Honorable Deputy Foreign Minister, Honorable Director General of the Foreign Ministry, Honorable Supreme Court Justice of the State of Israel, Honorable Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Honored Families of the Fallen, Distinguished Guests:
A month and half ago we, the Foreign Ministry family, gathered for the departure ceremony before our journey: the return to Buenos Aires.
During that ceremony I remembered my maternal grandmother’s story, about those who left her village. It was such an unusual event that the entire village would come out to escort those leaving. The children would spread flowers along the roadway, and then they would run along side the carriages and horses, they would stop at the entrance of the village and wave good-bye. The village children’s last salute was both a blessing and a promise. The blessing was for a good journey and the promise was that in the case the journey wasn’t successful, the children would remember those who had departed.
On that day, it was through my grandmother’s eyes that I saw our ceremony, the same salute from the village children wishing us a safe and peaceful journey, but unlike my grandmother’s story this time the promise was that we would all meet again.
Our village is larger than my grandmother’s village and so when we arrived in Buenos Aires we were welcomed by the other half of it: the Foreign Ministry staff working there and the Jewish community of Buenos Aires.
Our village has twenty six trees, four of them here in Our Land (Israel) and twenty two in Buenos Aires.
When I began preparing for this complex journey, I remembered those 26 trees and I remembered the Hebrew saying “Man is the tree of the field”, and so before the journey I collected earth from the foot of each one of the four cypress trees planted in memory of the four Israeli fallen, here in Jerusalem at the old Foreign Ministry compound.
When the Foreign Ministry moved to its new location everything was moved, everything excepting the four cypress trees. The dead, like the trees, are forever anchored to one location; but since our dead have left behind children and families, all of us continue to seek and pursue peace.
The terrorist attack (against our embassy in Buenos Aires) was the worst attack against an Israeli Diplomatic Installation, but we do not for one moment forget that 10 days before it, we the Foreign Ministry family, lost Ehud Sadan, our security officer in Ankara.
On Shabbat (Saturday) 17 March 2010, in Buenos Aires, between 14:30 and 15:30 (2:30 and 3:30 p.m.) in an informal gathering, we the Israeli and Argentine survivors met at “our embassy”, today known as “The Israeli Embassy Plaza/Plaza of Memory”. At precisely 14:50 (2:50 p.m.) we stood each one alone, but together, in memory of our beloved fallen who at exactly that moment 20 years earlier lost their lives.
Some of us embraced other survivors, some of us embraced our children, some of us simply sat quietly and looked up into the sky. I began distributing the earth I brought from Jerusalem at the foot of each one of the twenty two trees planted there. When I reached the tree closest to the location of David’s, (my late husband), office my children joined me in spreading Israeli earth under that tree.
What was left over, I gave to a relative of Miquel Angel Lancieri-Lomazzi, an Uruguayan-Catholic passerby who happened to be near the embassy at the time of the bombing. She spread the Israeli earth under a tree with a note from Lancieri-Lomazzi’s granddaughter. Once she was finished she said:
“El lugar es sagrado porque conmemora a nuestros familiares, y ahora integra Tierra Sancta, doble es su santidad.” (“This place is sacred because it commemorates the memory of our loved ones, now it includes earth from the Holy Land, doubled is its portion of holiness.”)
Before the trip, (back to Buenos Aires), I was sure that this journey would bring with it a form of closure, I was proven wrong.
From this journey, from the renewed contact with the people who were there then, twenty years ago, the Christians and the Jews, I learned about the resilience of the human spirit.
From Laura Szechtman, who was David’s personal assistant, I learned that the greatest kindness is to ourselves. That kindness is the continuity of life – as we sing in Hebrew: “this melody cannot be stopped”. Despite her injuries in the terrorist attack, today she is a mother and a licensed physician.
From Miri Ben-Zeev and Rachel Sadan, I learned to cultivate and enjoy our own special brand of humor: “The sense of humor of the class of 1992”.
From Noga Gornee who was also injured, I learned that even when we are not in our Land (Israel); our Land is ever present and before us. And so, we always strive to update ourselves about what is going on in our Land. Unfortunately the update for that day (17 March 1992) was about the terrorist attack in Jaffa – another 19 injured and two citizens murdered: Ilanit Ohana and Abed Al Karim Al Ghani.
From Yoshi Beetan, who after his injury said: “I rescued (extricated) myself, because I knew that later help would arrive from ‘our gang’”. I learned that help from ‘our gang’ (our friends and colleagues) always arrives.
And “our gang” arrived – from Ruthie Einav, (may her memory be for a blessing), and from the rest of the Foreign Ministry’s Personnel and Social Services Division (Employee’s Wellbeing and Support Division) staffers, who have always been and will always be there for us, I learned that just as Yoshi said our gang is always with us and we are never ever really very far away from our village.
And finally from my children I learned to always look forward and to never abandon hope.
And so it is appropriate to close with the words of Bapu Gandhi-jee (Mahatma Gandhi):
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end THEY ALWAYS FALL. Think of it….Always!”