Culture, Global, Israel, Politics

Yona Baumel

It is, of course, people who make up the cities of one’s imagination; the cities that we hold dearest and closest when we plot the paths of our lives. In an essential, non-trivial way the names of cities often are closed sets which are interchangeable with the names of certain people. For me, at a certain time—the late seventies and early eighties—Jerusalem meant, in part Yona and Miriam Baumel. I was one of the fortunate many who were the beneficiaries of their boundless hospitality. Their apartment in Bayit Ve-Gan was truly open wide, and lucky were those who fell into its embrace.
I started frequenting their home as a result of my friendship with their son Zach. We were in the same yeshivah, we were both American born (he much closer to native than I), and inevitably he invited me to spend Shabbat with his family. This was a recurrent invitation and ultimately just an open door as I became fleetingly a member of the family.
The house was characterized by laughter and warmth and generosity. It was a wonderful refuge for me, a family to stand in for the family that I had left behind in New York when I made aliyah.
In June of 1982 Zach and I went off to war. I came back. Zack still has not returned. Nothing was ever the same.
Yona and Miriam have spent the last almost 27 years trying to find Zach and reach some closure. Yona Baumel died last Friday at the age of 81 without an answer. Without knowing definitively if Zach is alive or dead. Without a son, without a gravestone. Much has been written, some of it by Yona Baumel himself, about the way the families of the MIAs from the 1982 war were treated by the IDF and the Israeli government. Its not a pretty story. It is a story about the costs of war.
Today I remember Yona Baumel before everything changed.
Yehi zichro baruch.

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