Sunday night I joined more than 80,000 of my fellow Israelis to offer our love and support to the families of the three kidnapped boys. We got it back tenfold.
I don’t know when the gathering at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv was planned. I can’t say I really knew about it until early Sunday. It never even occurred to me that I would go. When I saw my son and his friends preparing a sign, I looked up the details and what I read made me drop everything and go: the parents of the three boys had especially requested that the Israeli people join them.
That was it. What in the world could take precedence over the fact that they wanted and needed us there?
It is unbelievable how personal this horrible kidnapping is for all of us. My son and his friends took the #BringBackOurBoys concept to the next level. Their sign said ‘Bring Back Our Brothers.’ That says it all. These boys are family. To us in Gush Etzion. To us in Israel. To so many of us all over the world.
We arrived right on time to a sparse crowd. We were astonished and disappointed. Where was everyone? We needn’t have worried.
Within a half hour Rabin Square was packed with thousands and thousands of people. They came for the same reason we did: to give love and support to the families.
Some people asked, ‘But what good will a rally like this do? How will it help?’ They clearly missed the point. The rally did everything it was supposed to do: embrace the families with massive amounts of love to help them through the nightmare they have been forced into over two weeks ago.
Throughout the event a constant stream of photos of Eyal, Naftali and Gilad were projected on massive screens. As if we hadn’t already thoroughly internalized deep feelings for the boys into our hearts, now we watched them grow from toddlers to teenagers right before our eyes. Our bond was sealed.
The rally was titled, ‘Singing Together For Their Return’ and indeed there was an incredible lineup of singers who sang songs of hope, prayer and salvation. It was beautiful. And full of love. There was so much love!! And tears. And emotions. And hope…
All three mothers spoke. They were poised and clear and so intensely grateful. As they each spoke their inspiring words, they in turn were thanking us. It made us cry. It made us want to do more. But at that moment we were helping. We were there. In abundance. Every one of us represented a warm embrace, the love of our entire nation.
Israelis have a reputation for always needing to be in other people’s business. This can be maddening and some may see this as a flaw; and perhaps it is. But I assure you, it is also an incredible, unifying strength. A strength that pulled together a beautiful rally, 75,000 people strong with very little time to prepare.
Finally, as the crowd was preparing to disperse, they sang Hatikva. Everyone stopped, stood and faced forward and sang with all of their heart. It was just one of many moments that evening that moved me to tears…
I’m so grateful to have been there; it feels as if I gave those three families the biggest hug of my life. And, incredibly, it feels like I received the biggest hug of my life as well.