I'm not a fan of the genre of bereaved parents memoirs. I couldn't finish Noa Lev's book, most probably because I know her; we had been in YU Seminars and Stern College together when teens and have a close mutual friend. It was just too painful, but when I was offered a review copy of Peretz's book, I decided to give it a try.
And I am so glad that I accepted Miriam's Song. I learned so much from it. I know lots, much too many bereaved parents and family members. Each one reacts very differently to such a horrific loss. And I also know others who have buried more than one child.
The story of Miriam Peretz' s life – the story of a mother and a homeland; of love for the Land of Israel, the State of Israel, and the Jewish people; and of the victory of spirit and faith.One of the reasons that I was able to get through reading Peretz's book is that she comes from such a different world. Her religious and family background is so different from mine that I was able to easily remove myself from her story. Miriam Peretz was born in Morocco and made aliyah with her very Moroccan Jewish parents to a hut in southern Israel. Although she is a peer age-wise, her childhood and family customs were totally different. Peretz was raised in a family of strong religious faith and Jewish observance. They were always grateful for their opportunities, even if others would consider their living conditions and financial situation horrendous. Peretz was the child who, despite great difficulties, succeeded in propelling herself and her children into the mainstream of Israeli society and IDF.
1st Lieutenant Uriel Peretz, commander of a Golani Brigade Special Forces unit, dreamed of becoming the first Moroccan chief of staff of the IDF. But his mother Miriam sensed that her oldest son would not leave Lebanon safely. On the day he was drafted, she became a woman waiting for news of disaster.
In November 1998, Uriel was fatally wounded by an explosive device planted by Hezbollah terrorists. He was 22. Miriam transformed the pain over his death into education and volunteer service. She began to visit schools and military bases, talking about her son’s leadership vision.
Tragically, in March 2010 Miriam was forced to face another test. Her second son, Major Eliraz Peretz, was killed in an exchange of fire in the Gaza Strip. He died almost twelve years after he had eulogized his older brother: “Sometimes we pay a price for doing the right thing. The price of life.” Eliraz, who was 32, left behind a wife and four children, including a baby just two months old.
Overnight, the mother who lost two sons – as well as her husband, whose heart couldn’t bear the death of his oldest son – became a symbol of grief and of strength.
I must admit that I am envious of the faith that Peretz and her husband had succeeded in transferring to their six children. Over the decades, over half a century since I so enthusiastically and sincerely took on Torah Judaism, due to the influence and inspiration of NCSY, I realize that there's an enormous aspect of Torah living that I hadn't been exposed to and therefore I couldn't pass it on to my children. And our lives have been lacking in the very foundations of faith that Peretz and her late husband Eliezer, Z"L, so lovingly breathed, blessed and imparted to theirs.
Miriam Peretz is seen throughout the world as a woman of strength who had overcome terrible pain and loss, but in her book she admits to us that there are days she couldn't get up, get out of bed or get dressed. She couldn't cook or speak. She is human.
Another thing I liked about the book is that each of her surviving children wrote a chapter. Yes, Miriam's Song--The Story of Miriam Peretz is like the Biblical Miriam's song; it is not a solo. The Biblical Miriam, sister of Moshe, led the women in song, and Miriam Peretz has led her children to the same tune she sings.
Yes, I highly recommend reading Miriam's Song--The Story of Miriam Peretz.