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A Hug from Heaven

A Hug from Heaven

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St.-Sgt. Dvir Emanuelof
St.-Sgt. Dvir Emanuelof

It's been almost a year since St.-Sgt. Dvir Emanuelof became the first casualty of Operation Cast Lead, losing his life to Hamas mortar fire just as he entered Gaza early in the offensive. But sitting with his mother, Dalia, in her living room last week, I was struck not by loss, but by life. And not by grief, but by fervent belief. And by a more recent story about Dvir that simply needs to be told.

This past summer, Dalia and some friends planned to go to Hutzot Hayotzer, the artists' colony constructed each summer outside Jerusalem's Old City walls. But Dalia's young daughter objected; she wanted to go a week later, so she could hear Meir Banai in concert.

Stunned, Dalia turned around and saw the father holding a babyDalia consented. And so, a week later, she found herself in the bleachers, waiting with her daughter for the performance to begin. Suddenly, Dalia felt someone touch her shoulder. When she turned around, she saw a little boy, handsome, with blond hair and blue eyes. A kindergarten teacher by profession, Dalia was immediately drawn to the boy, and as they began to speak, she asked him if he'd like to sit next to her.

By now, though, the boy's father had seen what was unfolding, and called over to him, "Eshel, why don't you come back and sit next to me and Dvir?" Stunned, Dalia turned around and saw the father holding a baby. "What did you say his name is?" she asked the father.

"Dvir," responded Benny.

"How old is he?" Dalia asked.

"Six months," was the reply.

"Forgive my asking," she continued, "was he born after Cast Lead, or before?"

"After."

Whereupon Dalia continued, "Please forgive my pressing, but can I ask why you named him Dvir?"

"Because," Benny explained to her, "the first soldier killed in Cast Lead was named Dvir. His story touched us, and we decided to name our son after him."

Almost unable to speak, Dalia paused, and said, "I'm that Dvir's mother."

Shiri, the baby's mother, had overheard the conversation, and wasn't certain that she believed her ears. "That can't be."

"It's true."

"What's your last name?"

"Emanuelof."

"Where do you live?"

"Givat Ze'ev."

"It is you," Shiri said. "We meant to invite you to the brit milah, the circumcision, but we couldn't."

"It doesn't matter," Dalia assured her, "You see, I came anyway."

And then, Dalia told me, Shiri said something to her that she'll never forget - "Dvir is sending you a hug, through us."

Shiri felt as though she were looking at an angelAt that point in our conversation, Shiri told me her story. She'd been pregnant, she said, in her 33rd or 34th week, and during an ultrasound test, a potentially serious problem with the baby was discovered. After consultations with medical experts, she was told that there was nothing to do. The baby would have to be born, and then the doctors would see what they could do. A day or two later, she was at home, alone, anxious and worried. She lit Chanukah candles, and turned on the news. The story was about Dvir Emanuelof, the first soldier killed in the operation. She saw, she said, the extraordinarily handsome young man, with his now famous smile, and she felt as though she were looking at an angel.

A short while later, Benny came home, and Shiri said to him, "Come sit next to me." When he'd seated himself down next to her, Shiri said to Benny, "A soldier was killed today."

"I heard," he said.

"What do you say we name our baby after him?" Shiri asked.

"Okay," was Benny's reply.

They told no one about the name, and had planned to call Dalia once the baby was born, to invite her to the brit milah. But when Dvir was born, Shiri and Benny were busy with medical appointments, and it wasn't even clear when they would be able to have the brit. By the time the doctor gave them the okay to have the brit, it was no longer respectful to invite Dalia on such short notice, Shiri told me. So they didn't call her. Not then, and not the day after. Life took its course and they told no one about the origin of Dvir's name, for they hadn't yet asked Dalia's permission.

So no one knew, until that moment when a little blond-haired, blue-eyed boy - whom Dalia now calls "the messenger" - decided to tap Dalia on the shoulder. "Someone's looking out for us up there," Shiri said quietly, wiping a tear from her eye, "and this no doubt brings Him joy."

It was now quiet in Dalia's living room, the three of us pondering this extraordinary sequence of events, wondering what to make of it. I was struck by the extraordinary bond between these two women, one religious and one traditional but not religious in the classic sense, one who's now lost a husband and a son and one who's busy raising two sons.

Unconnected in any way just a year ago, their lives are now inextricably interwoven. And I said to them both, almost whispering, "This is an Israeli story, par excellence."

As if they'd rehearsed the response, they responded in virtual unison, "No, it's a Jewish story."

It is a story of shared destiniesThey're right, of course. It is the quintessential Jewish story. It is a story of unspoken and inexplicable bonds. It is a story of shared destinies.

