I have a story for the ages. It begins when I moved to the Golan, fast forwards to today, goes back in time, comes back to today, and even goes into the future.
The story is about a soldier who died in battle and of a boy who helped perpetuate his memory 25 years after the soldier died. I spoke with the boy’s mother last night in effort to get all the facts straight.
August 2006: When we moved to the central Golan Heights, I noticed that approximately a half-a-mile before one reaches the entrance to my moshav, there is a little wooden sign hanging off a five-foot rod that is shaped like an elongated number seven.
It says something in Hebrew and has an arrow pointing into the fields, and if you ask me, I never really paid attention to what it said. Not thinking it was out of the ordinary, I’ve just taken it for granted and assumed it was someone’s workshop or something to that extent.
April 2007: Monday was Yom Hazikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day), and last week, the local Golan weekly newspaper, listed the fallen soldiers who came from the Golan. On the list was our moshav, and there were names that I recognized and names that I didn’t.
One of those names was Moshe Zimmerman.
October 1973: Six years after the Six Day War, which led to the capture of the Golan Heights, the people of Israel were solemnly standing in synagogue on Yom Kippur when the Egyptians (in Sinai in the south) and the Syrians (in the Golan in the north) simultaneously launched a surprise attack.
Israel lost a lot of soldiers on all fronts, including the Golan. When they say the Golan is planted with blood, it is sadly true.
The day after Yom Kippur, October 7, 1973, a solider by the name of Moshe Zimmerman went to fight with his comrades as part of an artillery unit. Sadly, he was hit by gunfire in a battlefield not too far from my home and died.
August 1999: Fast forward now. Twenty-somewhat years after my moshav was founded and relocated to its permanent location, a group of teenagers went out hiking.
Cycling, hiking, swimming, and even me taking my kids to the forest at the front of the moshav is very much commonplace. So there was nothing strange about a bunch of teenagers going hiking in the fields outside the moshav.
But on that morning, something was different. As they were nearing the end of the hike, one boy saw something peculiar sticking out of the brush.
He had been through the area many times, but never noticed it. Hiking through the high grass, he came closer and found a hewn stone. He cleared it away and it was engraved with the following:
in the Yom Kippur War
First Sergeant Moshe Zimmerman
11 Tishrei 5734 – October 7, 1973
Some of these monuments are known, but a good lot are lost amongst the vast fields of the Golan Heights. The army was contacted about this find, but at first they did not want to divulge the whereabouts of the Zimmerman family.
This is the army’s policy, understandably, and they keep the lives of the bereaved family private. However, after revealing the story of how the stone was found and the information written upon it, the army agreed to contact the Zimmerman family.
October 1974: One year removed from the loss of their child and brother, the Zimmerman family was escorted in armor personnel carriers by the Israeli Defense Forces to the approximate site of where Moshe Zimmerman fell in battle. The army showed them the monument which confirms and attests to Moshe’s braveness and self-sacrifice.
Seasons came and seasons went, and by the time the next year came around, the location of the stone was lost. Thus, the point of where First Sergeant Moshe Zimmerman gave his life for our country was lost, as far as the family was concerned, forever.
May 1999: I’m not sure if it was exactly May, but a few months before the monument was rediscovered, Moshe’s father passed away. Before he passed away, he mentioned how he regretted that not enough was done to know where Moshe’s monument was.
September 1999: After the army contacted the Zimmerman family, they were excited to say the least. Excuse my cliché, but it was like finding a needle in a haystack, only this needle was a holy solider who gave up his life for the people of Israel. The family came to our moshav and to the monument, where Moshe’s brother said the Kadish prayer.
Since then, the moshav has planted an olive tree overlooking Moshe’s monument. And every year when Yom Hazikaron nears, the people of my moshav clean up the area and decorate the monument with flowers and raise the flag of Israel over Moshe’s monument.
Then, the family and the moshav meet for a ceremony honoring and preserving Moshe’s memory, where songs are sung, prayers are prayed, and tears are wept. In every respect, the people of my moshav have adopted Moshe as its own – and Moshe’s family has adopted us, too.
The Future: As was done earlier this week, my moshav will continue to remember Moshe and all the other great soldiers that fell in the Golan and the rest of Israel.
Finally, the word carved into the wooden sign on the side of the road says L’andarta – “to the monument.” I will never forget you Moshe Zimmerman. Without your sacrifice, we would not be here in the Golan Heights.