When I first heard that Eyal, Naftali, and Gilad had indeed been murdered, my entire body froze. I lost my breath, my voice. No, I thought, this can’t be true. These three sweet, young kids who we’ve come to know through their mothers’ stories, their pictures, even their voices on YouTube, were brutally executed. And all I could muster was: “Why?!”
Wasn’t the point for them to be used as bargaining chips or even just to extend our suffering by keeping them captive? What was the point of just executing them on the spot? There was actually some ridiculous, naive part of me that thought no one, not even those who have proven themselves so merciless in the past, would be able to look into the faces of these children and kill them point blank in cold blood. But of course they did. And of course they would.
If they would stone 13 year old boys Koby Mandell and Yosef Ishran to death, why not these boys? If they would stab 18 year-old Eden Attias to death as he slept on a bus, why not these boys? If they would slaughter the Fogel family in their beds, not even leaving behind their tiny infant girl, Hadas… why not these boys?!
But yet, I still chose to hope.
And each time we hear the awful truth, that this very real incomprehensible evil exists in our midst, the pain is just as fresh. It never gets easier. We never become numb to it.
What the rest of the world refuses to accept (and sadly, so many of us) is that we are not dealing with an enemy that shares our values or even our basic humanity. Who among us would wish the death of a child upon our enemies? No one I know.
There is no negotiating with those whose conditions are nothing less than our total annihilation. They are not shy about pronouncing their intentions. But we so desperately want to believe that we all want the same thing on some fundamental level. It is a delusion they are constantly reminding us that we are foolish to cling to.
We want to co-exist. We want them to have a state. We want them to thrive in it.
The governing body of the Palestinian people want every last Jew dead. They will strap explosives to the bodies of their children to see it happen.
It is not easy to watch your supposed negotiating partners hand out sweets and dance in the street when your children are murdered. It is not easy to watch as they attack the ambulance sent to retrieve their bodies. It is not easy to watch this as indifferent world leaders command us to exercise restraint and paint our two sides as morally equivalent.
And while there is no equivalence, moral or otherwise, I am certain there are Palestinians who long for peace and who are horrified when civilian buses are blown up. I would hate to think otherwise. Despite being indoctrinated to hate all Jews, there are Palestinians who want to co-exist… many of whom would even prefer to live in Israel, a country that will protect their human rights and religious freedoms. But they do not speak out. How could they? They would be killed by their own neighbors. Often by their own parents and siblings. This is how dissent is dealt with in their culture.
Despite this impossible situation, we will continue to seek peace (for what choice do we have?) And perhaps our enemy will laugh as we continue to grasp for any straw of hope that they are willing to co-exist. But our enemy has misjudged us on one front.
They believe that by murdering our children they weaken us. They destroy our resolve. They make us reconsider the value of this endeavor (i.e. living in our homeland). And yes, they do scar us and they do rend our hearts in two. But break us? They could not be more wrong. We are stronger than ever. We are more united than ever. We cling more strongly to this land than ever. Because we know that this hatred of us is not connected to settlements. It’s not even about the occupation. Before there was a state here, before there was an “occupation”, they were massacring Jews… unilaterally. Because we are Jews. Period. Because we are “the infidel”.
It’s hard to swallow. But it’s an ancient hatred that’s alive as ever. And while we may suffer terribly to hold on to this country, we should not be fooled into believing that abandoning it would diminish that hatred.
The mother of one of the terrorists who murdered the three teens has said that she is proud of her son…proud of her cowardly child killer. She promises to “educate his children to be for jihad… as their father, to be fighters, martyrs.”
Rachel Fraenkel, the mother of the murdered child, Naftali, on the other hand said, “I really don’t want any Palestinian to get hurt.” She just wants to hug her son, she told the UN. To have him back in his bed. At his funeral she spoke of his deep humanity.
Knowing everything she now knows, she isn’t calling for revenge. There was not an ounce of hate spewed at his funeral. And those that may take this incident as an excuse to carry out acts of indiscriminate vengeance do not reflect the character of my nation. They only harm the families of these boys further. They will receive the condemnation of their country…not a Facebook campaign to celebrate them.
I wish the the starkly opposing attitudes of these mothers were an anamoly. Let’s stop pretending that they are.
No one said it better than Golda Meir: “Peace will come when the Arabs start to love their children more than they hate us.”
Until then, let’s not walk in a haze of delusion into a den of vipers. We are living in a miraculous time when we can actually determine our own future. Let’s do it with our eyes wide open. And more than anything, let’s walk away from this honoring the wishes of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal’s mothers, who have tirelessly begged us to perform acts of kindness in their children’s names.
Let’s love each other more today than we did yesterday and make the memories of those boys a blessing. Am Yisrael Chai.