I couldn’t believe my eyes the first moment, even though it started with the headline: “The IDF spokesperson announces…”. These days we are used to doubting incoming information, and especially this kind of news, which is unimaginable. And then comes the realization that it is true, that Zechariah Baumel, who was missing since the Battle of Sultan Yaacov, will be brought to Jewish burial in Israel tonight, on Mt. Herzl. His sister, Osnat, who will attend her brother’s funeral tonight, said suddenly during her meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu: “שהחיינו וקיימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה” (“Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.”) Because even though it is a tragedy, at least now we have certainty. Our Sages have already stated: “There is no joy as the dispelling of doubts”.
Zecharia Baumel went out to battle 37 years ago. People my age were born and raised knowing that he was missing, and here, he is no longer missing. And then comes the thought about his father, Yonah, who had turned every stone and tried every path, but passed away with a question mark in his heart.
And then one of his friends from the Hesder Yeshivah was interviewed, and he and all the other friends from Yeshivah are all fathers and grandfathers now, with children and grandchildren. And that friend said in the interview that every day when he says the morning blessing of “מתיר אסורים” (“Who releases the bound”), he tries to think about Zecharia, about his school friend. The young Oleh from America, who loved basketball, who was studious and sociable – he didn’t see him since he left for Lebanon in 1982: “The efforts all these years were not for the dead, but for the living – for the deep Jewish message of comradeship, mutual responsibility and memory.”
And then Prime Minister Netanyahu said at a press conference that his Tzitzit were found next to his remains. And indeed, the meaning of Tzitzit is memory: “…that you may look upon it, and remember…”
37 years, and a whole nation has not ceased remembering Zecharia.