Sunday, July 13, 2008

Eye Witness Report

Ya'akov Livni has submitted this report with photos he took of the Levaya of Rabbi Groner. Ya'akov lived in Melbourne for many years and knew Rabbi Groner well.
Thank you Ya'akov for all the time you put into this.

Oy Shehushbarnu !!!!!!

HaRav Yitschok Dovid Groner has left us...

Last Shabbos, Rabbi Groner was in Melbourne, and this Shabbos, Rabbi Groner is resting at Har HaZeitim in Yerushalayim. How the world has changed!

A number of people had urged me to record the Levaya and Kvura in Yerushalayim in photographs. Successful photographs should speak for themselves and normally do not require words. Some words, however, are necessary here. A few people know that I had serious misgivings about taking photographs. I had to consider Kovod HaMeis, the sensitivities of the family and my own inability to record such an event dispassionately. The Levaya in Melbourne received significant coverage so, with much hesitation and deliberation, I decided to attempt to take photographs with some self-imposed rules and limitations, so as to show those who were not present something of the Levaya and Kvura at Har HaZeitim. I apologize for the watermarkings, but was advised to add them. Taking these photos and writing these words has been a very difficult experience for me...

Moda'ot Evell, Bereavement Notices, are common in Israel for notifying the public of funeral details

The Shamgar funeral hall was full to overflowing, men on one side, women on the other. The assembled recited Tehillim together until the stretcher was carried out to the Chevra Kadisha van.

The variety of headgear present bears witness to how Rabbi Groner
had so profoundly touched the lives of so many people in so many walks of life

The Chevra Kadisha van leaves Shamgar for Har HaZeitim

Buses were available for those who wished to attend the Kvura at Har HaZeitim, a slow 15 minute drive away through Arab neighborhoods.

Olive trees, which lend their name to Har HaZeitim, between Har HaZeitim and Har HaBayit

Har HaZeitim is an ancient and hallowed Jewish burial ground, facing Har HaBayit and Har HaMoriya.

Older graves, at the foot of Har HaZeitim

Different communities have different Chelkot, sections, in various parts of the mountain

It is unlike most other cemeteries you are likely familiar with. It does not have a lush lawn nor trees nor benches to sit on. During the Jordanian occupation of part of Jerusalem beginning in 1948, the Jordanians dug up graves, dispersed bones and stole tombstones. Since the reunification of Jerusalem following the Six Day War in 1967, the Chevra Kadisha has put in a tremendous effort to collect scattered bones and tombstone fragments and put things where they belong. Even still, in parts, this cemetery does not have the ordered appearance of other cemeteries. Perhaps that is the lot of ancient burial grounds.

Looking south from Har HaZeitim

At Har HaZeitim, there are very few access roads into the cemetery; I know of only two. They are very narrow and there is room at the top of the mount for just a handful of cars to park. Buses cannot get in there at all. Arabs actually live in homes on Har Hazeitim and use this road, so traversing it can be very tricky.

After removal from the van, the stretcher was carried up many steps to the Chelkat Rabbanei Chabad. Younger bochurim together with some of us older people carried the stretcher up. The temperature steadily rose to the expected high of 34 degrees C; experienced locals brought bottles of water.

When I davened in the Yeshiva shule in Melbourne, I usually davened near the back of the shule. In his later years with reduced mobility, Rabbi Groner also davened at the back of the shule instead of his Makom Kavu'a toward the front. On several occassions in recent years, I was zocheh to have Rabbi Groner motion for me to assist him approach the Bima and he leaned on my arm for those steps. And here I was this week, assisting others in bringing Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner to his final Makom Kavu'a, Menuchas Olomim! Woe unto the arm that has to be called to such duty!! Evell Mar U'Misped...

Note the very old tombstones, with rounded tops

At the gravesite, the Chevra Kadisha members covered the grave and followed Minhag Yerushalayim in their duties. Rabbi Leibel Groner spoke and cried over his brother.

Rabbi Groner was close to people from many different parts of the community

Who can forget how Rabbi Y. D. Groner cried so bitterly at the Ammud on Yom Kippur when he was informed of HaRav Perlov's passing? How difficult is the farewell!

חנון הביטה ממרומים!

תביאנו אל הר קדשך ושמחנו בבית תפילתיך כמה שכתוב, והביאתים אל הר קדשי ושמחתים בבית תפילתי, עולותיהם וזבחיהם לרצון על מזבחי, כי ביתי בית תפילה יקרא לכל העמים.
שמע קולנו...
ורוח קדשך על תקח ממנו...
ככלות כחנו אל תעזבנו...
כי אתה ה' עזרתנו ונחמתנו...

HaMakom Yenachem Eschem, the family, the community, Lubavitch and Jewry everywhere, BeSoch Sha'ar Aveilei Tzion ViYrusholoyim!