Iced Tea with Iddo Netanyahu and a lesson in loss

May 11, 2012

Today I had the pleasure and privilege of spending some time with Iddo Netanyahu, a radiologist and writer, and the younger brother of Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. I interviewed him for an upcoming story I’m writing on the documentary “Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story” about his older brother Yoni, an Israeli war hero and soi desant poet, who died during the 1976 raid on Entebbe airport in Uganda, while rescuing Jewish hostages from their terrorist captors.

Without Iddo, I’m not sure the film would have been made. For it was he and his mother, Cela, who decided to publish Yoni’s prolific letter-writing in what became the book, “Yoni’s Last Battle,” which Iddo co-wrote.

I’ve always thought one great gift of being a writer, or an artist of any kind really, is the possibility for making loss matter. The idea that pain can be made meaningful through response is also a central teaching of the Jewish tradition. As Benjamin Franklin said, “The things which hurt, instruct.” We learn from our losses; from pain there is growth.

I asked Iddo if the process of writing the book and publishing Yoni’s letters was therapeutic. He paused, looking at me slightly perplexed.

“There is no therapy,” he said. “That loss doesn’t heal.”

The sadness in his face made my question naive. Because when you truly love someone and lose them too soon, there is no getting over it. Instead you learn to live with the loss, the emptiness, the leftover wound that does not heal. Time doesn’t change this, it simply marches forward against your desires, in defiance of your beliefs and even your will.

In the book, “Playing for the Ashes” Elizabeth George writes, “A new relationship can develop. But the cicatrix of the old one remains. And nothing grows on a cicatrix. Nothing grows through it.”

Wounds stay, and the scars they leave behind mark their importance. This happened. This was once real.

When the wound is the only thing left of love, you cherish it.

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