I live in a town where the grocer remembers what kind of sugar I prefer and knows my account number by heart. I live in a town where people on one block share a lawnmower because it would never occur to us that we shouldn’t share. I live in a town where the demand to give is so strong that it’s hard to sign up to make meals for someone who needs because everyone rushes to sign up. I live in a town where people care so much for each other that the loss of one individual is a personal loss to us all. Today our town experienced a personal, terrible loss.
Choosing a community upon our Aliyah ten years ago was not an easy decision. Neve Daniel, found on the ‘wrong’ side of the green line, is part of the Gush Etzion region, a group of small towns and neighborhoods just a few kilometers south of Jerusalem. A suburban neighborhood nestled on a mountain at nearly 1000 meters elevation, Neve Daniel is a modern orthodox enclave of Israelis and immigrants from many different countries. The area had a reputation – well-deserved, I might add – for a great educational system; and with its close proximity to Jerusalem, school choices were almost endless. The educational choices for the kids clinched it for our choice of Gush Etzion. The unbelievably stunning, nearly 360° views from the heights of Neve Daniel, as well as the dry, cool weather, sealed the deal.
This is the community I chose. A place with heart, and a place with soul; a place with stunning vistas, and the warmest individuals. A place whose people will share in your every celebrations as if they were their own, and a place where they will mourn your tragedies, again, as if they were their own. Because they are their own.
Perhaps your community is like this one. I suppose there are many like it in different ways. But this community is mine. And it is mourning an unfathomable loss.
Last night one of my son’s friends went out for a jog. At 18, they had all graduated from high school in the spring and had spread out to all corners of the country to take their next steps toward adulthood, most of them army-bound. This particular boy, strong, and vibrant, and extremely well-liked by all, was hoping to join an elite unit in the army and was taking a local run as part of his routine to get himself fit for the task. He never went home. He will never go home again. He won’t join the elite unit in the army. He won’t ever hang out with his friends who loved him. He won’t ever feel the embrace of his mother. Or his father. Or anyone. Ever.
Last night Elyashiv Luvitz z”l died. And a piece of Neve Daniel died too. All night long the young people who grew up with Elyashiv left their yeshivas, mechinas (pre-army programs) and national service assignments all over the country and converged upon Neve Daniel to say a final goodbye to a beloved friend. This afternoon, it felt that the whole neighborhood came out to the plaza in front of the synagogue where Elyashiv’s bereft family and friends eulogized a young man who died too young just as he was on the cusp of his adult life. Adults and teenagers cried shamelessly. Whether it was Elyashiv’s closest friends, or the neighbors who enjoyed his musical performances from a distance; We are all one family, and we all lost a son.