Weeping as One
On Wednesday afternoon, our Wexner Israel Fellowship Alumni Institute began at a resort hotel in Nazareth. I began my remarks with a prayer for Gilad, Naftali and Eyal, for their families and for those seeking to find them. It was a prayer for calm and, as always, a prayer for wise leaders who might somehow find a way to bring peace to the region. All nodded heads in agreement. And then the intense conversations of the Institute began. The conference was designed to strengthen the will and skills of this uniquely talented cohort of Israel’s public leaders to change the reality in Israel, both in the areas of religion and state and regarding the relationship between the State and its Arab citizens. The Institute had moments of optimism and notes of pessimism, it had agreement and its share of tension and difference. In other words, it was a success. All the while, the search for the boys continued.
The search, as we all know, ended yesterday in a remote field. We mourn and weep together. The content of our prayers change to words of sorrow, to somehow bringing comfort to grieving parents, to a grieving country. Words are hard to find to express our anguish, our despair.
Resounding verses both ancient and contemporary assist us as we try to give expression to our sorrowing hearts:
Oh that my head were water and my eyes a fountain of tears that I might weep day and night. [Jeremiah 9:1]
Poets of Israel, having known too well the horror of lost sons and daughters express the depth of such sorrow in verse:
And the third mother, her eyes wander,
No one was as precious to me as him
How can I shed tears for him and I don’t see
I don’t know where he is.
Excerpt from “The Third Mother” Natan Alterman
Our contemporary water cooler – social media, has been flooded, in its own unique way, with expressions of grief. A wall of outrage and sadness, a stream of communal consciousness reacting to the news many feared and still the ugly truth leaves us with a stoning pain. Our boys, as we have come to know them, 3 teenage sons of Israel, Gilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Fraenkel, zichronam livracha, may their memories be for blessings, were found in shallow graves, brutally murdered by monsters we had hoped were “only kidnappers”, not killers. The worst fears were confirmed. We turn to the thoughts of our dear teachers and communal leaders who immediately provide words and columns of comfort. We share and cling to them on Facebook, in our emails, even in their 140 bits on twitter, on blogs and e-news sites. We “ like” and “ share” them telling our friends, “read this one” or “ Amen” to that one or post a “yes” to what he said, “agree” what she expressed. Within minutes we share photos of yahrtziet candles that populate our walls…digital memorial lights emerge one by one in virtual windows. Most of all, we reach for words of comfort directed to the devastated families of these boys. We have come to know the faces of these 3 teenagers and they look familiar, like so many boys we know. For their parents, grandparents, and siblings; for their families, teachers, and friends, these are the familiar faces of the school and the dinner table, of minyanim and hevruta. These are the faces of the playground and the soccer field, the face at a lively campfire. One baked cookies and another played guitar. Three smiles we came to know and will be forever missed each and every day, every hour. These are the laughing and surely sometimes nagging teenagers who held the hopes and dreams of a mom, a dad, a family, a community. What we experienced together yesterday as one extended family was a violent and jolting death of dreams. Though we can not fathom the personal pain of this loss, we all share in it. We all dream of a different kind of world. A world where life, above all, is sacred.
The Wexner Foundation joins Klal Yisrael in mourning the tragic loss of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali. Our hearts break as three precious souls have been so senselessly taken from this world. We call on all Jewish leaders to continue to act toward bringing more good into this world, more peace, and more acts of love in the face of such hatred. And we pray for each and every one of us, all of us who care for the triumph of human decency over senseless violence, who value life over all else. May those charged with decision making in our miraculous State of Israel be endowed with the wisdom, skill, and will to somehow find a way to make peace. May that search continue.
Rabbi B. Elka Abrahamson is the President of The Wexner Foundation.