At a Jewish wedding, the bridegroom says, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither, let my tongue cleave to my palate if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy." (Psalm 137, 5-7).
Dressed in white shirts and dark pants, the little chattanim (bridegrooms) read these words. They stood under a beautiful wedding canopy.
The canopy was made from the tallit (prayer shawl) of Capt. Hagai (Haim) Lev. Hagai, who was raised in Efrat, was killed eight years ago at the age of 24 while in Gaza searching for tunnels used by Arabs to smuggle weapons from Egypt into the Gaza Strip. He was hit by sniper fire from one of the houses in the area, and although he was evacuated by helicopter to Beersheva's Soroka Hospital, he died shortly after arrival.
A graduate of the Atzmona pre-Army preparatory yeshiva, Hagai was praised as a dedicated soldier, and a thorough officer "who was involved in numerous missions to thwart terrorism."
When Hagai, HY"D, was killed, his mother Noa wrote a book about Hagai's life and his route from regular and rowdy Israeli child to serious, talented an respected Israeli Army officer. The book, "The Smile of Courage - My Son, My Soldier", gives us a real understanding of how an Israeli boy can become transformed into a heroic figure that serves his G-d and his country with true devotion.
Thinking of Others
And while Noa and her husband Shimon still suffer the loss of their son, they keep in mind other children whose lives ended before their time. Last year, the Levs donated one of the buttons from Hagai's IDF uniform to the Aseh Chayil button project, wherein the school's children collected 1.5 million buttons in memory of the 1.5 million children killed in the Holocaust.
They remember the needy. In fact, the refrigerator that stores food for the needy in the Hazan Et HaKol (chesed food donation room) is dedicated in Hagai's memory.
Hagai's smile was a characteristic that perfectly described him. And so it is very fitting that among the many things that memorialize Hagai Lev are those that bring a smile and joy to others. The chuppah used by the Aseh Chayil project is a real chuppah that Hagai's mother Noa made to be used at weddings - when the joy of bride and groom fill the hearts of all those around them. The chuppah was made from Hagai's tallit (prayer shawl) and decorated by his mother.
The Tzur Hagai Simcha Hall was dedicated in Hagai's memory near the Central Dekel Synagogue in Efrat, and is used on a regular basis for local joyous occasions (Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations, britot, sheva brachot).
Hagai Lev's memory continues to bring joy to all who knew him, and his tallit/chuppah and the simcha hall in his name further spread that joy even farther.
To find out more about "The Smile of Courage", contact Noa Lev, firstname.lastname@example.org.