I wrote about Esther in Right to Exist: A Moral Defense of Israel's Wars, where I recounted how she was called out of a talk she was giving to a group of young people at Yad Vashem about her Holocaust experiences, to be told that her grandson had been killed that morning. 29-year-old Eyal Yoel had been fighting with his reserve unit in Jenin; it was April 2002. Nine years ago tomorrow. The date of his death, Yom Hashoah, is one day later than the date of her death, the evening of Yom Hashoah.
The story that Esther always told those groups was about how her parents sent her off with her little sister in 1939, from their hometown of Glogau to England; and how the girls and their mother managed to correspond for a while, until their father, and then their mother, were murdered by the Nazis. She would always read a section or two of her mother's last letter, which exhorted them to find their way to "our homeland", the Land of Israel.
Yet the way Esther told it, it was mostly an optimistic story, about how the two of them eventually did make their way here, and how they were reuinted with their older brother who had been here the whole time, and how she raised a family, and completed her education, and went to university, and had a long and fulfilling life. Maybe it was because of the optimism that she was invited, over and over, to travel to Germany and talk to scholchildren who could have been her grandchildren, or later, her great-grandchildren. And maybe it was the optimism which enabled her to learn how to use all the new-fangled contraptions such as e-mail and photoshop; she prepared a presentation with her mother's letter in Powerpoint.
She even had a blog. Her last post, from a few months ago, was about the blessings of having all those descendants. Who knows what their great-great-grandmother would have made of all this; of all her descendants and distant descendants "living in our land".
Or dying there.
Here's a bit from a recent post she wrote:
It is so easy to fall into the trap of being served. But then comes the question "Who am I?" And as long as I can, I hope to be able to conduct my life as best as I can and remain a useful person within my locality, help others where I can and accept help when and where needed. All this is part of growing old. This my present motto. I hope I can live up to it.