Thursday, June 30, 2016

Close your eyes. If you listen carefully, you can hear the echoes of song and prayer. The Shwekey version of V’hi She’amda, Hamalach Hagoel — the song usually sung to a baby boy the night before his brit, tehillim, divrei Torah, and then sadly, the quietest Hatikva. At this time of year, for the second year in a row, and especially on this (English) date, I go back in time to the weeks of hope and pain, while we hoped for the best yet imagined the worst, when we were a country united, saying one phrase over and over; #BringBackOurBoys . We got them back, on this night, two years ago, but they were already gone. They were killed on the night they were taken from us, though we didn’t know it.

Now we, even those who didn’t know them before, are left with only memories — Eyal’s singing, Gilad’s love of baking, and the fact that Naftali’s family moved to Israel and is sadly yet another example of olim who had to make an unbelievable and heartbreaking sacrifice  in order to live in our country.

We can all be sure that their parents would rather their names and legacy had remained unknown, and that they would still be here, living out their lives with their families.

The only upside is that they *do* have a legacy; rather than give in or be broken by this, we have been strengthened. We have Unity Day in Israel, in memory and hope of continued unification of our nation, which we found at that time. We named a lovely hilltop after the boys and many of our children from the area schools have been making trips there to beautify it and set up an area that people could enjoy. There are weekly talks there, sometimes for learning and some to discuss general topics of interest like when Yehuda Glick came to talk about why we should be allowed to visit our own holiest site.

Tomorrow, on the anniversary of the levayas (funerals) , there will be a big dedication of the area, a celebration of life. Why? Because this is what we do, this is who we are — we don’t riot or take blood revenge, but quietly (or loudly) go on and LIVE, the worst revenge we have against those trying to scare us, terrify us into leaving.

The parents of Eyal, Gilad and Naftaly and the celebration at Oz V'Gaon

The parents of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali (above) and the celebration at Oz V’Gaon

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Thursday night, June 30th

The above thoughts were written during travel; I landed to find out that yet another horror was committed in the name of ‘protest’; a terrorist who is even now being praised by the other side for a despicable act, broke into the bedroom of a 13-year-old girl and stabbed her repeatedly while she slept. It is just impossible for me to comprehend the mind of anyone who would do this, and any culture that raises their children to think this is an honorable and sought after position, a way to live in this world. If only there were more on the other side to speak out, to say what this writer says, decrying the “destructive anti-Semitism that plagues the Muslim community”.

There is, of course, horror and outrage on our side, and yet somehow, her own parents continue to look at the good, to say to people that they should see the beauty in their town. And people who don’t know the family, yet know that they *are* us, and we need to be there for them…so many people are going to pay respects, to give chizuk to this amazing family who is giving chizuk to us. When I lived in the US, I would only pay respects to people I knew, but in Israel, everyone is family. I would have turned around and gone home just so I could be there this week, if I could have.

Friday, July 1 — Sunday July 3

The day of the event on Oz V’gaon, the hill named after the boys who were murdered two years ago (has it been so long?). And the day that another family was broken, a drive by shooting which took the life of a father of 10, left a mother in critical condition and wounded two children. And again, on the following day, during the funeral, thousands went, and many more lined the highway as the procession passed by, holding signs like Am Israel Itchem — the Nation of Israel is with you!

Am Yisrael Chai- Gush Etzion standing for Miki Mark's funeral passing.

Am Yisrael Chai — Gush Etzion standing for Rabbi Miki Mark’s funeral passing.

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Also on Sunday: we lost a man who was a shining example of what it means to survive, and not just survive but really live and thrive, create foundations which support human rights in the world. Elie Wiesel, a man who came from the fires of Hell, from out of the Holocaust, taught so many of us what we have to lose, and how we can go on after. He was a Jew, one of our best, and a person who wanted more for humanity, and did something about it. As he said: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

July 4, 2016

The celebration of America’s Independence, of when they broke away to form their own nation, to say they were their own people. They are also an example of people who, as a nation, go to help where they see injustice, and open their arms to help those less fortunate. I hope and pray that their leaders stick to those ideals, the openness that I love about this country, the feeling that we need to be there because we are blessed while others may not be.

Today also marks 40 years since we, Israel, showed the world what can be done against terrorism. It is 40 years since the raid on Entebbe, where Israel did not give in to the demands of terrorists. It showed that we don’t sit back and take it, that we don’t say “If you kill us, we will have a proportional response” (West Wing). If you take our people, we will take them back. If you kill us, as in our war for Independence which was, in reality, another fight for our very existence (so soon after Europe tried to wipe out our people there in the Holocaust), you will suffer. I understand the feeling expressed here, and the question of “What is the virtue of a proportional response?” And yet, what is difficult to understand is that we cannot put a whole population into the same grouping. Some are terrorists, but some want to live regular lives. Sometimes an ambulance will stand and do nothing, but sometimes those hurt the most will even show the rest of us how to behave, pointing out that from the very people who hurt them, came help.

 As Michael Peck writes so eloquently, “Entebbe is a reminder that the only people who can make us feel helpless are ourselves.” Terrorism is not “a fact of life, to be accepted like the weather”; it is something we can, and should, fight.

40 years was also the amount of time we, as a people, had to wander homeless in the desert, a punishment for the egregious mistake that I have had the misfortune to listen to twice this year. In this past week’s Parshat Shelach (last week in Israel), we sent spies to evaluate the country that G-d was going to bring us into. It makes me sad to hear it, every time.  Sure, G-d let us go and do this, but it was giving us rope to hang ourselves. We were being granted a land and we had the utter chutzpah to say wait, we want to see how good it is! So G-d let us send the spies, giving us a second chance to realize that we were wrong to even question the gift we were being given, to look and see for ourselves the abundance of the land, and how we were protected (the funerals of the inhabitants were meant to divert their attention from the spies). This parsha leads into the most tragic time of the year for us, the three weeks when we cry and mourn the destruction of our Temple on Har Habit, Temple Mount, our tears echoing those of the generation in the desert, who cried needlessly about inheriting a beautiful land. And now we have been graced with a return to our land, a place for our people to celebrate our own culture.

It says in Tehillim Kuf Mem (140), the root word which can be understood as part of ‘kum’ — get up — “Free me, from the wicked man, from the man the man of violence (In Hebrew, violence is Hamas!) preserve me…let the mischief of their own lips bury them.” Do not believe the lies of those who want only our end, work with those who know the real meaning of peace and coexistence. V’hi she’amda — In every generation they stand up to kill us, but Hashem saves us from their hands. We are still here, and we stay true to who we are- we pray for help, we also look to others for support, but as King David did, in the end we fight our own wars- for freedom from evil, the end of tears, and survival as a people. We need to remember that others only have the power over us that we give them.

May there be no more echoes of tears.