This past Tuesday my father, Yitschak Marko, has passed away after a brief fight against a violent case of cancer. The last two months of his life were not easy for him and required ever increasing doses of pain killers. We, his family, honored his wish he has expressed for many years not to fight for his life in the case of a terminal illness. During the past few weeks we deliberated among ourselves, as we could not include him any more in these discussions, and decided that it would be only right to abide by his express wishes. So, he died peacefully in his own bed.
Yitzhak Eliezer Marko z”l
This week we read about the golden calf. “ow when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’… Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf “. The leader is late to return, the salvation does not seem to be near or possible, and the people ignore and forget everything and asks to have a different god, another solution, an external power that will solve problems.
Our father did not look for such other god – surely he had an account to settle with our God, his God. He felt that he deserved an explanation for the suffering he, has family and so many have endured during the Holocaust. The injustice was too great, with no justification. Still, I think that he decided to settle his account with God in a very different way, a path that would lead to his victory. He never sought that golden calf that would solve problems. Rather he faced it head on. On this way he certainly gave up some of his personal dreams so that he could fulfill the dreams of others. It was not the gold and silver, nor the diamonds that were important to him. These were education, knowledge, the love of fellowmen and social responsibility that his heart stood for.
His wondering in the desert occurred during the bitter winter of 1944-45, walking from Bratislava to Berlin and then to Dresden. His tale of that period has been recorded for Yad Vashem as part of the Spielberg Project recording evidence from Holocaust survivors. Four hours of detailed, coherent and fluent testimony about his family, his mother who perished that winter, and the miracles. They avoided a direct bombing of allied forces during one of their long death marches, the refusal of his father to leave him for his own fate when he could walk no longer, the young Nazi guard who shoot a round at him when he did not like the work my father did in building villas for SS officers in March of 1945, or the slow and careful food consumption forced upon him by his father once they were freed and food was finally available.
My father made Aliya to Israel with his father and step-mother in 1949, sent immediately to the Sha’ar Aliya transit camp (ma’abara) at the outskirts of Haifa. First working for the then luxury hotel Zion washing dishes and later on as a waiter at the HaSharon Hotel in Herzlia and the Galei Kinnert Hotel in Tiberias. Then, into the diamond business settling finally in Netanya with his wife, our mother, Sari. Commonly my generation is referred to as the Second Generation of Holocaust survivors with all of the psychological baggage that this term entails. This was not our case for my sister, brother and I, as we were lucky to live in a happy home, a harbor of safety, a place that brought people of all walks of life together. As an officer my father also served during the Sinai Campaign, the Six Days War and the Yom Kippur War, and as was common practice at the time, also with relatively long period of reserve duty. He was certainly one of those who asked not what the country could give them, for as for him its very existence was the answer, but what he could add to it. This congregation of the Reform Movement, is but one of his answers to this call, part of a heritage of unconditional giving.
We read this week that Moses requested God “I pray You, show me Your glory!” He receives the answer, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” God was with dad, even if at some time of his young life he seemed to be remote and distant. He still enjoyed what Moses was promised, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.” He has not seen God’s face but he certainly had The One to follow. He made his final way peacefully, content, and with a feeling that he had beaten the most complicated and strongest of forces. His life was a blessing and so shall be his memory.
Reuven Marko, 17 March 2017, 20 Adar, 5777