His mother’s blouse rended, she wailed “My Solomon” in the mourning tent outside the tiny apartment home of the Gavriyah family, in Be’er Yaakov. “When you left the house on Sunday with your bag and gun, gave me a kiss, you said you’d be back on Thursday. You lied to me! I’ll never stop mourning! Solomon!”
She was surrounded by some of Israel’s elite Border Police who knew Solomon Gavriyah, 20, the Ethiopian-Israeli border policeman among three young Israeli men killed in Wednesday’s Har Adar terror attack. One muscular Border Policeman stood silently, his eyes red from crying as members of the Ethiopian community comforted Solomon’s parents and younger siblings.
Through her tears, Solomon’s grandmother sang traditional Ethiopian mourning prayers, her eyes staring to the heavens. She kept stopping to put her head into her hands and weep.
“We were going to go together to the officers course,” whispered one of the border policemen sitting in the tent’s corner, shaking. “Now that will never happen.”
Sadly, as a representative of The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (“The Fellowship”), I’ve attended too many funerals or shivot (mourning periods) for victims of terror. But still, I could not help but cry.
I never met Solomon, but he inspired me deeply. He made aliyah with his family at a young age, was the oldest of five siblings, and held his family together. He joined the elite Border Patrol unit, and even after getting stabbed a few months ago he insisted on returning to serve his country.
I gave Solomon’s father the $1,000 check that The Fellowship provides to all victims of terror, but made it clear that this was just a modest symbol of the enormous respect and love we have for this heroic, proud — and now mourning — family.
As I left the shiva, my heart was breaking. Just the day before, I was in a forest outside of Jerusalem unveiling three new names on the list of over 350 North Americans who died fighting for Israel. Just yesterday I was wiping away tears as other mourning parents tried to recite the Psalms at the ceremony, and could barely get through the short paragraph without choking up.
I turned my heart up to God: ‘Why?’
Rosh Hashanah is also called the Day of Remembrance, and this week has certainly been just that. There has been too much remembering of heroes who were killed protecting our homeland, instead of celebrating their lives and looking forward to the New Year.
Israel is a sea of hope in a region of despair, a beacon of light amid darkness, and a searcher of life around martyrs of death. We are a rose amongst thorns, and these defenders of Zion are the sun and water to make this garden flourish. I pray that from this point on, when we turn our gaze to the heavens, the water we feel on our faces are not tears of pain, but the rain of peace.