Once Tisha b’Av departs, we as a people usually sigh a collective sigh of relief. Tu b’Av and Shabbat Nachamu follow, and we feel and experience the sense of a transition from evel, mourning, to nechama, consolation. This is the normative guide of our Jewish rhythm.
Last week we were sitting on the floor by candlelight chanting along quietly with the melancholy Scroll of Lamentations, Eicha.
Eicha means how? as in incredulous — how could this be? It is also a word that is famously read by our rabbis not only as how but, by shifting the vowels, as an abandoned, anguished cry from the depths: ayeka? O, where art thou?
For 24 hours we contemplated the pain of baseless hatred and all the destruction it leads to, then rose with a sense of renewed hope for a better future.
Just days later, all that was slashed.
Blood was spilled on the streets of Jerusalem, the stench of fire burned in the land. Two murders punctured the night within the space of hours — by people of the Jewish faith no less, who wear their regalia like a proud uniform. One of us. One of me.
The fire in Duma has not yet officially been confirmed to have been committed by Israelis, but evidence points to this.
Along with everyone, I am left speechless by this horror.
Tears were all I had when I watched and listened to little Shira’s remarkable piano recital at a musical academy at the tender age of 10. Tears were all I had when I thought of Ali, a toddler ripped from the bosom of his family.
Understandably, there is profound anger and sadness, blame being leveled everywhere. My greater, international Orthodox community, the Israeli police, rabbis, politicians, and the list goes on.
And I’m sure there is some truth in all of the finger pointing.
Because, as much as most of us had zero to do with the murders, as a community all of us, in a way, had something to do with the murders.
Innocent blood was shed. A beautiful, kind and gifted teen and an innocent baby — their blood shed!
Two budding lives, their lives not yet lived.
It must make us stop in our tracks. It must cause us to introspect deeply.
It must make us re-examine our language.
Lo tirtsach. Thou Shalt Not Murder. Nothing is so holy in Jerusalem that makes murder acceptable.
This painful week also revealed new images.
Rabbi Aryeh Stern, his title rabba shel Yerushalayim, chief rabbi of Jerusalem, visited the hospital and embraced the wounded from the pride parade. Immediately, Israel’s chief rabbis unanimously sent out strong messages condemning not only these attacks but any criminal or hate crimes, underscoring their message by emphasizing human dignity, respect and harmony as the signature conduct of the Jewish people.
At the many spontaneous vigils for Shira Banki that spilled out to the streets of Israel, normally sheltered haredi teens could be seen distributing cold water bottles to her many secular peers. Everyone grieved together.
The equivalent to shiva visits and hospital visits poured in, a meek human effort to console the inconsolable, the Banki and Dawasha families.
Two premeditated murders were met with a response of gut wrenching spontaneity as we watched thousands of all stripes take to the streets, a united show of disgust, of anger, pain and grief at these abominable acts of bloodshed.
Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Rivlin could not have come out more strongly against these crimes.
Rabbis, political leaders — everyone made it clear: when it comes to murder, when it comes to bloodshed, there are no caveats. Period.
All this amazing Jewish response to the murder of two strangers gives credence to the rarity of the behavior.
After all, every society has its lunatics and criminals. It is the response to these acts that is the acid test of a society. It is the response of the collective that defines a society.
So, I suppose Israel’s response is a comfort.
Actually, yes, indeed, it is.
Only Intellectually, though.
If this response is so noble, why don’t I feel any better?
Because there was so much division, so much blame, so much ugliness that came to light as well.
I wonder how we can heal the wounds of these divisions. Secretly I ask myself: Is it possible? Is it really possible to build bridges of understanding?
I have always, always, believed the answer was yes.
After reading through some comment threads this week, the divide seems overwhelming.
Ayeka? Where are you? Where are all of us, all of you, who want to overcome these divisions, who want to rebuild our community on the foundation of maintaining principles, while just as strongly learning the language of living them, conveying them, and maintaining them with a language of faith that is kind, that is respectful, that is understanding and empathic?
Sure. This describes much of our existing community.
But we clearly have a long way to go.
How? Eicha? How could this have happened?
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