “Ari from Israel, telephone for you”. My legs were numb and it seemed like hours to get to the phone, unable to say anything, as my tongue seemed numb, I heard my son-in-law’s mother say that it was hard for her to even say the words… somehow I found myself saying “I understand that I have to come home”. Her answer was “Yes” and burst into tears.

The end of the world
 

I threw down the telephone and ran outside into the pitch darkness. Alone under a solitary street lamp that gave out an eerie yellow light I looked up to heaven. Momo joined me and took me in his arms, bursting into tears while saying “Oh Arie, you have no idea which path you are now going to take”.  He, himself, lost his brother in 1954 in an army conflict on the Gaza border.

I remember thinking to myself that I didn’t know why he was crying because my son had just died and not even one tear had fallen from my eyes. For some long minutes we stood there together in the dark looking at the mountains that seemed as if they were falling into the sea.

The end of the world
 
The end of the world
 

Back at the hostel, midnight, I had to tell Dvora, my wife who was with Momo’s wife at a hotel in Rio de Janeiro on their way to where we were supposed to meet in a few days in order to carry on our trip all together.

Roni, the army officer from Rehovot (Israel), asked if I wanted someone from the embassy to go and tell my wife but I answered that as the two of us were partners in creating Shahar, I was the only one who would tell her. It took me a while to find the hotel they were staying at near the airport of Rio de Janeiro and over the phone I tried to tell her the bad news. At first, she was so happy to hear my voice and until today I can remember her words “Mamush I love you”. I was unable to tell her the truth and said that Shahar had been killed in a car accident in Tel-Aviv. I could hear her scream and unable to comfort her I just said that I would get to her as soon as possible.

I carried on like an automat, talking again the army officer, Roni and asked that someone should meet us all in Buenos Aires. Dvora and Ilana, Momo’s wife,  would come from Brazil and Momo and myself, would fly from Ushuaia, the end of the world. We returned to our room and I found myself taking a shower and putting on the white clothes that I had with me, some kind of purifying ceremony. That night I didn’t fall asleep and like in some kind of flashback, pictures of Shahar…

The end of the world
 

Next morning we tried to get a flight to Buenos Aires, but only succeeded after quite some time. However, Momo, dragged me out of the terminal and told me to look again at the mountains dropping into the ocean, up above a flock of condors was flying south, “Shahar is among them” and added no more.

Towards noon we landed in Buenos Aires where the Israeli consul was waiting to take us the ambassador’s home where Dvora and Ilana were impatiently waiting.

Only towards midnight did we find ourselves on a flight to Madrid. The military attaché had taken care of everything and took us straight on board. All the way we sat silently, sometimes our shoulders shaking with grief and sometimes our eyes spilling with tears, asking ourselves over and over again how we are going to carry on living. It was then that I came to the decision that Life Must Go On and that we had other children and soon grandchildren. I would do everything I could to continue…

At the airport in Madrid someone from the embassy was waiting trying to get us a connection to Tel-Aviv. In the afternoon we finally boarded a plane to Israel and the first thing I did, was to ask for an Israeli newspaper. Among the pictures was a photograph of Shahar looking at me from the front page and again I burst into tears. The flight to Israel had to land in Geneva because of a storm and then they discovered that there was a problem with the airplane and until it was repaired the flight was put off. Despite the continuing worry that we would not get to Israel in time for the funeral and despite the exhaustion we were all suffering from, I tried to find out from the El-Al employees what our options were, as Roni, the army officer in Rehovot, had notified me that they were delaying the funeral until the last moment possible, 11 a.m. Friday and there was absolutely no way that it could be put off until Sunday. I asked for a further delay and they agreed to 14.00 Friday, I told him that we would be there!

How was I going to find a flight and be in Israel at 14.00?! I phoned the Israeli security official in Zurich, who is an old friend of mine, and after some time he said that at 7.00 there was a flight from Paris that would get in on time. We arranged a taxi to take us from Geneva to Paris, 500 km, and drove throughout the long night. As I was sitting next to the driver, it was also my job to stop him from falling asleep on the wheel.

At 6.00 a.m. another embassy official was waiting for us at the Orly airport near Paris and immediately put us on board the ElAl flight that was about to depart for Tel-Aviv. A few moments before landing I asked my wife, Dvora, to put on some make-up in honor of our son, Shahar.

We landed in Israel and on the runway an army military minibus was waiting together with our two older children, Einat and Sagi. We all fell on each other crying and sobbing and Sagi helped me to walk to the minibus. Together we started our journey to the cemetery of Nes Ziona. On our way, at the Bet Oved crossroads, we met up with the command car carrying Shahar’s coffin, and it was so, that all the members of the family arrived together at the cemetery of Nes Ziona.

Thousands of people filled the cemetery. I remember nothing. I was lead forward, my shirt torn as a sign of mourning, I said Kaddish and then we came home from the end of the world leaving Shahar forever on the hill where he was buried.

A few hours later, at home, on the television, the reporter announced that the last of the fallen soldiers who had died in the helicopter crash, Shahar Rosenberg, had been laid to rest….

The end of the world
 
The end of the world

This article was donated for publication by Arieh Rozenberg - arie475@walla.com

To go to the website dedicated to te memory of Shahar Rozenberd, CLICK HERE

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תכנים קשורים: soldier, mourning, dying, helicopter disaster, rosenberg
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