Thy Love to Me was Wonderful (2 Samuel 1:26)

by David Neph


Nir here again. Twelfth grade just seemed to fly past, and before we knew it we were eighteen, we had gone for our pre-draft interviews and medicals with the army, and we had finished off our matriculation exams. Oren's place in David's home became a permanent fixture. With his father in jail for a good few years on several different counts, his mother returned home. But Oren did not want to live with her and she was quite content not to have to bother with him, so by mutual agreement Oren continued living with David. Which meant that I too almost lived with David.

Every day I went home with Oren. We raided David's kitchen and then, armed with food, drink and nibblies, we went to Oren's room to study - homework, cramming and so forth. We had a golden rule between us: study before sex. But the moment study was over it was red hot, grappling, groping, searing sex - until it was time for me to go to my parents' home for supper. After having taken our fill of love - or at least after having had as much as time would allow! - I always made a point of visiting David in his den to say goodbye. It seemed the right thing to do. Quite often, I noticed, that when I came into the room he was sitting in his favourite armchair with a photo album on his knees. From what I could see without prying, the pages were filled not only with photos but also with letters, some still in their envelopes, some loose. More often than not when he got up from his chair to accept my farewells and expressions of thanks I could see that there was a sad, faraway look in his eyes, and even on occasion I could see a tear glistening there. On such occasions, instinctively, I did not murmur a polite farewell but gave him a hug. He always returned that hug warmly and sometimes even planted a gentle kiss on my forehead. Even to the two of us, young and inexperienced as we were, it was clear that David had some very painful emotional memories, memories that were enshrined in that album.

Suddenly school finished. I don't mean that we finished for the year; I mean that we finished with school forever. We had completed our twelfth grade. There was an enormous party and a formal graduation ceremony - and then it was gone. We had two months, August and September, before the next stage in our lives was to begin: three and a half years of army service. Somehow or other both Oren and I realized that army service was going to separate us, that the best we could hope for would be that the brief furlough passes that we would each receive would coincide more often than they did not. Well, it was pleasant to hope for that, even if the logical side of our natures mocked us and told us that whichever units we ended up in were most unlikely to timetable the weekend passes to coincide just for our benefit.

I suppose it was these thoughts lingering in the backs of our minds, on the borders of consciousness, that made our lovemaking that much more meaningful. While it stayed as energetic as before it also became much more tender. We found ourselves caring much more for the needs and feelings of the other. Oren would have done almost anything for me and I would have done anything for him. But there was one thing that Oren steadfastly refused to do. Each time he refused he kissed me, cuddled me, fondled me, and sometimes even wept with me, but he would not permit me to fuck him nor would he fuck me.

"Nir, honey, I can't do it," he would say.

"Please, Rennie-Ren, please. I need it. I so much want it."

"I know, Nironni, I know. I want it too. But it's forbidden."

I knew that he was referring to what Rabbi Moshe had told us all that time ago, when we were still in 11th grade. My family and upbringing were completely secular, and religious considerations never really played a part in our decision-making. But Oren's family was much more orientated towards tradition. Even if his father was the biggest rogue one could imagine he made sure that all his family was together for the regular festive celebrations. And Oren's grandfather, the rabbi, still had some influence over my beloved's thinking.

I was beginning to get desperate. Mutual jerking-off was fine; giving each other blow-jobs was very pleasurable. 69-ing was even better. But I desperately needed what seemed to me to be the ultimate expression of love. I wanted to have Oren inside me, a part of me; and I wanted to be inside him, a part of him. Then, one day, my frustration made me recall something that Rabbi Moshe had said at the end of our visit to him. His words now rang in my consciousness, dragged up unexpectedly from the depths of forgotten memory:

"if, at any time in the future, any issue like that becomes a practical one for you or anyone you may know, please don't hesitate to come back to me for advice."

"Rennie-Ren, could we go and ask Rabbi Moshe about this - this - this fucking business." We both laughed at the expression. And then we realized that there was no way that we would be able to present him with the question. It was just too intimate.

"Let's ask David," Oren suggested.


We got dressed and went off to the den. There we found David sitting in his armchair with his album on his knees and that faraway look in his eyes.

"So soon?" he said. "Is something wrong?"

"David, can I ask you a very blunt question?"

"Try me. I'll certainly hear it, but I don't promise to answer it."

