Monday, May 16th, 2016 was a hot day in Israel. As a guide for Birthright, I reminded everyone about hats and water, and made sure the group wasn’t out in the sun for too long. We were on a tight schedule and went to Mt. Herzl, Israel’s national military cemetery. Little did we know what was awaiting us.

I was guiding a group of students from Penn State organized and led by their beloved Aish Rabbi David Grant and his wife Esther.

Our first stop was near the grave of Theodor Herzl. Who was he? What did he do? Then, we stopped in front of Yitzchak Rabin’s grave and learned lessons from his life and assassination.

My next stops are usually the graves of the missing soldiers, the Old City Memorial and the Dakar submarine monument. Noticing the heat and checking the time, I realized that, unfortunately, we couldn’t do it all today. Instead, I changed course towards more recent graves (Yoni Netanyahu, Michael Levine, Roi Klein and Max Steinberg) that seem to touch American college students’ hearts.

But on the way I made one extra stop. I like to explain what Jewish graves look like and the meaning of the writing on the tombstone. So I randomly stop at an unknown grave to teach a little and show honor to a soldier that may not get many visitors. After all, the cemetery is huge and has almost 4,000 graves, but relatively few are of ‘well-known’ people. And since most of the dead were young and unmarried, few of them have descendants, so as the years go by, they will most likely cease to have any visitors at all.

I stopped at a grave on a path I’d never been on before. The group gathered around. I described what a Jewish grave looks like, in particular a military grave and I read the words in Hebrew out loud.

Something sounded wrong. I read them again and translated into English.

Moshe (Milton) Gavrer
Son of Menucha and Avrohom-Dov
Born in the USA
Made Aliyah (Moved to Israel) in 1947
Died in Battle in Jerusalem on the Eighth of Iyar 1948
27 years old at his death
May His Soul be Bound in the Binding of Life

When I got to the Hebrew date, the eighth of Iyar, my heart stopped. I was speechless.

Everyone looked at me, trying to find out why I stopped talking and why I suddenly looked like I was in shock.

I felt goose bumps as time stood still.

We just had the new month of Iyar last week and Israel’s Independence Day a few days ago… what was the Hebrew date today? I thought to myself, It cant be… but it is.

I asked Rabbi Grant and our Israeli madricha, Adina what the Hebrew date was, and they confirmed what I already knew. It was the eighth of Iyar.

I couldn’t move. I couldn’t talk. I started to cry.

I had never stopped anywhere near this grave before and yet out of almost 4,000 graves God guided us to Moshe (Milton) Gavrer’s grave - on his yahrzeit, - the eighth of Iyar.

Milton was an American boy who served in the American military in WWII, becoming a sergeant, and moved to Israel as soon as he could in order to use his skills to defend Jews. He was killed by a sniper at the Jerusalem Railroad station on May 17, 1948 (8 Iyar 5708). He was 27.

Has anyone visited his grave? It’s hard to know - I found no records of his family. It seems that he wasn’t married and didn’t have any children. He was born in 1921 so it unlikely any siblings are still around and considering how hard travel was then, it isn’t even clear if his parents were even able to visit, or when they passed away.

Did anyone say Kaddish for him?

Yes.

We did. Rabbi Grant led us in one of the most moving prayers I’ve ever experienced. We placed stones on the grave and silently departed.

Sometimes, I think I’m guiding while, in reality, I’m being guided.

Sometimes, we think we’re all alone while, in reality, we’re all together.