How Israel taught me the meaning of “E pluribus unum”

I can’t believe it’s been twenty years.

I remember it like it was yesterday. It’s not the day itself I remember, just one vivid scene that forever changed me.

I was in 10th grade. Recess. Suddenly the school sound system was broadcasting the news.

They never did that. Sometimes they played music. Usually it was used just to sound the recess bell. Never the news.

Israeli schools are loud. Israelis in general are loud, boisterous, passionate, excitable… Younger Israelis are generally noisier than grown-ups. Israeli schools, because they are made from concrete and don’t have carpeting or furniture that absorbs sound, can be extremely noisy during recess.

Not this time.

There was dead silence. The moment the news began every student froze on the spot. A silent scattering of statues, everyone was listening intently to the report.

I had moved to Israel the year before. At first, I didn’t understand what was happening. I didn’t catch the beginning of the news flash.

And then I heard the names.

Name after name after name. Oh, my God. A wave of horror swept over me. When will the list stop? How many names will they read?

Everyone was utterly silent. Listening.

73 names.

There had been a terrible helicopter crash. Two IDF troop-carrying helicopters collided mid-air, causing them to crash and kill all the soldiers who had been on-board. 73 soldiers died in the blink of an eye.

The headline reads: National day of mourning – The Nation of Israel unites in mourning the 73 sons who won’t come back

I was the outsider, looking in on something I couldn’t completely comprehend. I didn’t have a brother, friend or father in the army. Everyone else did.

I was listening to news that was happening to people I did not know. Everyone else was petrified, listening, praying not to hear the name of someone they knew and loved.

No one moved until the list was completed. Near the end of the recitation one girl burst in to tears and ran to the school’s pay-phone (no one had cell phones then, it was 1997). I remember watching her crying in to the phone and not knowing what to do with myself. What could I do?

That was the moment I understood the interconnectivity of Israelis. There is a bond unlike anywhere else in the world. Everyone knows someone who knows someone. If in America there are six degrees of separation, in Israel there are three (at most). Often this is a good thing. At other times, it is painful beyond belief.

In Israel, there is no such thing as someone else’s pain. It always comes back to us, it’s always connected.

This is what it means to be a family.

That moment, 20 years ago, changed my life. In my childhood, in America, I learned the image of the “rugged individual.” I didn’t truly understand the idea of belonging to a Nation. Until that moment I understood with my head but not with my heart.

The idea of “E pluribus unum” became real to me only after living in Israel.

We are the many who have gathered from the four corners of the earth to live our oneness. One family, each member strikingly different from the other but all connected by an unbreakable bond.

This is Israel.

These are the names of the soldiers who died in the helicopter disaster February 4th, 1997.

73 families ripped apart. Parents who grew older without their children, watching the friends of their children grow up and create families where they are left with only memories. Siblings missing their brother. Friends missing that special person who understood them so well. Women who had to find other men to love… Each death is not the death of one but the death of a world.