"In our love making, there is something that I very much want to do that Oren thinks we should not do. Oren thinks it is forbidden."

"Does this 'something' involve penetration?" David asked.



"It's like this, David. Nir very much wants us to do this. I very much want to do this - even more than he does, I think. But Rabbi Moshe told us that this is the one thing that the Bible forbids us gays to do. How can we go against what the Bible says?"

"I see," said David. "Well, I think that what we are talking about is something so intimate between two people that it should only be done as an act of deepest and enduring love."

"David, I love Rennie with all my heart. I shall be true to him as long as we both shall live. I can't love someone more than I love him. That's the most I can say. And soon, very soon, we are going to be parted for a time. Before we are parted I want to show him how much I love him, and I want to know that on those few occasions in the next few years that we shall be able to make love together that we will be able to do this. It's very important to me."

"I love Nironni as much as he loves me. I'd say more if that were possible. If anyone could show me a way out of this prohibition I would jump at it. We are going into danger. I don't want us - me or Nir - to face that danger with a grave sin on our heads."

"I remember," said David, "two youngsters very much like yourselves in a very similar situation. They were about to be separated against their will, and the same issue arose between them. Do you remember Rabbi Moshe? Well, these two youngsters asked him all that time ago the very same question you are asking now. If I told you what his response was would you accept that, Oren?"

"Yes, David, of course."

Although not a word was said about this, it suddenly became clear to me, in a flash of intuition, that one of those two youngsters must have been David. My heart went out to him. From that moment I saw him in a different light and my feelings towards him began a subtle change. Gradually, ever so gradually, he developed from teacher-father figure to understanding friend.

"You see, Oren, you are being torn apart by what you see as two conflicting demands. There is the demand of your love for Nir and there is the demand of your love for God, or religion, or tradition - or whatever you want to call it. Whichever demand you give in to will inevitably be a betrayal of the other. But surely, God is forgiving. God understands human frailty. God made us what we are."

"But, David, it's still a sin."

"Yes, Rennie, our religion teaches that it's a sin. But sometimes you have to sin in order to do the right thing, that which God would really want despite the law. The law cannot cover all contingencies. Sometimes it may be necessary to ignore God’s law - even go against God’s law - in order to do what is right in God’s eyes, for the sake of God."

I butted in: "I don't understand that, David. How can one sin for God's sake?" Oren and I laughed. it was the second time in one hour that I had coined such a ridiculous phrase.

"Rabbi Moshe told those two lads of a statement made in the Talmud by a very great sage. That statement is that sometimes 'a sin committed for the right reasons is better than a pious deed when it is done for the wrong reasons'. He gave them another quotation as well. In the Talmud the sages ask, 'which is a small verse upon which hang all the basics of religion?' And, of course, they answer their own question. 'It is: "in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths".' On that instruction of the Bible, to have God in mind in everything you do, one sage added: 'everything you do - even when you sin.' In other words sometimes we sin because we have to, because life gives us no choice. To maintain the strict letter of a law when that would involve causing great suffering to another would be contravening another law of God: ‘Love your fellow man as you love yourself’. If, in the deepest recesses of your soul you are convinced that doing this thing is the only way of giving another the love and affection that he craves, and if that other knows in the deepest recesses of his soul that he cannot make do with less, then it is worth while considering which sin is the greater, or which good deed will be approved and which will be disapproved by God in the prevailing circumstances. Always remember: God is loving and forgiving. If you are committing this sin for the right reasons it may even be better than keeping to the strict letter of the law when that may not reflect God's will in this particular case."

"And that’s what Rabbi Moshe told y... er... those two boys?" asked Oren.

"Yes, Oren, upon my word of honour, that is what he said. Of course, he said much more; but what I have told you was essentially his answer. The rest was just further explanation."

"Thank you, David," we chorused together and almost ran from the room.

We reached Oren’s room in a flash. I began to pull off my clothes when Oren stopped me. "Nironni, let’s do this very slowly. The memory of this will have to serve us for a very long while."

Slowly and lovingly, we began to undress each other. There was a lot of kissing of places revealed by each garment removed. Finally we were both clad only in our briefs. We kissed a long, slow, searching kiss, both of us with our eyes closed. After a very long while I opened my eyes and kissed Oren on the forehead. "It’s time," I whispered into his ear, nibbling it as I said so. My hands went down to his waist and tugged at the elastic waistband of his underwear, pulling his briefs over his beautiful butt and over his erect dick. They dropped to the floor, and he kicked them away. I pushed him backwards onto the bed, where he lay quite still with his eyes closed. I pushed off my own briefs and lay down next to him on the bed.

