I once wrote on this page about "the eulogy culture" in the country. It was after the death of Ehud Manor, and in the wake of Benjamin Netanyahu's unforgettable eulogy, which ended with the words, "You are missed, friend." A month ago, Bibi once again brought a crooked smile to our lips when reports told of his efforts to get among the eulogists for Shoshana Damari; he asked but was turned down in fear that he would end on a similar note - "You are missed, friend."
This time, I will focus on a rising memory - not "the culture of eulogies," but "the culture of memorials."
Last Friday, the press reported on the memorial service to mark 14 years since the death of Menachem Begin. Once again, Netanyahu was present, and was even caught on film "wiping away a tear." The picture in the paper may have been saved for tears, but the headline was saved for a completely different scandal: "The government of Israel did not bother to send a single representative to the memorial service... sic transit gloria mundi," the reporters poeticized.
Some ministers, of course, were quick to apologize and explain, and some Likud members, of course, hurried to attack the treacherous Kadima party members, thereby finding complete pleasure in the incomplete memorial service. And only the son, Benny Begin, refused, as is his wont, to take part in the election eve celebrations.
This news item on "passing glory" is a permanent fixture in the media, and it appears after practically every memorial for a leader who once was, and is no longer. It could easily be rerun as is, straight to the press each time: It always passes, glory that is, and they are always absent, the VIPs, that is, and there will always be some righteous souls who remember and show up and one righteous one who will stand there and weep and get photographed. The media, for its part, will once again assume the pose of some merciful but reprimanding aunt who clucks her tongue and says: "A disgrace, a real disgrace, how they behave, not giving respect to the dead, to whom they can't hold a candle."
I, too, it is superfluous to say, don't handle a candle to Begin; nonetheless, I have already left a will and testament to all my relatives, the people who will cherish my memory, and the two or three friends I still have: "Gentlemen, I forgo your memorial services."
And allow me to add an explanation. What can you do, but life sweeps along the dead as well; and the longer we live, the more people we know who die - and here they are, lined up in front of us, in a very long line. And it's not just those we knew, but others whose memory of them is dear to us. If we had to attend all the memorial services, we would be forced to spend all our time addicted to the past and longing for it, while the job of public servants is to long for the future.
The calculation is simple: We've lost hundreds of people over the years - from first, second and third-degree relatives to friends and acquaintances, leaders "in whose light we walked," state visionaries and the founding fathers and mothers. And if we follow protocol and etiquette and the aunt's standards, and what it says in the newspaper, then all we would do would be to make pilgrimage from one grave to the next. The situation would even worsen, because the beloved and admired dead don't stop dying and a memorial service is not the same as a funeral, because a memorial is repeated every year, and the multiples are truly lethal. How happy are the Cohens, who are prohibited from cemeteries.
Are these memorials even necessary? The dead, as it is known, don't exactly exalt God and don't even hear the praise: and those among them who need a memorial so that they are remembered are truly wretched; woe to him and woe to their memory, their fate has been sealed. I am sure that many of Menachem Begin's admirers remember him throughout the year without having to make pilgrimage on the anniversary of his death to the Mount of Olives. If there is a need for a memorial to remember and remind, the memory is lost in any event; and if the memory is alive and well, the memorial is a form of unnecessary flattery.
My mother and father died many years ago. Despite the energetic protests of my dear sister, I don't visit their graves except on rare occasions. I admit, I don't have the talent for conversation with "sad gravestones" - and this in itself is a meaningless phrase because there are no "happy gravestones." Besides, I remember my mother and father nearly every day. And when do I remember them? Mostly when I do something bad that makes people angry - like right now.
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