Lt. Shai Abukasis, 22, of Mikhmoret

Sgt. Itai Adler, 19, of Ra’anana

St.-Sgt. Avraham Afner, 21, of Kiryat Tiv’on

St.-Sgt. Idan Alper, 20, of Bat Yam

St.-Sgt. Avner Alter, 20, of Ashdot Ya’akov Ihud

St.-Sgt. Yonatan Amadi, 20, of Ma’ale Adumim

Sgt. 1st Cl. Saguy Arazi, 22, of Kfar Yona

St.-Sgt. Ran Arman, 20, of Ra’anana

St.-Sgt. Emil Azoulai, 20, of Ashkelon

Lt. Alon Babayan, 21, of Givat Ze’ev

St.-Sgt. Rafi Balalti, 20, of Migdal HaEmek

1st Sgt. Hussein Bashir, 28, of Beit Zarzir

St.-Sgt. Nir Ben-Haim, 20, of Yifat

Lt. Kobi Ben-Shem, 20, of Ramat HaSharon

Lt. Saguy Berkovitz, 21, of Alfei Menashe

1st Sgt. Maj. Paul Bivas, 26, of Ashdod

Lt. Dotan Cohen, 21, of Hadera

Maj. Yirmi Cohen, 23, of Rosh Ha’ayin

St.-Sgt. Assaf Dahan, 19, of Jerusalem

Maj. (Res.) Yasys Eden, 44, of Ramat HaSharon

Lt. Gil Eisen, 21, of Ness Ziona

Sgt. Noam Etzioni, 20, of Megadim

Sgt. Menachem Feldman, 20, of Haifa

Sgt. Moleto Gideon, 21, of Lod

Sgt. Avishai Gidron, 19, of Kiryat Motzkin

Sgt. 1st Cl. Tamir Glazer, 24, of Holon

St.-Sgt. Aviv Golan, 24, of Beit Yosef

Sgt. Tomer Goldberg, 19, of Dishon

St.-Sgt. Aviv Gonen, 20, of Petah Tikva

St.-Sgt. Micha Gottlieb, 20, of Tel Aviv

Maj. Ronen Halfon, 35, of Tiberias

Sgt. Alejandro Hoffman, 19, of Misgav Am

Maj. Yisrael Hushni, 34, of Tel Aviv

St.-Sgt. Shahar Kasus, 20, of Alfei Menashe

St.-Sgt. Michael Katz, 20, of Mitzpe Netofa

Sgt. Fadi Kazamel, 19, of Beit Jann

Sgt. Tomer Kedar, 21, of Negba

St.-Sgt. Tom Kita’in, 20, of Neve Shalom

St.-Sgt. Ilan Lanchitski, 20, of Haifa

Lt. Dvir Lanir, 21, of Moledet

Capt. Avishai Levy, 27, of Tel Aviv

St.-Sgt. Shilo Levy, 21, Karnei Shomron

St.-Sgt. Nadav Lishinski, 20, of Sde Avraham

Sgt. 1st Cl. Eitan Maman, 25, of Beersheba

Sgt. 1st Cl. Gal Meisels, 24, of Kiryat Ata

Sgt. Yaakov Melamed, 20, of Petah Tikva

Capt. Dr. Vadim Melnick, 34, of Safed

Sgt. Vladislav Michaelov, 22, Tel Aviv

Sgt. Idan Minker, 20, of Nir Yitzhak

St.-Sgt. Gilad Mishaiker, 20, of Jerusalem

St.-Sgt. Gilad Moshel, 20, of Tel Aviv

Lt.-Col. Moshe Mualem, 31, of Beersheba

St.-Sgt. Haran Eliezer Parnas, 20, Herzliya

Lt. Eren Hai Peretz, 21, of Deganya Alef

Sgt. Vitali Pesahov, 19, of Acre

Cpl. Shlomo Pizuati, 19, of Tiberias

Sgt. Gidon Posner, 22, of Tel Aviv

Capt. Dr. Vitaly Radinsky, 33, of Or Akiva

Sgt. 1st Cl. Kamal Rahal, 27, of Beit Zarzir

Sgt. Shahar Rosenberg, 19, of Ness Ziona

St.-Sgt. Assaf Rotenberg, 20, of Tel Aviv

Sgt. Moshe Saban, 19, of Hod HaSharon

Lt. Nir Schreibman, 20 of Kfar Saba

St.-Sgt. Itamar Shai, 20, of Jerusalem

St.-Sgt. Omer Shalit, 19, of Jerusalem

Sgt. Yiftach Shlapobersky, 20, Hod HaSharon

St.-Sgt. Gil Sharabi, 20, of Rehovot

St.-Sgt. Tsafrir Sharoni, 22, of Netanya

St.-Sgt. Tsafrir Shoval, 22, of Bar’am

Lt. Erez Shtark, 21, of Kiryat Ata

St.-Sgt. Assaf Siboni, 20, Nir Am

Sgt. Yaron Tsofiof, 20, of Tel Aviv

Sgt. Dani Zahavi, 19, of Haifa

3 thoughts on “How Israel taught me the meaning of “E pluribus unum”

  1. Hi Forest Rain!!!

    I can recall still being at school in 1976 when Israel (IDF) rescued 250 (cannot remember exact figures) hostages at Entebbe airport. They were on their way to Paris from Tel Aviv. That is where my respect for Israel started in addition to what my religion teaches.Later in my life I worked closely with Israelis working on arms development.

    All the best Roelf

    On Mon, Feb 20, 2017 at 9:35 AM, Inspiration from Zion: This is a Love Story wrote:

    > Forest Rain posted: “I can’t believe it’s been twenty years. I remember it > like it was yesterday. It’s not the day itself I remember, just one vivid > scene that forever changed me. I was in 10th grade. Recess. Suddenly the > school sound system was broadcasting the news. They” >


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