Our bodies united, pressed together so tightly from lips to toes. I could feel Oren’s erection pushing into my groin, and my own, pressed against his abdomen was painfully hard. Oren reached for the little table next to the bed and found there a small tube of lubricant. I was amazed that he had thought of this, and my heart was filled with love for his noble soul: he had prepared to do this for me even though he had believed it was wrong. He pressed the tube into my hand, whispering hoarsely, "Now, Nironni, now."

I pulled away from him reluctantly, because there was nothing I liked more that just feeling his body close to mine. Squatting between his legs I unscrewed the cap and squeezed out some of the lubricant onto my fingers.

"Let me in, Rennie," I whispered. He raised his legs onto my shoulders and I felt for the opening. I pushed a finger inside, then another and then a third. I lubricated the passage as well as I could. Then I squeezed out some more lubricant and spread it generously over my dick.

"Are you ready, my love?" I breathed.

He nodded, his eyes closed. "Love me, Nironni. Love me like I love you - with all my heart, with all my soul and with all my body."

I leaned over him searching for the entrance. I guided my dick with my right hand until I could feel it had reached the right place. My hips gave a push and I was in. I leaned forward and my lips searched for his lips.

"I love you, Rennie-Ren. I cannot tell you how much I love you because I just don't have the words. I give you all my love, and if I have to I will give you my very life."

With that I kissed him on the mouth. As my tongue penetrated his mouth so did my dick penetrate his hot entrance-way. The muscles there clasped my pulsating organ and began squeezing it as I began pushing in and out, involuntarily, from my hips. We were still kissing when I felt my seed erupt into his very bowels. With the seed all spent the frenzy gave way to a calmness that I had never known before. I just lay there on top of him hardly moving. Oren opened his eyes and kissed me on each cheek, then on my forehead and then gently, ever so gently, on the lips.

"I could never have believed in a million years that it could be so wonderful," he whispered, hardly daring to speak. "How was it for you, my love?"

"Don't ask, beloved, because I don't know how to tell you how absolutely fantastic it was. There just aren't words in the language that will do it justice."

We lay there quietly, without moving, until I felt my dick beginning to lose its potency. I pulled away from him, but he grabbed the cheeks of my ass and pushed me back again. "Leave it there, my love; it feels so good, so full, so - so - so filling."

I don't know how long we just lay there like that. It seemed like forever - and a bit longer. Finally, Oren pushed me off of him and sat up.

"Lie back," he ordered.

"I fell back onto the bed. In no time at all he was kissing and touching every part of my body that he knew would have an erotic influence. I was hard. Really hard. So was he. I could feel it. Oren maneuvered himself into position between my legs and pulled one of my legs up onto his shoulder. I obliged by settling both legs in place. After a moment I felt the cold contact as Oren's fingers spread the lubricant inside my ass. A few moments later he whispered, "Are you ready?"

"Oh yes, beloved Rennie, oh yes! Take me, fill me, fuck me - now."

And he did.

That was another moment that I shall never forget as long as I live. It was the perfect physical expression of sheer love. My beloved and I were one, indivisible. His manhood filled me and his seed squirted into the very core of me. It was indescribable bliss. If we had not known it before, from that moment we both knew that we were one, heart and soul. Even if enormous distances would separate us, even if we were forced apart for long periods of time, we each knew that the essence of the other would always be with us. We could never be parted - not by any of the vicissitudes of this world - and not even by the next.

That afternoon we continued making love for the longest time. It seemed that our capacity for loving and showing that love physically could never be exhausted. But the more we made love the more we became covered with sweat and with a certain sticky substance. In the end it became uncomfortable, so we ran into the shower together. We continued to make love under the water until it ran cold when the solar heater was completely empty. We dried each other, carefully, tenderly, lovingly. And then, wrapped in towels we finally went back to Oren's room to get dressed and re-enter the 'real' world. Though, to this day, I truly believe that the world we had been in all that afternoon was the real world and the rest was just make-believe..

