Gideon BlackBnei Akiva Ambulance Dedication
20 July 2003 at MDA Blood Centre, Tel Hashomer

I have many things that I am eternally grateful to Yoni for, one being that he introduced me to Bnei Akiva. It was ten years ago that my dad told me that he had received a message from Yoni saying that he had applied to Aleph Machane and that I should too. So I did. I was hooked immediately, and having been to fifteen camps since, one could say that I haven't really looked back. So as a proud member, and on behalf of Yoni, I would like to thank Bnei Akiva for all it gave him, and for all it continues to give me. I would also like to thank all those who made donations in order to fund this ambulance. The inspiring way in which Bnei Akiva has reacted to Yoni's death pays fitting testimony to the movement it is.

Seeing so many people here on Israel Machane makes me think back to exactly four years ago when Yoni and I were on tour (Group 3!) together. I remember how whenever we would pack our suitcases on to our bus, only about half of them would fit on, and during the ensuing argument between the driver and our group, without being asked, Yoni would single handedly take all the luggage of the bus and repack it - always managing to fit everyone's bag in. I also remember how Yoni lained Eicha so beautifully on Tisha B'Av as we sat overlooking Jerusalem.

We now have two physical objects that represent Yoni. The first is his tombstone on Har Hamenuchot in Jerusalem. The second is this ambulance that stands before us today. They seem to stand for opposing themes and have very different attributes. The stone stands still and strong, and will remain in it's current place for many, many years. The stone symbolises ending and finality. To friends and family this is our physical point of contact with Yoni in this world. The ambulance on the other hand is new and mobile. It will be active and it gives life. To those who probably never knew Yoni but are in need of assistance of some sort, this will be their physical point of contact with Yoni in this world.

Nevertheless, in spite of their clear differences, that which they symbolise is closely related. Yoni has run his leg of the relay race. He can no longer be active in this world. He has put down his stone at the point which he reached in his life. It is now up to us to carry on running, and to take the baton from his open hand. Here the ambulance awaits ready to continue his good work just where he left off. It is amazing that the day we dedicate this ambulance in Yoni's memory is probably the same day, that had Yoni still been alive, he would have been going back to London to start a degree in medicine.

I cannot think of a more fitting dedication to Yoni than an ambulance. Yoni told us many times how he wanted to follow in our Grandfather's footsteps and be a doctor. He actualised his keen interest when he came to Israel to work in Hadassah Ein Kerem during his summers for work experience. Whilst Yoni can no longer be a doctor, the ambulance will do the same things he would have done - save people's lives.

In fact Yoni's own birth saved life. When my Auntie Marsha, Yoni's mother, went into labour her doctor was called into hospital to assist with the birth. The lady in the ward next door found herself in a sudden life threatening situation, and only because this specific doctor was in the hospital for Yoni's birth, when usually he would not have been on duty, was he able to save the life of this suffering lady. As we are well aware, Yoni's death gave life to three different people with the donation of some of his organs. It seems that Yoni was all about saving people's lives, and now everyone who is rushed to hospital or given treatment in this ambulance can thank Yoni for their new lease of life.

With the Gemara in Sanhedrin in mind (that states whoever saves a life it is as if he has saved an entire universe) we can be rest assured that Yoni is resting in peace in heaven. In fact I can't imagine Yoni resting, so it is probably more accurate to say that Yoni is running around in peace in heaven. I think another Gemara is relevant here as well. In Kiddushin it states "macshava tova metzarpha lema'aseh" - "a good thought is considered as a good deed" - and the Gemara qoutes the following Pasuk from Malachi as a proof: "Az niberu yirei Hashem ish el re'eyhu, vayakshev Hashem vayishma, vayichtav sefer zichron lfanav lyirei Hashem ulchoshvei shmo." - "Then those who fear Hashem spoke to one another, and Hashem listened and heard, and a book of rememberance was written before Him for those who fear Hashem and for those who give thought to His name". The Gemara asks: "Mai Ulchoshvei shmo?" - "what does the phrase 'and those who give thought to his name' refer to?" "Amar Rav Assi: aphilu chashav adam la'asot mitzva vne'enass velo asa'a ma'aleh alav hakatuv k'ilu asa'a" - "Answers Rav Assi: it means that even if one plans to do a mitzvah and something beyond ones control prevents you from performing the mitzvah, the Torah credits you as if you fulfilled it." Clearly Yoni falls into this category. There were numerous Mitzvot that he planned to do, but was prevented from fulfilling them due to his sudden death.

America is famed for its Satue of Liberty, well I feel that Yoni was a statue of responsibility. Today society is so keen to ensure that everyone can fully exercise their rights, that we forget hat we also have duties and responsibilities to fulfil. Yoni did not forget this. He bore his responsibilities with broad shoulders, and did mitzvot even when they may not have been his duty. You never heard Yoni with folded arms saying, "someone else can do it - it's not my job." I think this is the message that Yoni would want us to take with us today; to accept responsibility upon ourselves even when we may not be expected to, and to fulfil our duties willingly, without being overly concerned for what we feel society owes us.

To conclude I would like to sincerely thank His Excellency, Ambassador Sherard Cowper-Coles, not only for making the great effort to be with us here today, but also for being a true, caring friend of the Jewish people in both Britain and Israel. We are very sad to see you leave Israel, yet we are encouraged with the knowledge that you will continue to represent our cause in your new post in Saudi Arabia.