This is a story that I read in the Jerusalem Post a number of years ago, written by Rabbi Stewart Weiss, of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra'anana. Now, understand, I am really a skeptic at heart when it comes to things like this, and I could not believe such a story was true, so I actually went to Mount Herzl and found the Shapiro grave. Seeing the headstone in the cemetery with the inscription matching the information in the newspaper account convinced me that the story is true. And because it is such a beautiful story, I will share it with you now:
Chaim Shapiro went through the seven levels of hell. He survived four concentration camps not to mention the ghetto and forced marches. He began the War with eight children and a wonderful wife, and in a little over a year, he lost his wife and seven of his children, without ever having the chance to even sit shiva.
He was finally liberated from Buchenwald with his only surviving son Baruch and they wallowed in the DP camps for nearly three years until finally, in 1948, they found place aboard an immigrant ship and arrived in Israel a week later.
Israel, in the midst of the War of Independence, was fighting a desperate battle for survival against overwhelming odds, so Baruch Shapiro volunteered to fight.
With no previous training, he was taken to a ravine, handed a rifle, taught how to shoot a few bullets, and sent off to war.
Meanwhile, with the stipend that he received from the Jewish Agency, his father Chaim rented a small apartment outside Tel Aviv.
Baruch Shapiro distinguished himself in battle. As part of the Harel Brigade fighting under Yitzhak Rabin to break the Arab siege on Jerusalem, Baruch received a field commission as an officer and was awarded a medal for bravery under fire.
And then, one day, as Chaim Shapiro was sitting in his tiny living room in Tel Aviv, he glanced out the window and saw one of those terrible delegations heading up the path to his apartment.
They say that Chaim Shapiro opened the door before they knocked, and they say that he never even read the telegram, just crumpled it over and over in his hands....
When a soldier in Israel is killed, the army takes care of everything, including the funeral arrangements. Chaim Shapiro had only one request: he wanted his son who had died fighting for Jerusalem to at least be buried in Jerusalem, on Mount Herzl, the National Military cemetery.
The next afternoon hundreds of mourners gathered at Mount Herzl. Most of them had never known Baruch Shapiro or his father Chaim, but they had heard of the terrible tragedy and wanted to pay their respects. After all, what Hitler had not finished in the crematoria had ended at the hands of an Arab bullet; this was the last Shapiro son; the end of a line.
As the coffin was being lowered into the ground, Chaim Shapiro began to sing.
Yigal Yadin himself, the IDF Chief of Staff (who would later discover Massada) stood by Chaim Shapiro's side.
And as the coffin was being lowered into the ground, Chaim Shapiro began to sing.
People thought he had lost it; Yadin put his arm around Chaim's shoulders and someone ran to get him some water. But he shrugged them all off, and again, began to sing. People had no idea what to make of it, so finally Chaim Shapiro looked at them and said: "You know, I have been through a hell the likes of which most people cannot imagine; I lost over seventy relatives in a little over a year, including seven children, my wife and parents. I have no place to mourn them, no grave; they are ashes in the skies over Europe, and I have no idea why they had to die.
"But this son, at least this son, I know why he died. He died so we could have a home for the Jewish people in the land of Israel, and he has a grave, here on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem. And that is not a reason to cry, it is a reason to sing."
When Chaim Shapiro finished speaking, he began to sing once more, and grabbing people's hands, to dance.
And as the flag-draped coffin of Baruch Shapiro was lowered into the ground, three hundred mourners began to sing and to dance against the setting sun of the Jerusalem sky...
The next time you visit Israel, go to Mount Herzl, Israel's National Military Cemetery, her Arlington. And when you walk through the wide stone gates, walk up and then down to the right where the graves from 1948 lie, and you will find the lonely grave of one Baruch Shapiro. Close your eyes there, and you will understand perhaps, why the Jewish people will never be destroyed.
Am Yisrael Chai.
Excerpted from "Small Miracles of the Holocaust: Extraordinary Coincidences of Faith, Hope and Survival" by Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal, Globe Pequot Press. Click here to order.