* * * * * * * * *

In October we were drafted into the defence forces. My parents came to see me off at the local recruitment centre and David came to see Oren off. I suppose it didn't matter that my parents were there, because with all those people around I would not have been able to take my leave of Oren the way I wanted to anyway. My mother hugged me - I think because all the other mothers were hugging their sons. My mother had a tear glistening in her eye - but I think that was because all the other mothers had a tear glistening in their eye. Many of the guys had been accompanied to the recruitment center by their girlfriends: I envied them the opportunity to kiss and hug and cling in full public view. My father tried to give "paternal" advice on how to behave in the army, but it sounded hollow and perfunctory. I realised that for all the outward veneer of respectability ours was a dysfunctional family because of the domineering influence of my mother and the corresponding meekness - no, weakness - of my father. David hugged Oren for the umpteenth time and then gave me a giant bear hug. It felt so good, compared with the hugs of my parents which lacked that special warmth that made a hug a hug.

"Nir, I'll say to you what I just said to Oren," said David, planting a fond kiss on my forehead. "May God bless you and bring you home safely. I shall be thinking of you all the time." I gave him a hug, kissed him on both cheeks and whispered, "Thanks, Dudu." He looked at me in surprise for I had never used that name for him before, and then he grinned. "You're very welcome, Nir."

They started herding us into busses. Oren and I managed to get on the same bus. We waved dutifully to our family - yes, David was just like family - and settled down with our own thoughts as the bus moved off. We felt as if we were back in school - where we had started three years previously. We sat upright in our seats holding hands under our coats and not even daring to look at each other. At the national recruitment base we were just two of hundreds of youngsters like ourselves. We were put through the routine of ceasing to be civilians and becoming soldiers: we were herded, lined up, stripped, jabbed, checked, tagged - the lot in one long production belt as it seemed; and then finally we were issued with our kit. For the first time in our lives we put on army uniform and then looked around. Everyone seemed the same, almost depersonalised. I looked at Oren and hardly recognised him for a moment - until he held out his hand. I took his hand - but only to shake it. Anything else was unthinkable in that milieu. But the touch of his hand was electric, and I could feel his whole being invading me, as it were. That handshake lasted a very long while. All around us people were laughing and joking and we were as solemn as can be imagined. How strange.

Again we were herded into busses and towards late afternoon we finally arrived at boot camp - "somewhere". It turned out that we were going to be together for the experience of learning how to be a soldier. That was an unexpected bonus! By sticking very close to one another we were even able to get ourselves herded into the same platoon and the same tent. Then we had our first spot of trouble. I took a bed at the far end of the tent (which had twelve beds in it). Of course, I expected Oren to take the one next to mine. Suddenly, behind me I heard a scuffling and the sound of a kitbag being thrown on to the bed next to mine. Oren had thrown his bag onto the bed, but another soldier was standing at the foot of the bed with his kitbag still in his hand. "I bagged it first," said Oren in the firmest of voices - the kind that brooks no contradiction, the kind that implied a violent threat, the kind that I had heard often in school from Charlie and his cronies, but never from Oren. The other guy backed off. "OK, OK. But I really don't see what the big deal is," he said, claiming another bed. He looked at us with a quizzical look on his face, and we just stared him down. So this was how it was going to be?

Actually, it wasn't. We began to get on quite well with the rest of the guys in our platoon We weren't really careful: we would always sit together at mealtimes, shower together, and things like that. When we were given rest time we were always sitting side by side on the ground (or lying on our backs, exhausted). It took maybe three days for the guys in our tent to work out that there was something 'unusual' between us. There was one guy, religious, who on the evening of the fourth day started haranguing us about how the wicked go to hell and that some sins are unpardonable and all that stuff. He was absolutely dumbfounded when the rest of the guys rounded on him and told him to 'shut his big ugly mouth'. I think he had expected them all to support him. No one could have been more surprised that the two of us at the way they gave us silent support by rounding on him. The guy from whom Oren had 'stolen' the bed winked at us, and the following day everyone made a point of being our 'chums'. But that was as far as we could go. We were accepted as a pair, but we had no opportunity for anything else.

