Baruch Dayan Emet. HaShem Yikom Damam.
Blessed is the Judger of truth. May G-d avenge their blood.
To say that the past 12 hours have been a rollercoaster of emotions, feelings, fears, denial, hate, and mourning wouldn’t be doing this day justice. If I try and explain to you the places my mind has rushed to, since finding out about the brutal murder of my three brothers, I would take your whole day and yet would not even be able to utter a word that describes the pain. Not wanting to do either of those, but needing to share my thoughts with you, I pen this version of my thoughts and if you so choose, feel free to listen in; you may find some comfort, or yet just more confusion.
My day began quite well, frankly. Today was the first day of my culinary course- something I’ve been looking forward to starting for quite a while. I enjoyed my first day of school, learned a lot, and when I finished continued on to my afternoon job- an internship at a global human rights organization. I walked in, said hello to my colleagues and cheerfully told my boss that I hoped she hadn’t eaten lunch yet because I brought back goodies for sampling. She curtly responded she had eaten, and though I was a little taken aback I figured she was in the middle of working on something and didn’t want to be bothered. Before starting to work, I phoned my parents, knowing they were eagerly awaiting to hear how my first day of school had went, had a brief and cheerful conversation with them, and returned to my desk.
As I sat down my boss turned to me and said, “the boys are dead”. “What boys?”, I responded, not allowing my mind to even consider she was talking about the boys that have been on my mind, unwaveringly, for 17 days straight. “The boys in Israel were found dead in a field”, she quietly responded back. My heart sank. Literally. I didn’t believe she was telling the truth. I quickly jumped from my desk to have a look at the article she was reading online. “Are they sure these are our boys? Are they sure they are dead? How were they found? How can they be positive it’s not somebody else?” The words just flowed from my mouth, unemotionally, as I couldn’t let my heart accept what was I was hearing, reading, and unfolding beneath my eyes. MY BOYS WERE MURDERED. THEY WERE SHOT AND DUMPED IN A FIELD. THEY ARE DEAD. KILLED SIMPLY BECAUSE OF THE RELIGION AND G-D THEY BELIEVE IN.
I don’t believe it. I won’t believe it. I can’t believe it. That’s what my heart tells me. As I slowly turned around to my desk to process this information, I felt as if my entire world had been turned upside down. These were my brothers, part of my people, and though I always felt a sense of Arievut (connectedness) to Jews in Israel, seeing as I spent the last year in the Land, I felt more connected to these boys than ever. I remind you: these are boys. Two 16-year-olds, and one 19-year old. Just getting a ride home from school. I am 19 years old. A year and a half ago I was in high school just like the two younger boys. I, too, took a bus to and from school every day. This could have been me, it could have been anyone and yet, G-d chose to take these special three boys from Klal Yisrael at this time and I will never know why.
One day, I pray, I will be a mother just like their mothers, and if anyone would dare try and put a finger on my child I would go to the other end of the world to protect them. These boys each had a mother too. My heart palpitates at the experience their mothers are going through. Can you imagine having the last words your child says to you be “I’m on my way home, Mom”? I certainly can’t.
Just as I would protect my child, their mothers did their best to also. They literally traveled the world, in a few short days, to try and save their boys. All three mothers went to Geneva, to testify in front of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations to demand that their boys be brought home safely and immediately. Unfortunately, the Human Rights council did not see this as an issue they should take up (they tend to do that often regarding real issues of human rights) and did not demand the safe return of our children. I say our, because these are the collective boys of Am Yisrael. Unfortunately, this tends to be the fate of our people- they try to kill us, we demand the world stand up for us, we beseech them to help us, and they go on to neglect us.
My mind painfully reverts back to where I stood just over two months ago- the death camp of Auschwitz. This Hell our people went through seamlessly went along for a good many years without the powers of the world stopping it. To try and gain insight into the current situation, for the first time since that eye opening, awful, painful, yet inspiring trip, I open up my journal that I wrote while in Poland while eye-witnessing the remains of the horrors of the Holocaust. I quote to you from my journal on the day of my visit to Treblinka, one of the death camps: “I think some part of me doesn’t fully believe what happened. Not as in Holocaust denial, but for the first time I understand the denial. How could it be that thousands of my people were brutally brought to their deaths here? It doesn’t feel like it. It’s a nice cold, crisp, sunny day. How can they have been murdered just for being Jewish? What incited Hitler’s anti-Semitism? Will I ever understand it?” Scary as it seems, these thoughts, emotions, and questions were pretty much what went through my mind today, only with a few name swaps- such as Hitler with Hammas, and grandparents with teenage boys.
