From Auschwitz to Lebanon – until Yom HaZikaron

Over the last few months, I had been filming a special report for Memorial Day in which I wanted to tell the following story: Marta and Yosef Motzen were Holocaust survivors. Their son, Avremi, who was a student at the Kol Torah and Shaalavim yeshivas, fell in the Lebanon War when his tank set on fire. Immediately after the shiva, his friends decided to start a Torah class in his memory, in his parents’ home. There are lots of classes set up in people’s memory, but how many of those classes last for 37 years in a row? The class’ participants started out as boys, and today they all have grandchildren. Every three weeks, like clockwork, they arrive at the Motzen home in Petach Tikva. Avremi’s father, Yosef, died a few years ago, but the class continues: some of the participants are rabbis and educators, some are businessmen, one of them is a judge – and all of their families know not to schedule any events on the night of “the class at Marta’s.”
When we came to film, Marta sat in the living room, the number from Auschwitz on her arm, sitting across from Avremi’s photograph, bearing his IDF ID number. When the friends entered one by one, and the sound of Torah learning could be heard from the living room, her face lit up. “There nothing else in the world like this,” she told me, “that people are so dedicated to elevating a friend’s soul.” That evening, after class, Marta felt ill and was hospitalized. Her son, the cantor Yaakov Motzen, recently informed me that she was growing weaker. Last night, Marta passed away and will be laid to rest today, on Israel’s Memorial Day for Israel’s Fallen Soldiers. A life’s journey of faith and heroism, lasting 92 years, that passed through Auschwitz and Lebanon–and ended at the cemetery in Petach Tikva. I didn’t know that I would be filming the final class, but when I left the warmth of Marta’s tiny living room, I had the feeling that the last century of the history of the Jewish people was right there: The Holocaust, our Rebirth, our Torah.

In her memory.

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סיון רהב-מאיר

Sivan Rahav-Meir is a media personality and lecturer. Married to Yedidya, the mother of five. Lives in Jerusalem. She works for Israel TV news, writes a column for Yediot Aharonot newspaper, and hosts a weekly radio show on Galei Zahal (Army Radio). Her lectures on the weekly Torah portion are attended by hundreds and the live broadcast attracts thousands more listeners throughout the world.
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