Mysterious Death Shrouds a life of Purpose

It has been more than a year plus since the body of an American turned Israeli soldier was found in a ditch in central Israel with his military-issued rifle lying at his side. David Menachem Gordon, an Ohio-born 21-year-old of Jewish ancestry had left the relative safety of the United States in 2013 to take up residency in Jerusalem and join the Israeli Defense Force.

His Facebook page indicated he finished basic training in January 2014. He was found deceased on Aug. 19, 2014 – just two days after being reported missing for not returning to his unit post receiving medical care at another location.

His death has received little press in the United States other than coverage by Jewish media during a time frame when the stories of several Americans turned Hamas or ISIS fighters have been covered at near nausea.

Gordon wrote for Advisors Magazine.

Erwin Kantor, Advisors Magazine publisher, said he first noticed Gordon’s writing ability on a website promoting internship candidates.

“He knew how to write; he knew how to get to the point,” Kantor said.

Gordon worked at Advisors Magazine Long Island office as an intern and progressed to a staff writer position. When he announced his plans to move to Israel, Kantor made Gordon a foreign correspondent. Gordon filed several stories from Israel before his military training began.

“Before he left the United States, he expressed to me a strong desire to serve in the Israeli military,” Kantor said. “He talked about how if he actually lived in Israel, he would have mandatory service just like everybody else over there. He felt it was his duty since he was Jewish.”

That is the leading reason that folks at The Suit did not worry when communication from Gordon was first sparse and then ceased. Kantor figured Gordon was busy with his military service and would communicate again when his obligations were not so immediately pressing. After all, Gordon was a member of the elite 424th Shaked Infantry Battalion of Givati, an infantry brigade that served a major role in defending Israel against Hamas attacks during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

(Every morning I say aloud “Come on, Dave. Just jump in the water” as if the floor below is an icy pool and I’m avoiding total immersion and every morning -- despite my displeasure -- I take that leap and land on the floor with a thud. The phrase has become so common that if my fellow cadets see me dawdling in bed or stuck in my morning stupor they’ll say “Come on, Dave. Just jump in the water.” It’s a friendly reminder that despite fatigue, fear of the unknown, and the fact that you are so far removed from what some call “normal life” you must believe in the blood rushing through your veins, dive into life’s challenges, and prevail.) Excerpt from “Sparks of David,” blog

“I figured I would hear from him when he had time,” Kantor said.

Unfortunately, word from Gordon never came.

News regarding Gordon’s death reached Advisors Magazine in early August of this year when The Forward, an American online publication featuring Jewish news and features, contacted Kantor for comments regarding the one-year anniversary of Gordon’s death.

“I felt bad that I was only finding out about his death now,” Kantor said.

Mystery still somewhat surrounds Gordon’s death as speculation continues that his death was a suicide.

In Sept. 2014, the online publication, Haaretz, published a commentary regarding Gordon’s death explaining why the speculation regarding suicide being the cause of his death exists. The use by the Israeli Defense Force communications personnel of the words, “weapon at his side” in announcing Gordon’s death is a code for suicide, according to the article written by Rabbi Yehoshua Looks. By not officially announcing Gordon’s death as a suicide, the IDF saved his family the embarrassment that suicide brings according to the tenants of Judaism. Under Judaic principles, one that commits suicide is not allowed a religious burial. Gordon was buried two days after his body was discovered with full military honors at the Har Herzl Military Cemetery in Jerusalem near the section where other deceased members of the Givati Infantry Brigade killed in 2014 were buried. It is an honor he would not have received should the suicide speculation been proven true, according to the Haaretz article.

Gordon had achieved what is known in Judaism as “Aliyah” – the relocation to Israel from what is known as “Diaspora” or the state of a person of Jewish descent living outside of Israel. The IDF labeled him as a “lone soldier.” It is the designation for a member of its military that does not have direct family living in Israel while he or she serves. It also represents an acceptance of that individual into Israeli society. Any acknowledgement by the IDF or the Israeli government of possible suicide would destroy Gordon’s new found national identity and integration into Jewish society.

Yet, the specter of suicide was also supported by Gordon’s past. When Gordon became a teen, he alleged his childhood years in Detroit, Mich., were marred by sexual abuse from rabbis and teachers in the Oak Park and Southfield areas of the Detroit Jewish community where he attended Orthodox school and synagogue.

Gordon wrote explicitly about the experience in June 2013 in the Huffington Pos. He began his article using the third person reference for himself as “the boy” and ending the article with a first person plea for other victims of sexual abuse to speak out. He implored them to not hide their dilemma for eight years as he done.

Gordon used these words to explain the horror he felt as a child upon regularly returning to his home not able to tell his parents what was happening to him at the hands of religious leaders, “He couldn’t escape their eager clutch or their intimidating remarks. The boy was told to be silent. He was always told to be silent. They told him it was immodest to speak up or draw attention to oneself. But what did they know about modesty?”

He was 20 years old when that Huffington Post article, “Secrets Don’t Get Better with Age,” was published. He was a young adult rather actively supporting recovery from sexual abuse for others. Upon moving to Jerusalem, Gordon volunteered at Magen, a child protection organization in Beit Shemesh for which he set up a website and media relations as well as well as helping with case work for clients.

His blog, Sparks of David, provides evidence that he came to terms with his past. An entry in 2014 states the following:

“Together, we are an army of victims and advocates equipped with the weapons needed to slay the stagnant status-quo: hope, courage and the fervent desire to ensure that others don’t feel the pain that we felt and continue to feel to this day,” in reference to the awareness Jewish victims of sexual abuse had achieved post his original Huffington Post article.

Later, in the article, he continued with, “I’m proud of myself, and I hope to continue this attitude well into 2014 and the rest of my life. The attitude that I can reach previously unattainable heights and purge from life the toxic people, ideas and thoughts that tend to hinder my progress. I’m excited for a new year of life, connection, growth and fun. A year of honesty where what I think, say and do are one in harmony.”

We at Advisors Magazine wish to extend our most sincere condolences to Gordon’s family and friends. We ask that each of you accepts this as our “mitzvah” (Judiasm’s word for comfort of the mourners) toward you. Despite our tardiness, our wishes come from hearts also broken by the loss of this remarkable man whose all-too-short life showed great courage for him and for others. His honesty revealed a significant, sickening wrong and opened a dialogue regarding abuse that none should experience. But Gordon was more than just an overcomer of sexual abuse. The articles he filed from Israel gave readers of The Suit Magazine information not found elsewhere. His writing was insightful and as journalists, we acknowledge the communication that will never occur due to his voice being silenced. His blog – while never straying from the prevention of sexual abuse – was also full of hopefulness regularly discussing the meaning and purpose of human life on this planet.

We also mourn – a year later; a year much too much later. Yet, we mourn and we ask why the story of one who gave up so much to take up arms for Israel has received so little acknowledgement. We can only request that others with his passion take up the causes he championed: Helping victims of two most heinous invasions – childhood sexual abuse and the constant onslaught challenging the right of the state of Israel to exist. Hopefully those following Gordon’s example will aide in achieving his goals in their life time.


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