The days ahead are a special challenge for me personally. My name is Amir Katz and I am the owner and the operator of my Israel Wine Tours. I wear many other hats as well; I am a father, I am a husband, I a sommelier, I am a guide, I am a teacher. One of the more profound choices that I have made for myself is that I am an immigrant, who has made Israel my home.
Ironically, my father was also an immigrant and left Israel for the United States where I myself was born. And so, to some extent, I am closing a circle by returning to my father’s land. Maybe I am fulfilling my father’s destiny, or maybe my journey is mine and my allegiances are to the generations ahead, and not necessarily those behind us.
I ponder the past, work in the present, and I hope for the future of my nation.
Nonetheless, I have scars and wounds that are mine and mine alone. They are inflicted by my adventures and excursions, travels and tribulations. And I have those that are passed down to me through my father. And in this case, as I embrace my role and responsibility as a father to a young girl, my baby girl Gaia, I am forced to look back and look at empty spaces that were not filled by the role of a father figure.
In this case, my father, may he rest in peace, Moshe Katz, of Tel Aviv was a victim of circumstance and chance. His fate would lead him to battlefields on Israeli frontiers with our Egyptian cousins and the brutality and horror, hardship and blood, suffering and sorrows of war. These such scars I myself do not know. I did not serve in the army. And so, there’s a certain nostalgic dissonance with regards to my father; my father the absentee daddy, my father the war hero. My father could not handle family life with his heavy heart, and the scars on his soul. Trauma is a brutal force.
This is my homage to the trauma that he suffered during the Yom Kippur War in 1973 when Israel and its neighbors went to blows, ferociously and viciously for the last great tank battles of humanity. It was a devastating tragedy for those who fought. And that trauma is passed onward to guys like me who sadly don’t know their dads, and didn’t get to have that role fulfilled during our lives. He was there for a brief moment in time, to bring me to life, clap for my first steps, and a birthday party or two. And for that I am eternally grateful. But sadly, the space where nourishing fatherly care, comfort and cuddling was absent. My dad screamed at night. My father chose to numb his trauma rather than confront it.
And so, I fulfill my role as an immigrant here in Israel, working to host you as guests, to welcome you as visitors. My responsibility is to extend my arm and for us to raise a glass together in a way that is able to synthesize a culinary celebration of Israeli wine, together with an adventure and an excursion. I hope to create memories for my guests, made of hundreds of bits of traveling wonder, matched with the right kind of stories. I tell war stories, and love stories too. I teach and I preach about days past, and present struggles, and the hopes we have for a better tomorrow.
We trek upon the land and we honor fathers who are buried in its soil, and mothers who have fallen defending this land. We look back with a touch of sorrow and nostalgia, and yet we also look forward with a certain hope, a naivete, if not an eventuality, that we pray for every day that one day the land will know peace. And so, as Memorial Day and following that Independence Day will be thrust upon us, I wish to struggle with that significance. What does it mean to be an immigrant in Israel? For me personally as well as half the country who is made up of immigrants. What does it mean for my Palestinian cousins who are certainly unfortunate for having lost the land for which we have fought? What does it mean for my father and his memory? What will it mean for my daughter when she too will have to put on the uniform of my country, of my father, of my people? And so, over the next 48 hours we will sorrowfully cry, and shed tears for the fallen. And I will weep for my father and I will find strength in my neighbors and the boys on the border, guarding my back.
And then I will cease my tears and begin to sing my praises to the heavens, to G-d almighty, and to the hard work of soldiers on the front lines for the independence of the Jewish state of Israel. It is not all victory and all celebration, any more than it is all sorrow and mourning, but it is a mix of both over the next 48 hours that will carry us into the weeks and months ahead. And so, from Israel and from my home in Binyamina, I wish you a sorrowful and meaningful Memorial Day. And I wish you a celebratory and meaningful Independence Day.
I’ll be dancing and crying over the next 48 hours. What will you do?
To life, my friends. To life and to the fallen.
I sing and dance, mourn and weep and praise your names.
My name is Amir Katz and I am the proud son of Moshe Katz, my father, the soldier.
I pray his sacrifice, and mine as well, will not be in vain.
May their memories be a blessing.