Almost always they give a weekend pass at the end of the first week, and we were no exceptions. I felt very guilty about not even telling my parents that I was home from the army for 36 hours, but I spent the whole time with Oren at David's. For all the 36 hours that we were not travelling from or to the base it was sex, food, sleep, sex, food, sleep - nonstop. It was enough to 'fuel' us up until the next pass. To begin with our lovemaking was frenetic: we were all over each other, kissing every conceivable part of the beloved body, touching, jerking, sucking, fucking - everything, until we were almost exhausted. After the storm came a calm. And that calm was just as good sexually as the storm that had preceded it. We discovered that there was as much satisfaction in just feeling your partner's body next to yours as there was in the most intensive and most invasive sex. The best thing in the world for me was to fall asleep with Oren's body spooning mine, his arm thrown casually across my chest, his penis just touching the cleft in my butt.

And then our pass was up and it was back into the world of the military.

Inevitably, at the end of boot camp we were split up. Oren went into the paratroopers and I went into the armoured corps - what we called a 'tankist'. I won't bore you with all the details of our army service. As you might guess, most of our very modest pay went towards the enormous bills that we ran up on our cellular phones. Of course, when we did manage to get together some of our time was spent with Oren catching up on what I had been doing as a 'tankist' and me eagerly listening to his recounting of what his paratrooper unit had been doing. But, most of our time on such occasions was spent making love. Those were heady times. What I did notice was that being apart helped our love to mature. We spent less time than before in sex and more time in just talking, holding hands, being together. I was particularly proud of him when he described his first 'jump'.

I think that during the three years of service we had maybe six or seven passes that coincided - most of them for religious holidays, so the precious time had also to be spent with family. Towards the end of our service there was one occasion when my parents, not knowing whether I would be realeased for the festival or not, had made arrangements to spend the holiday abroad. I arrived home to an empty house, so you can imagine my delight when a few moments later the phone rang: it was Oren to tell me that he had been given a pass for the holiday as well and that I should get my ass round to David's 'like a rocket'. We celebrated the festival with David, which was very pleasant indeed. And after the festive meal we went to Oren's room.

Even though we knew that it was now only a couple of months before we got out of the army altogether, that night we made love for hours - a very slow, very sweet, very relaxed lovemaking. The moment I remember best was me lying on my back with Oren on top of me, nibbling kisses into my ear, onto my eyelids and then into my mouth. His semi-hard dick was pressed between him and me and mine was stuck somewhere between one of his balls and his thigh. My hand strayed down across his velvet-smooth back to his butt. You may well laugh, but I think that the well-formed butt of a male in his prime is the most aesthetically pleasing part of his body - both to caressing touch and other purposes. And believe me, Oren's butt was well-formed: two rounded globes that I could never tire of caressing.

And then we just lay in each other's arms talking. As I said, the three years of our service were drawing to a close and we could see the end in sight. We were nearly 22 years old and only now did we start talking about things that our counterparts in other lands had talked about when they were 18. All of us in my unit had began talking and thinking about what we were going to do when we got out of the army, and on this occasion Oren and I talked about the future as well - our future, our future together. We both intended to go to university, and David had assured us that with the final grades we had got in our matriculation we would have no difficulties, and that we were sure to get a good score in the 'psychometric' test. We also talked about how we would share our lives. We planned to get into the same university so that we could rent a small apartment together; we would each get a part-time job in order to pay for the rent etc. Just before we fell asleep Oren whispered in my ear, "You know how I know we're really in love? It's because we survived three years apart and we are still mad about each other." And he was right.

I said eartlier that I think that everyone remembers his first time as clearly as anything else in his life. I now think that one also has one's last time with a beloved partner indelibly engraved into one's memory, in retrospect. It is still too hard for me to think of it. The very memory squeezes the anguish out of my soul as if there were no more. But there always is more. There is a huge gaping hole in my soul where Oren used to be. He was always there, but then he was a living, active part of my life. Now, the very memory of him still causes me to weep untold tears..

* * * * * * * * *

David here. Nir could not continue with his narration, so it is I who must somehow go on. I pick up the story about three weeks before Oren and Nir were due to be demobilized...

During the working day the radio is part of the very fabric of our society. The news is broadcast every hour and there is a short bulletin every half-hour. And people listen to the news. In the evening the TV news broadcast is in prime time: ours must be the only country in the world where the evening news on TV is always among the top ten programmes. During the day you can hear the radio in shops, on busses - just walking down the street there will be people with a transistor radio glued to their ear when the news is on. One day in late March I was sipping a coffee in the teachers' room during a break. Emma, Varda and I were sitting at a table gossiping about nothing in particular; other teachers around us were doing similar things - marking papers, preparing lessons. General hubbub. Suddenly Ofer burst into the room. "Have you heard?" he announced, knowing that we had not. "There's been a terror attack up north. A bomb went off in one of the roadside bays where soldiers wait for hitches."

