We recently celebrated the holiday of Sukkot. Last year at this time, 30-year-old Naama Henkin, together with her husband Rabbi Eitam Henkin, age 31, were brutally murdered in a terrorist drive-by shooting in Samaria as they were driving home from visiting friends. Their four children – ages 4 months through 7 – were in the back seat of the car and miraculously survived with minor injuries. In 2015, shortly before she was murdered, Naama, a talented graphic designer, created a beautiful poster for Sukkot – explaining the meaning of the four species used together during the holiday and quoting from the Midrash Rabbah: “Bind them together in one bundle, and they will cover one another.”
Jewish unity is one of the central themes of Sukkot and Sukkot is the holiday where Jews around the world gather into their hands four different types of plants that represent all of the Jewish people – a palm branch (lulav), two willows (aravot), a minimum of three myrtles (hadassim), and one citron (etrog), symbolizing that every person has his or her own merits. Everyone contributes what the other one lacks. Together, we form a whole, despite our differences. But together, we are one Jewish family.
The current wave of terror – gal terror in Hebrew – which began a year ago on September 13, 2015, the eve of Rosh Hashanah, on the Temple Mount and in East Jerusalem and later spread to Judea, Samaria, and across the Green Line into Israel – is attempting to destroy our Jewish family and Jewish unity, disrupting everyday life, and keeping the population on edge. In that time, 42 innocent people have been killed and 602 wounded on the streets of Israel, just because they are Jewish.
Sherri Mandell, whose young son Koby was one of the first victims of the Second Intifada, reminds us that “in the Sukkot Shabbat service, we read Kohellet, Ecclesiastes, which claims that there is nothing new under the sun…. For we must remember that we are a people with tremendous courage. We will not succumb to terror. While this is an old story of our enemies attacking our vulnerable people and celebrating their deaths, we Jews embrace another old story: a story of courage, survival and redemption.”
In this year 5777, let us all pray together in unity for an end to all oppression and that all of the newest survivors of terrorism and the newest families of the bereaved in Israel and worldwide can find the courage and strength to move forward and find their own paths to lightness through this darkest period of their lives. Am Yisrael Chai – the nation of Israel lives!