A House of Mourning

August 2014

St. Sgt. Moshe Malko, 22, of Jerusalem was a Golani combat soldier killed during IDF operations in the Shejaia neighborhood in Gaza on July 20th during Operation Protective Edge.

I visited the Malko family to pay my condolences two weeks after Moshe’s death. His family lives in a very modest home in the northern Jerusalem neighborhood of Neve Ya’akov. Moshe was their pride and joy and his death left them in a state of shock. He was well known in their community because of his positive nature and his activism in local neighborhood projects. When I stopped to inquire exactly where the Malkos lived, everyone knew where to point me.  I parked outside the corner store and one lady said I should not go empty handed and insisted I bring drinks to help the family with the never ending flow of visitors. As I entered the Malko home I was struck by the inconsolable grief of his beautiful mother, Leah.

She and her husband had emigrated from Ethiopia 23 years ago with their small family. Moshe was the first child born in Israel and later followed more siblings. Moshe was one of eight children.  One of his older brothers was killed some years ago and his death remains unsolved. After his brother’s death, Moshe was a great influence particularly on his mother, who gained comfort from his cheerful nature. Leah showed me numerous photos of her son and said he loved being a soldier.  He died in combat after volunteering for a very dangerous mission.  At his funeral his sister said, “We were fortunate, all your family and friends, to know a man with a true and pure heart, a heart that loved.”

Leah said she did not know if she could go on living.  “I have no more strength.”  I pondered her words and sat silently until I could reply. Then I said “Leah, God gave you the strength to bring 8 children into this world, and you will find, with God's help, the same strength to carry you now.”  As I got up to leave, I pressed a gift of money into her hand and promised her to return again.  Each of her children came to thank me for my visit and the youngest asked the very question her older siblings were clearly thinking, “Who are you?”  I told her I was from a neighborhood not far away and was a Christian who just wanted to let them know we think Moshe is a hero.

“It is better to go to the house of mourning,
than to go to the house of feasting: 
for that is the end of all men;
and the living will lay it to his heart. 
Sorrow is better than laughter: 
for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.”   Ecc 7:2-3