Words of a fallen soldier must be taught, now

Opinion: Israel mustn't let Elkana Vizel's final letter be forgotten and allow a new generation to grow up on his words by turning it into school lessons

Alon Goldstein|
My teacher, Bella, wrote a sentence in chalk on the board during class: "It is good to die for our country.” I was a child, barely a teenager, 70 years after the fall of Joseph Trumpeldor, who to me was a mysterious figure seen in a blurry black-and-white photo.
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I understood that Trumpeldor was a hero, but struggled to emotionally connect with a figure so distant in time, language and place. Since then, many lessons have been written about this figure and his actions.
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מכתבו של אלקנה ויזל
מכתבו של אלקנה ויזל
Elkana Vizel and the final letter he wrote before entering Gaza
Over the years, research has been conducted, debates have been settled – did he say "It is good to die," or maybe just "No matter, it's good to die"? The myth, the single instance of Trumpeldor and his perspective, spoke to us in all of them.
My daughters also learned about him in their school; his faded image stared at them from Wikipedia instead of a yellowing library book. And that's for the best. This connecting thread must sew the generations together.
Our children are shaping their future and the future of their children with blood. These are historical days. We mustn’t wait for them to become history to internalize them
And now as I face the final letter written by fallen soldier Elkana Vizel, looking at his radiant face, this figure is also blurry to me. Not because of the distance, or the quality of the photo. It’s blurred because it’s impossible to hold back the tears.
Because it is difficult to read it and not get choked up and think: I’m not worthy of him. Because every word he left on the page is a command to the nation, every word exposes the depths he contained within himself.
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הרב רס״ר (מיל׳)  אלקנה ויזל הי"ד
הרב רס״ר (מיל׳)  אלקנה ויזל הי"ד
Elkana Vizel
(Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
A few hours after it was published, I sent Elkana’s letter to my family’s WhatsApp group. "Heroes live among us, right here, in our times, not in history books. Maybe one of them even sat next to you on the bus once." We didn't know, but Trumpeldor served us food, another Trumpeldor fixed our dishwasher, and another one sat next to us in the stands of a soccer stadium.
This is simply a generation of Trumpeldors. If you browse through the news and websites over the last three months, you'll understand that a myth is written here every day. Sometimes several times a day.
The bright smartphone screens of this generation did blur the recognition. Not the recognition of the young, but ours, the generation of their parents. Due to the constant nagging, we didn't notice that these children live and breathe meaning - their eyes wide open, and their clear knowledge that: "It is good to die for our land."
We mustn’t let Elkana’s letter wait for years until it becomes a lesson, until generations grow up with his words. We mustn’t let his figure blur until the educators decide it's time to talk about him.
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יוסף טרומפלדור
יוסף טרומפלדור
Joseph Trumpeldor
Our children are shaping their future and the future of their children with blood. These are historical days. We mustn’t wait for them to become history to internalize them, for us to obtain strength from the young heroes who shape them.
The education minister and education system must incorporate Elkana’s will into the classrooms immediately, and make it a mandatory lesson. Elkana’s figure should gaze at our children from the classroom walls, alongside the figure of Trumpeldor, so that we understand: that the struggle and fight for our existence are not over, and they may never be.
  • Alon Goldstein is a Yedioth Ahronoth journalist.
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