These are not easy times. These are days when we really could use a miracle or two. So perhaps it really is no accident that now, when we need it most, Dvir is sending us all a hug from heaven above.

Daniel Gordis is the author of numerous books on Jewish thought and currents in Israel. His most recent book is Saving Israel: How the Jewish State Can Win a War That May Never End.
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Rivkah CAroline Pemberton Baytown, TX/USA September 7, 2010

This story brings great joy to me though I am far away I pray for the IDFand the families for miracles. Reply

Eileen Monkman Selkirk, Canada January 13, 2010

I am struggling to hold back the tears - what a blessing I have just received.

I am of Aboriginal decent and live in Canada. In 2006 I visited Isreal for the first time and when the students and staff of the school where I work wanted to know about the country and her people, I did a number of projects from the filming I had done. During my second visit, I was able to interview a number of Israeli students. Just as important for me was to highlight the army, those who were abducted and have a segment with a soldier highlighting his experience during the 2nd War with Lebanon. With any spare time I have, I do my utmost in educating those around me about Israel and her extraordinary citizens.

I told the Israeli students who visited my classroom this past October that from the moment they put on their uniforms they are my heroes. What I realized afterwards though is this - to all of the citizens of Israel from the youngest to the oldest - each and everyone of you is my hero. Reply

Agnes Bekker-Westerman Dordrecht, Holland. January 13, 2010

It shows, the greatest comfort...how sad it first seemed, the Lord doesn't make any mistake...
He is and will ever be the One Who is in controll! Blessings to all of you. Reply

Shashi Ishai Netanya, Israel via chabadhouse.com January 11, 2010

This story is a hug from heaven for anyone who reads this..... Reply

Temi Cummings Sun City West, AZ USA via ichabad.org January 8, 2010

what a beautiful story about a heroic young man Dvir Emanuelof. I read his story an cried. I wish his Mom and family good health and keep your Jewish faith.
Shalom from Sun City AZ Reply

Anonymous brooklyn, ny January 7, 2010

beautiful story and so well written Reply

Norman Sider Indianapolis, IN via lubavitchindiana.com January 7, 2010

My older son was born in 1979 and we named him Jonathan, after Yoni Netanyahu of blessed memory, the leader of the unit (and its only fatality) which freed those held hostage by Arab terrorists at Entebbe in 1976. Reply

julie indpls, in via lubavitchindiana.com January 7, 2010

I had to read this article twice. What a comfort in a heartrending situation, with such an extraordinary meeting. Reply

Pearl Krasnjansky Honolulu, Hawaii January 7, 2010

What an incredible, beautiful story! Thank you so much for bringing it to the public. May Dvir Emannuelof continue to watch out for his namesake - and all of the Jewish people - until the Final Redemption, when there will be true peace and we will all be reunited with our loved ones. Reply

Mina Gordon Melbourne, Australia January 7, 2010

Benny and Shiri, may your children continue your family's legacy of ahavat yisrael (loving your fellow Jew). As a cousin that visited last year, I can honestly say that your whole family is inspiring. Reply

Walter H. Steinlauf Sacramento, CA, USA January 6, 2010

SS Dvir ~ You are Yet Alive in Our Hearts and in Our Souls. l'shalom! Reply

Dr. Amy Austin Rancho Mirage, CA/USA January 5, 2010

Hugs back Dvir...

Hopefully new baby Dvir will walk in Dvir's dedicated footsteps.

There are no coicidences. Hashgacha protis. Dor le dor. Lev le Lev... Reply

Orly London via chabadwimbledon.com January 5, 2010

May baby Dvir give Dalia some consolation in her great, great loss. Reply

Gavriel Eliezer ben Ze'ev Gershon Largo, FL January 5, 2010

This is a sad-sweet story that is as uplifting to our souls as the naming in honor of Dvir was as uplifting to his soul.
May Dvir (the baby) grow up to Judaism, the wedding canopy, and many mitzvaot in SS Dvir's name. Reply

Anonymous Conroe, TX/US January 5, 2010

Shalom to both families. Yes, I believe in angels and miracles too.

A Texas Jew from Galveston Reply

brianna saint paul January 4, 2010

How utterly depressing a story. Reply

Anonymous Thronhill, ON,Canada January 4, 2010


Very sweet story of Divine Providence Reply

Anonymous Las Vegas, USA January 4, 2010

This was a very touching story that brought tears to my eyes. This does happen in Jewish religion where someone dies in the family and a newborn is born and the name lives on once more. Reply

Anonymous Perth, Australia January 4, 2010

A spiritual lift and inspiring event - yes, miracles are with us daily.

Blessings to both families and the soul of the late Dvir. Reply

Anonymous Los Angeles, CA January 4, 2010

A true story of joy to embrace all of us. May their friendship continue forever. Reply