Immediately the radio was turned on. "...several soldiers were killed and many more severely wounded," the newsreader was saying. "The wounded are being taken by helicopter to hospital. The number of dead is estimated to be around six or seven, though the exact number will not be known until next-of-kin have been informed." For some reason that I cannot explain I had a terrible premonition. I reached for the phone and punched out the number of my office. "Rikki, David here. I have to go out for a while on extremely urgent business. Please get the office to arrange for someone to sub for me if I am not back within the hour." I slammed down the phone, not giving her a chance to argue. I rushed from the room, raced down to my car, and drove like mad to the small apartment where Mrs Suissa lived. I knew that my premonition could not be about Nir because he was down south.

The military were already there! Mrs Suissa was sitting numbly on a upright chair not comprehending what the officers were telling her: her son had been killed in a terrorist attack. There were neighbours already crowding the room and there was nothing I could do to help her: they could probably do better. I sought out the senior officer present and very briefly told him who I was and what was necessary for him to know about the Suissa family history. I begged him to keep me informed of developments as well as Mrs Suissa. He noted down my name and telephone number and promised to keep me informed. I rushed back to my office. Rikki was not there, thank God.

Ours is a country in which everyone knows someone who knows someone who knows someone... Within thirty minutes I was speaking to Nir's commanding officer and explaining to him the situation. He immediately agreed to give Nir a 72 hour pass and promised not to tell Nir why he was being given a pass, except to instruct him to go directly to my place.

By the time Nir arrived I already knew all the details about what had happened and what was going to happen. He looked at my face and must have seen tragedy written there. "David, what's happened? For God's sake, what's happened?"

"There's been a terror attack up north."

"Up north? Oh my God! Oren! No! No! David, he has been hurt? How badly was he hurt? Where is he? I must go and see him right now. You must tell me, is he badly hurt? Is he suffering?"

I drew him into my arms. "Oren is not suffering, Nironni," I said, "and will never suffer again. He is at peace."

He looked at me incredulously, his quick mind understanding immediately. I held him tightly in my arms as he cried. No, Nir did not cry. He sobbed, uncontrollable wrenching sobs that went on and on. He wept in my arms until he was exhausted. I did nothing to stop his grief because I knew that he needed this expression of frustration, fear, anguish. I knew, because I had travelled down that road myself.

Cry, weep, moan for the beloved who is gone, never to return. First Yoni, then Oren. Life is a bitch!

Nir slept at my place that night, on the sofa in my den: he couldn't bear to sleep in Oren's room. The following morning the radio was full of the details: the names of the soldiers killed, the time and place of their respective funerals. (It is our custom to bury our dead as quickly as possible; if not the same day then at least the following day.) Oren was to be buried at three o'clock that afternoon in the section of our local cemetery that was reserved for soldiers who died on active service. The funeral was to be with full military honours. I was very worried how Nir would behave at the graveside. Mr Suissa was present accompanied by prison guards. Time and incarceration had changed nothing: he looked daggers at Nir, as if Nir were personally responsible for his son's death. Mrs Suissa wept - no, wailed - constantly. She was surrounded and supported by her three surviving sons.

Just before three o'clock the cemetery began to fill up with soldiers. Where had all these soldiers come from? Some were from Oren's unit, including his commanding officers - and they were all grim-faced and tight-lipped. But others were there too. They had heard the terrible news on the radio and had been given passes to attend the funeral: Motti, Arik, Ofra, Shira, Edna, Avi, Shirli, Ohad, Esti... all in uniform, all carrying personal arms. These were not the kids I had taught in school: these were grown men and women, and even though they were soldiers in uniform and carrying arms they knew the anguish of losing a comrade and cried unashamedly. They surrounded Nir with comfort: they must have known all along, I realised.

At three o'clock prompt there was a sudden hush as the men from the chaplaincy brought the coffin on a kind of gun carriage. In our country people are mostly buried without a coffin, just dressed in their shrouds; but soldiers who die on active service are buried in a plain wooden casket. In the case of Oren this was a blessing, because that casket held all the bits and pieces that the chaplaincy had been able to identify as once being the body of Oren Suissa.

