The year was 1948, in the midst of the War of Independence. While the city of Yerushalayim was besieged by enemies and short on food, water, and other supplies, Israelis tried to live as normally as possible.
On July 26, Avraham, a boy who was a few days shy of becoming a bar mitzvah, was hanging out with his friends on the streets of the Beit Yisrael neighborhood in Yerushalayim where he lived with his parents. While they were playing, a Jordanian shell was fired toward Beit Yisrael. The shell did not explode, but rather it landed on the street. Avraham and his friends curiously approached the shell. As fate would have it, the shell exploded precisely at that moment, injuring three boys and killing Avraham instantly. Avraham’s parents were devastated.
Five years later, Avraham’s parents were blessed with a baby boy whom they named Yehudah. When Yehudah matured, his parents told him that he once had a brother who was killed before he was born. Besides that, they didn’t talk much about the son they had lost or the pain they endured.
In the days leading up to Yehudah’s bar mitzvah, his mother worried that something terrible would happen to him. Baruch Hashem, his bar mitzvah passed without incident. Yehudah grew up, married, and raised a large and beautiful family. Yehudah visited his brother’s kever once but, like his parents, did not speak about him. None of his children knew about that tragic piece of their family history.
Tsippy, Yehudah’s oldest daughter, was married to Michael and living in the same community as her parents. One day, Michael noticed a plaque on the amud of the shul where he davened. The amud was dedicated in memory of someone named Avraham, whose last name was Tsippy’s family name. Michael wondered who Avraham was. He and Tsippy approached her father and asked about the person mentioned in the dedication.
Yehudah told them about the brother he had never met. He didn’t have much more to add to the discussion. He had no idea when his parents would visit his brother’s grave or even the date of his yahrzeit. Yehudah’s parents had passed away decades earlier. There was no way to know. Michael and Tsippy did name a son after Avraham.
About 25 years after Tsippy and Michael found out about Avraham, Tsippy’s sister-in-law called her and asked for information about him. A quick search of a website dedicated to civilians who fell victim to terror attacks revealed basic information about Avraham, including his burial place. He was buried in the Sanhedria Cemetery. Yehudah’s parents were buried on Har HaZeisim. It seems that the intention was to bury Avraham there, as well. However, in 1948, Sanhedria was at the border of Yerushalayim. They couldn’t bring him as far as Har HaZeisim at that time. Avraham’s temporary burial at the Sanhedria Cemetery eventually became permanent.
Several months ago, after the death of Michael’s father, Michael and Tsippy visited his father’s kever in the Sanhedria Cemetery. While they were there, they decided to look for Avraham’s kever. Michael waited in the area designated for kohanim while Tsippy searched the cemetery.
She walked back and forth and up and down the rows of k’varim for a long time but could not find a matzeivah bearing her uncle’s name. Having come so far, Tsippy did not want to give up. She quietly davened to Hashem and asked that He help her find the kever. After all, she was not doing this for herself, but rather for the sake of her uncle’s neshamah. Shortly after her t’filah, she noticed a low and broken stone. The words etched on the matzeivah were practically illegible. As she got closer, she realized it was Avraham’s kever. She managed to discern that his yahrzeit was on the 19th of Tamuz.
Michael and Tsippy told her father about the poor condition of Avraham’s matzeivah. They all felt it would be appropriate and meaningful to repair the matzeivah in time for Avraham’s 75th yahrzeit which was only a few months away.
On the day before the yahrzeit (it came out on Shabbos this year), Yehudah went with his wife, children, and grandchildren to the Sanhedria Cemetery and surrounded Avraham’s kever. My son, who is married to Yehuda’s granddaughter (Tsippy and Michael’s daughter), was among them. The crowd at the kever filled the area that had been quiet and empty for over 50 years. The family felt spiritually uplifted as Yehudah recited Kaddish for the brother he had never met. The emotional and fitting tribute helped them connect with their long-lost family member.
May Avraham’s neshamah and the neshamos of all victims of terror be bound up in the bond of eternal life.