“Home is the sailor, home from the sea; and the hunter, home form the hill”. These verses from the poem by A.E. Houseman, are mute reminders of the contribution that the State of Israel’s small, but important naval forces make for the security of their country. The loss of four members of an Israeli missile boat when struck by a Hezbollah launched missile, once again brings attention to a branch of Israel’s armed forces who have managed to perform their duties in both peace and war, with the loss of relatively few of their comrades. The only graphic exception, outside of this recent incident was the accidental sinking of the Israeli submarine, Dakar, which sank with all hands on board on its maiden voyage back to Israel from England in 1968 after being purchased from the British Royal Navy. Only recently did the true fate of the Dakar and its crew of 69 become known when the long vanished sub was finally located on the bottom of the Mediterranean off the Island of Crete.
Many countries who have both military navies, as well as merchant marine fleets, have their own version of the Sailor’s Hymn. One of the most notable, composed by American Rear Admiral Charles Jackson in 1879, and heard often by U.S, Navy choral groups, begins as follows:
Eternal Father, Strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bid’st the mighty Ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to thee,
for those in peril on the sea.
Though based on a Christian Protestant song, sung by coastal churches where sailing vessels were a vital part of the lives of people living in cities like Boston, Philadelphia, New York, and Baltimore, the song is still a fitting tribute to those who brave the seas and ocean’s waves on ships of all types; for both war and peace.
Being a Jewish State, Israel cannot use this hymn to honor its men at sea. It would be fitting, therefore for a special song to be composed, with both music and words to pay tribute to those naval personnel who have fallen in the line of duty. The Torah and other parts of the Holy Scriptures have many verses and psalms dealing with the sea, and deliverance from it, including the Chapters from Genesis dealing with Noah and his family, and a later separate book, the Book of Jonah. Both of these examples have fitting excerpts which, together with the proper musical rendition would make into a most beautiful Sailor’s Hymn for Israel’s naval personnel.
The announcement by the Israeli Navy that the bodies of all four sailors were found at least brings some comfort to their grieving families who can now bury their love ones and visit their graves. Those lost at sea, however, such as the Dakar’s crew, are lost forever; as trying to recover them from more than 2,000 feet of water is too difficult, considering the logistical factors involved. They, together with literally thousands more worldwide, share the sea as their common grave.
Still, proper attention needs to be paid to these brave men and the important duties performed for the welfare of their nation. And nothing more suitable and fitting a tribute is needed than to compose a special hymn or prayer in their honor, which will be a lasting reminder of the duties sacrifices by this special branch of Israel’s military forces.