So do we take the lesson to heart, or do we make the same mistake again? Do we count on the people of the world or do we stand up for ourselves? Do we think others will help us, or do we realize our help only comes from Above? I actually find it comforting to realize that this time we didn’t rely on the powers of the world to save us, but we mobilized ourselves, working to get closer to each other and thereby get closer to G-d. Who knows why it took 17 days to find our boys- maybe, just maybe, G-d was waiting for the unity and specialness of last night’s event in Tel Aviv to deem us worthy to know what happened. G-d evidently needed to take these boys from the world, but maybe our Nechama (consolation) can come from how we work on ourselves in response to tragedy. If you don’t mind, let me share with you the most comforting words I have heard since this whole ordeal began.
This past Shabbat, Rabbi Robinson, the rabbi of my shul offered the following thought. In addition to being punished for the sins of the golden calf and the sending of the spies to scout out the Holy Land, G-d had another reason for keeping the Jews in the desert for forty years. You see, G-d realized that when Bnei Yisrael left Eygpt, they had yet to learn a lesson that would be vital to their survival in Israel, and their survival as a people in exile. That lesson was how to deal with the seemingly silence of G-d. Thus, G-d spoke to them for the first year in the desert and the last year in the desert through his devoted servant Moshe, but for the thirty-eight years in the middle he did not utter a word. He kept them protected with the clouds of the glory, kept them fed with Manna from heaven, provided them with a constant water supply, and he even kept them clean from ever needing to wash their clothes! But not once did he speak to them or Moshe during that time period. Can you imagine a thirty-eight year silence from G-d, just wondering around in the desert?! That experience taught our people how to deal with the apparent hidden face of G-d.
Not always do we see G-d’s hand outstretched to us and not always do we feel him speaking directly to us, but we know he is always there, guiding every move and being by our side always. And though it may be INSANELY hard to hear, feel, or see Him there, He is ALWAYS there. It’s up to us to try and “touch” him. It’s up to us to open our eyes and ears for the constant messages he is sending us. And as hard as the last two and a half weeks have been without Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali, this is the only idea that is bringing me some sort of comfort. So I say to you G-d…
I don’t know what your plan is. I don’t know what the slaying of your children will accomplish. But I know sometimes you appear to be “silent” and I vow to you that even when I can’t hear you, I know you are there running the show and that you know better than I what is best. Yet I beseech you with all my heart to open up my eyes and heart to understand how this can possibly be for good, how this can possibly make the world a better place, and how this can possibly bring us closer to the coming of Mashiach.
And I say to you my friends…I don’t know what G-d has in store. I won’t ever know what he is planning. But I do know he’s standing next to the mothers and fathers of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali, crying for his children just as much as we are, and is ultimately bringing us closer to our goal of serving him wholeheartedly. If we dig our hearts a little deeper perhaps this comfort will become more clear. Did anyone stop to think about the incredible miracle that not a single member of Tzahal (Israeli Defense Force) was killed during Operation Brother’s Keeper? Has anyone appreciated the ingenious of the Shin Bet and how intelligence led to the finding of our boy’s bodies? And I think we can all say that we can begin to finally understand what Achdut (unity) feels like when it exists among Klal Yisrael.
So I leave you with this- with all this said and done, how do plan to change your life? Not just for today or tomorrow, but for the rest of your life? How do you plan to relate to G-d differently and with more connection or fervor? How do you plan to relate to your fellow Jew with love and more compassion? How do you plan to show G-d that we are indeed ready for His salvation? How will you show the world, that if these boys were ready to die Al Kiddush HaShem (upon sanctifying G-d’s name), you are ready to live Al Kiddush HaShem? Make your decision now and starting living and loving G-d and the Jewish people more than you ever have.