A military chaplain began intoning prayers and then came the moment for the funeral orations. Oren's commanding officer spoke first, praising his performance as a soldier and vowing that his unit would do everything they could to see that Oren's murderers were brought to justice. Mrs Suissa wailed uncontrollably and the soldiers from Oren's unit wept silently. After that, one of Oren's uncles spoke in a very perfunctory manner that left everyone dry-eyed.

The funeral procession now moved off to the graveside. As Oren's body was lowered into the grave Nir suddenly stepped forward.

"Rennie-Ren, my beloved Rennie, don't leave me! I can't bear the thought of being without you at my side! I love you, Rennie, and I shall never stop loving you." And then a huge cry of anguished despair, a cry that pierced the silence and echoed to the very heavens above: "Oren!!!!! Don't go! Oren!!!"

Everybody present was weeping. Anyone who hadn't known before now knew what the relationship was between Nir Arazi and Oren Suissa. I took Nir and hugged him and pulled him back from the graveside. Nir clung to me, shivering. We watched with unbelieving grief as people took shovels in their hands and we heard the awesome thud of clods of earth raining down on that casket. Nir could not bear to watch and thrust his face onto my chest, weeping bitterly. Then the guard of honour lined up on both sides of the grave. They were just about to fire the salute when someone stepped forward. It was Arik. Good old jovial Arik. Arik the classmate.

"I have been deputed to represent all of the schoolfriends of Oren and Nir," he said in a loud, but wavering voice. "By common agreement, we would like to send Oren on his way with a quotation from the Bible that we learned together in school." Now Arik stood at the graveside and recited from memory:

"How are the mighty fallen!... You mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew nor rain on you, neither fields of offerings: for there the shield of the mighty was vilely cast away... Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, in their death they were not divided: They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions... How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan is slain on your high places. I am so sad for you, Jonathan my brother; you were so sweet to me. Your love for me was more wonderful than the love of women.. How are the mighty fallen, The weapons of war perished!"

Nir sobbed as Arik stepped back. The guard of honour raised their rifles over the grave. All that could be heard was the crisp order of their officer. "Ready, aim, fire!"

Oren's grandfather, the rabbi, stepped forward and began reciting the mourner's prayer, the prayer that surviving relatives recite. Nir, of course, was not recognised as a surviving mourner, so I took Nir's hand in mine and held it tightly. From my own personal experience I knew what he needed now.

The service had included a lot of mention of 'life eternal' and 'resurrection', but all I could think of as I held Nir's hand was the complete and absolute essentiality of death. A young man, full of enormous potential, had been cut off, cut down, destroyed. I thought of the last lines of a sonnet by John Donne, an English poet from the seventeenth century:

One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

But these lines did not comfort me. And my mind began to mull over the very worrying words of another English poet, Wilfred Owen. Like Oren, Owen was a young man, full of potential, drafted into the military and destroyed by enemy action. His poem was very different from that of John Donne:

"Shall life renew these bodies? Of a truth
All death will He annul, all tears assuage? -
Fill the void veins of Life again with youth,
And wash, with an immortal water, Age?
When I do ask white Age he saith, 'Not so:
My head hangs weighed with snow.'
And when I hearken to the Earth, she saith:
'My fiery heart shrinks, aching. It is death.'

The sexton announced that the Suissa family (except for Mr Suissa) would be observing statutory mourning for the following week at the Suissa apertment. Just as everybody was about to move off I stepped forward and in a very loud voice - the kind teachers develop over the years - I announced: "Nir Arazi will be observing the week of mourning in my home. All are welcome to come and pay their respects."

We left the graveside, we left the cemetery. We left Oren. And thus Oren went out of our lives - but never out of our hearts. We made our way back to my place where Nir would receive friends and wellwishers who would come to commiserate with him and offer him their condolences.

David and Jonathan. David and Yoni. Oren and Nir. Yoni, my Yoni, where are you? You left a gaping hole in my heart. O shit! I am so sad for you, Jonathan my brother; you were so sweet to me. Your love for me was more wonderful than the love of women. Oh sod everything! Yoni, where are you? Why have you left me all alone? Life without you is so hard to bear, so bleak, so empty. Yoni, my Yoni. Oh, bugger life! Oh, bugger death! Sod all!

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead