Maxie's Forest

Maxie's t-shirt was a hilarious gift from our friend, Marissa
*We know the date is incorrect

As of this morning, 422 families or individuals have donated $50,293 towards a forest of over 10,000 trees in Haifa, Israel, in Maxie's memory.  Eventually, I hope that our family can thank each and every one of you.  For now, I hope that this expression of my gratitude will suffice.  Watching this forest grow has been the one ray of hope and goodness that we can all lean on.  The trees will be planted in the Carmel, where a devastating forest fire burned down over five million trees, blackening the green, turning growing life into ash.  This is the forest that I lived in as a student at the Haifa University.  It's trails started at the back door of my dormitory.  It is the forest that I spent weekends hiking in again 2 years later during the period of time when Ted and I first met.  Whenever we talk to our parents or siblings, the first thing anyone asks is "Have you seen how big Maxie's forest has grown?"  Thank you for giving us something incredibly positive to talk about.

As I mentioned, Ted and I met in Israel over ten years ago.  We also got engaged in Israel in 2009.  We took a walk on the Tel Aviv Tayelet (promenade) next to the ocean after spending a night out with friends.  Ted pulled me into one of the covered bench areas, got down on one knee and proposed to me.  Not only was it incredibly romantic, it had a lot of meaning for both of us that it happened there.  I wouldn't say that either Ted or I are terribly religious.  We don't belong to a Temple, we pick and choose our kosher laws, we talk about someday having Shabbat in our home but we haven't gotten around to it.  We like Passover and Hanukkah candles.  We used to believe in G-d, maybe still do I guess, or I would not be writing it that way.  We both love Israel.  It isn't a religious or political love.  It is the love of a place where Jews and non-Jews of all walks of life meet up in a beautiful desert land with sandy beaches and buzzing metropolitan centers; where you can get on a bus and know that the riders share a common past with your ancestors, where history and modernity coalesce in the Old Cities of Jerusalem and Jaffo and Tsfat, and at the summer and winter palaces of Herod in Masada, Jericho, and Caesarea.  As Ted's family wrote on Max's tribute page it is the place where the seed of our love was planted and now will continue to grow.

Ted and I decided before Max was even born that we would take Maxie to Israel for his Bar Mitzvah.  It was something we looked forward to - an incredibly meaningful family trip.  Now, we can only imagine moving on from this horror (the pain of which seems to be getting more horrific with each passing day instead of becoming easier), and starting again: having more children, hoping that they are healthy, trying to find our new normal.  We know that visiting Maxie's forest will always be one of the most important visits we make, if not the most important.  To be clear, Maxie's trees will be planted among the trees of others.  His trees will be among Shmulie's trees and Hannah's trees and Jane's trees.  There will be no sign that welcomes us to the "Maxwell Judah Leviss" forest, for there are many people from around the world who have contributed towards replanting the five million trees that were lost last December.  We will know his trees are there.  My hope is that we will feel him in their presence.  There will be a sign in American Independence Park, outside of Jerusalem, where we will also stop.  Where Maxie's plaque will hang on a wall with other generous souls who feel the way about Israel that we do. Who made important contributions towards important projects all over the country.  This will be a second stop for us, where we can bring a picnic lunch, sit at a table in nature and tell our children about the beautiful and happy brother that they never had the incredible fortune of meeting. 

If you would like to contribute towards Maxie's forest or leave us a note on his tribute page, please go to:

Elisa Frankel, a co-worker of mine at Jewish National Fund added this poem to Max's page, which the whole family loves and I wanted to share:

I give you this one thought to keep - I am with you still - I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awake in the morning's
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at
Do not think of me as gone -
I am with you still - in each new


Stephanie said...

You and Ted are in my thoughts every morning when I awake, every night before I sleep, and countless moments in between. I cannot even fathom the depth of your pain and despair. Know that you are loved, and that I am looking forward to happier times for both of you.

Abby Leviss said...

Cousin Laurie - thank you for sending this: