Wednesday, May 27, 2009


A Candle of Remembrance for the one hundred and eighty paratroopers who gave their lives sanctifying G-d's name, on this the forty second year since they fell in battle, in the conquest of the city of G-d and the place of His holy sanctuary.

When this letter reaches your hands, I will no longer be among the living. In these, the final moments of my life, I feel compelled to express my thoughts.

I am twenty years old. My dreams of building a family I must abandon, and pictures of my life, from the moment I was born, until this moment, are racing before my eyes…

In these brief moments the soul sees what a man can't see in a lifetime of moments.

I am positioned in this location overlooking the site of the Holy Temple, hearing the bullets whistle past my head, the explosions of mortar as they fall all around me, and seeing the flowing blood pooling on the stone floor beside me. My finger, which squeezes tight the trigger of my rifle, is growing weak. I stop for a brief moment, release my grip, and grasp instead the pen, to write these few last words on a blood stained scrap of paper.

To my right and to my left lie the lifeless fallen bodies of my fellow paratroopers, who stormed the old city gates. Now their souls are making their heavenly journey to the Throne of Glory, from where they were hewn. In but a few solitary minutes my soul, too, will be released from the bonds of my body, and I too will make my upward ascent to join the souls of my companions, as an offering of ascents on the supernal altar in heaven.

My eyes see the Temple Mount spread before me in all its grandeur. At the center of its great plaza I see the Dome of the Rock, and, behold – atop the dome I see waving in the breeze, the flag of the reborn state of Israel. A flag - "a tallit made entirely of techelet," upon the azure background of the sky, and the radiant blue stone of the heavenly Throne of Glory. My heart fills with pride and sublime satisfaction: I have not died in vain! I have given my life for the return of my people to Zion and to the place of the Holy Temple.

The Jews of two thousand years of exile, my brothers, the sons and daughters of my people, were slaughtered and incinerated alive, their bodies reduced to mere ashes which blackened the skies as they poured forth from the chimneys of the extermination camps. In your deaths you sanctified the name of G-d, even in your certainty that the people of Israel was being blotted from the earth, and that you were the last of the sons of Jacob.

How I am filled with joy – how fortunate is my lot! – that I have been granted this opportunity to give over my soul to the outstretched hands of the supernal angels, while my eyes still see the bravery of my people, the rise of Israel and the return to the rebuilt Jerusalem!

No, I am not the last of the last, but the first of the first! The first to emerge from the darkness of exile into the great resplendent light shining forth now from the courtyards of the Holy Temple – the house of the L-rd.

The roar of the cannons grows dim. A moment of quiet returns: I see in the place of the ephemeral Dome of the Rock, emerging and rising up from the earth a magnificent edifice, indestructible and glorious, reflecting in its golden surfaces the golden rays of the sun. My eyes see thousand upon thousands of people streaming across the mountains and through the valleys, from all directions. They are gathering, this great congregation of humanity, and pouring forth through the gates of the Holy Temple and into her courtyards.

Indeed, my entire being is filled with great joy - my life I have given, but in giving my life, the people of Israel has received from me the gift of a generations longed-for dream fulfilled. I am as Moses, to whom it was said, "Behold, before you is the land, but there you will not tread." But Moses stands at a great distance and longs to come to "this good mountain, this Levanon," - this Holy Temple, yet remains far away, in the place where he is buried.

But me? I am so close! The Holy Temple is within my grasp! And I have the great merit to see in my mind's eye the Holy Temple rebuilt before me - just a few short strides from where I lay.

My soul departs from me. And as it departs so do two thousand years of bitter exile. And now unfolds a new age on earth: the rebuilding of the Third Holy Temple and the days of the Messiah.

In the grave silence which now engulfs all that is around me, I hear the soft cooing of the dove... the cooing of the beloved shechinah, saying, "My son! My young dove! You have returned now to the cote."

The sound of great anguish and the sound of great joy I can hear: "Two thousand years I have waited for you, two thousand years of longing, and behold - you have returned to the covey of your family."

The call of the dove grows stronger: "People of Israel, where are you? Your lives have been given to you as a gift, like the spoils of war. Step forth upon the path of your warriors - who gave their very souls! Let each man lift up a stone in his hand, a shekel of silver, or a single grain of gold. "Go up to the mountain, bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith HaShem." (Haggai 1:8)

That which you are called upon to give in order to build G-d's holy house is but as naught. Other have offered up their very lives, each life an entire world! Those that sent forth their souls, upon the altar of the Third Holy Temple.

As for myself? I am but one of the fallen. I listen to the beckoning of the dove, and gather my strength to ask of my people: From the greatest to the least: Will you follow in our footsteps?

The above was an imaginary letter, penned by Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, the founder and head of the Temple Institute. Rabbi Ariel was a paratrooper in the Six Day War, and participated in the liberation of the Temple Mount. To hear his moving personal testimony, please click here, (video).

Additional photographs from the Rabbi's personal colection can be see here.

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