After praying for two weeks for the return of the three youths abducted just a few hundred meters from our home, we, the residents of Alon Shvut together with so many across the country were utterly devastated by the news that the boys would never return; that their lives probably ended before we even learned their names.
Like many other local authorities the Gush Etzion Council asked all its inhabitants to gather at the Gush Etzion junction to light a candle for the slain teens, and, as it was an apolitical gesture, to disperse soon after. Yet when we got there the lit candles drew us to the square, and the joint unarticulated feeling of sadness at the finality of this tragic episode prevented us from leaving. Almost spontaneously, without prodding from anyone, a circle was formed around the candles, and men and women of all ages broke out in song: Somber sad songs expressing faith in Divine deliverance and restating a commitment to the unity of the Jewish people.
While many of us harbored emotions of anger at the perpetrators of this awful act, in this immediate aftermath of discovering the news, most of us were seeking a sense of comfort and consolation in the knowledge that we were all feeling the same pain. We also sought some kind of understanding of how this evil could be perpetrated. How could G-d allow such angelic youths to suffer such an excruciating end? Recalling Abraham’s plea to G-d many of us wondered why the Judge of all the earth had apparently not acted justly.
Yet, as persons of faith, many of us probably realized that we could never satisfactorily answer such niggling questions. All we could do was humbly admit that many tragedies are beyond our comprehension and that G-d operates in a cloud of mystery that we cannot fathom. All we could do was show that we had not forgotten that in so many other instances G-d’s benevolence and justice were clearly evident and we who have been created in His image would continue to place our full trust in His mercy and kindness.
In Ecclesiastes, Solomon tells us that for “everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance”. Curiously the author of the Song of Songs leaves out a time to sing. Perhaps he did so as a message that for every occasion there is always a time for song. Happy upbeat tunes mirror happier occasions, while slower melodies reflect the feeling of anguish in which we find ourselves. Yet at all times, and especially when feeling low and despondent we need to remind ourselves of the special spiritual treasures we all possess, we need to break out in song
Singing at this time of tragedy was a way for our mournful souls to connect with one another, to communicate on a higher plane. We may not have avenged the deaths in any physical way, and that was certainly not the time for doing so, but we did somehow succeed in rediscovering our core humanity, our yearning for unity, for something higher than ourselves. In some way we managed to show the savages of this world who think nothing of murdering innocents, of burying them in shallow graves, and of extending the grief of their relatives by the cruel silence as to their fate, that the human being is endowed with a divine spirit, and that this divine spirit will continue to flicker in the departed souls of Naftali, Eyal and Gilad.