LIKE you, dear readers, “libi bemizrach,” “my heart,” at this very moment shredding to splinters, “is in the East.”
For 18 days we traveled a painful, yet hopeful, journey together.
As this painful chapter draws to a close, the release of the pent up hope we were all holding in has now turned to unbearable grief. The hope has burst forth in a wave of collective pain and sadness. We hoped together, now we weep together. We are all hurting.
That is the legacy that our beloved Eyal, Gilad, Naftali, with their families, Yifrach, Sha’ar and Frenkel, have bequeathed to us.
Rav Chaim Navon said it best:
“It was an enormous funeral. In the number of people who poured out. But not just in that. It was a funeral like that of the greats of the generation (gedolei ha-dor). Because Gilad, Eyal and Naftali, because the families of Sha’ar, Yifrach and Frenkel, truly are greats of our generation: greats in unifying a people. Greats in modeling ahavat Yisrael, love of fellow Jews.”
Eighteen days ago these families were regular, anonymous families. Eighteen days ago we didn’t know Eyal, Gilad and Naftali. And until 18 days ago, when their destiny became one, these families didn’t know each other. Today, they have changed the course of Jewish history.
These beacons of strength, nobility and faithfulness, literally women of valor — mothers whom each and every one of us has been affected and astounded by — mothers who lifted an entire nation. It is as if we now have three new matriarchs. Iris, Bat Galim and Rachelli. Accompanying the story of the three boys has also been the story of these three women. These are the women of our time.
These 18 days were days of tears, days of prayer, days of kindness. Mostly, though, they were days of hope. Despite the realistic, growing fear, we still hoped against all hope. A family unity unseen for so long was revealed to be still alive and potent. From religious to secular and everyone in between, the entire country, unconditionally and compassionately, turned out. We still are who we are.
After all the cynicism, toughness, hardening of hearts and strife that can sometimes be a part of living in the Middle East under constant tension that wears us down, we found out who we are and what we are made of. In a word: “Am Yisrael.”
But we shall never be the same.
AND yet. When I see this outpouring of love, of caring and connection that bursts forth when Am Yisrael is united, is on fire like this, I know and believe that somehow, despite the darkness lurking in the region, we will prevail.
Whatever pain may still yet come, Am Yisrael will prevail over the forces of darkness.
I pray that we as a people will grasp even just a little of the unity and connectivity of these 18 days, carrying it forward into our lives in the future.
None of this, of course, is consolation for the depth of emotional agony of the families. As Prime Minister Netanyahu said in his eulogy, turning to the families directly:
“Even the strongest embrace of the nation cannot erase the sorrow, the awful pain that will remain in your hearts long after the official mourning days are over. I know the pain of bereavement; there is nothing worse. But I know that life has its own power, as a flowing river that drags us forward, and gives us strength of renewal and hope.”
WE don’t want to imagine or think too much about the final moments of these boys’ lives, about the savagery and the carnage that the killers wrought. Yet, if the boys’ death had to come, then within the profound suffering there is a twisted sense of feeling grateful that the search is over and the bodies were found.
Feeling grateful hat they were searched for and found by fellow Jews who cared about them and loved them.
That they were brought back to their beloved families and to their Eretz Yisrael.
And that they are buried at home.
Obviously, when we all prayed “bring back out boys,” we were praying for their return alive. Not this. No! Not this nightmare!
I remember the first kidnapping by the diabolical Hamas. Avi Sasportas and Ilan Sa’adon. At the time, just a few years older than I. The fruitless searches went on for months, then years, until their bodies were found.
THERE seems to be one conversation taking place. What should Israel’s response be?
Understandably, people’s blood is boiling. And of course many others are decrying people’s expression for a desire to exact revenge and justice. Setting aside the very real security concerns Israel needs to contend with in strategizing their response, people’s pain is simply pouring forth. Anger is the second stage of grief, according to Kubler Ross. A lot of the rage is being expressed; it is a matter of catharsis. Let it be. It is a heavy black week of mourning for Israel and all Jews around the world.
The tears haven’t stopped streaming down our cheeks. As a people we are all in mourning. After the funeral many of us were a mess from I think I have passed the crying point.Then, suddenly, I come across another eulogy, and yet another one. Yair Lapid’s and so many others.
And who could choke back the tears when Rachelli Frenkel was standing over her son’s body, saying: “Rest in peace, my son. We’ll learn to sing again without you. . . . We’ll always hear your voice inside.”
Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, precious boys, you don’t know what you did for Am Yisrael! Or maybe now you do. All I can say is, even though I never met you, I will miss you forever. Even though you are physically gone now, you will always be here with us la-netzach, forever.
Like so many other giants of Jewish history before you, such as Rabbi Akiva, heartbreakingly yet heroically you are now are a part of Toldeot Am Yisrael, seared into the story of the Jewish People forever.
Copyright © 2014 by the Intermountain Jewish News