Just a few days ago it was the first anniversary of that terrible day one year ago that three Israeli teens were kidnapped by Arab terrorists. The fate of these boys captured the hearts and minds of Jews and non-Jews throughout the world. Here in Israel, the nation came together in prayer and solidarity while hundreds of volunteers worked alongside the army in a desperate search to locate them.
Eighteen days later their bodies were found. They had been murdered and buried in shallow graves not far from where they were picked up at a hitchhiking post. Our collective heart was broken.
In response, the Yifrach, Frenkel and Shaar families established a national day of unity to honor their memories and a new “National Unity Award.” They chose this response, because the unity afforded to the nation during this tragedy was palpable and unprecedented. Right, left, religious, non-religious, young, old, rich or poor; all divisions disappeared during those tense days, as people shared the latest news, prayed, passed along rumors and related the inspiring stories of the families’ response to the test they were undergoing. In true Israeli fashion, we showed our best face in the face of tragedy.
But it shouldn’t take tragedy to bring the Jewish people together.
This makes the families’ response compelling and appropriate. Jewish unity is an imperative. I am a student of anti-Semitism and an activist against radical Islam. I have watched with increasing concern as BDS (Boycott Divest and Sanctions) and SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine) movements demonize and delegitimize Israel on university campuses, while radical Sharia-inspired terrorists spread their evil ideology in ever-expanding circles of death and destruction globally. Israel finds itself surrounded by a tempest of violent unrest that threatens almost every border
I believe that our unity has helped us to survive through the generations and until today, against seemingly impossible odds. Time and again, we have stood up and triumphed in the face of predicted doom. From the outside, it must seem to our enemies that we are weak and fractured. They believe we will soon be lying on our collective side, and then they will be free to confirm their ultimate “kill.” But here’s the secret, alluded to in the story of our forefather Yaakov as he lay on his deathbed.
Yaakov’s dying wish was to bestow a powerful and unique blessing upon each of his descendants. But first, he commanded his 12 sons, the nascent nation of Israel, to come together as one unit around him. His message was clear. When the Jewish people are united with collective purpose, their destiny is assured. And only through this unity will they reach their individual potential.
I have seen firsthand the power and creativity when Jews unite this way. Synergizing with other Jewish groups is an imperative of the Jerusalem U mission. It creates energy, extends reach, concentrates resources and generates new ideas. There is exponential potential when well-meaning Jewish organizations pull in the same direction.
The challenges facing us are monumental. It’s time for us to revisit the moment at Mt. Sinai when we received the code for ethical monotheism and morality – the Torah. “Ish Echad k’lev Echad” – “Like one person, with one heart” – unified in purpose, united in our ideals. We know that with a shared mission all things are possible. With it, the Jewish people can conquer our greatest challenges, together.
Let’s join together with the Yifrach, Frankel and Shaar families to honor their boys’ memories and increase the one thing we need most: Jewish unity.
Our lives and futures depend on it.