I didn’t think the fear of the loss and the eventual heartbreaking loss of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali would become a national tragedy.
After all, they studied in Gush Etsion of Judea. No matter that Gush Etsion is a historically Jewish bloc, having fallen to Jordan in 1948. No matter that Gush Etsion is in the Israeli consensus and won’t be given away. I could hear the voices of the outspoken settler-haters in my head:
“They shouldn’t have been studying there anyway.”
“It is their fault for depriving Palestinian of their rights.”
“They’re obstacles to peace.”
We heard similar sentiments when idiotic pundits and social media mavens blamed them for the common practice of hitchhiking in those areas, but those voices were few and far between. No one sane could justify such brutality.
Something about these boys, and their families, melted our hearts. Was it Gilad’s sweet, innocent smile? Was it Eyal’s beautiful singing and songwriting? Was it Naftali’s maturity?
We felt their magic, their wholesomeness, their love. You saw no hatred, no malice in their eyes, nor in the eyes of their parents. Their families carried themselves with such dignity that us secular Jews must wonder if we’re missing something really good by not observing Torah like they do. They did not exploit the tragedy for personal gain or political motives. They reminded us of what’s most important: Life. Just life.
They have emerged as the mothers and fathers of a nation, propping us up with their strength and unimaginable poise that comes from living a life of purpose, moral certainty, and faith.
I went to Kikar Rabin for a memorial, and it was beautiful to behold kippah wearers and female tank-top wearers talking together, healing the rifts of a nation that thinks it’s more noble to criticize your own for the smallest slight than the “other” for criminal offenses.
But all that ended. And the haters found their way to disunite the nation once again, to make sure “settlers” don’t dare win our hearts with their ethical depth. Without a shred of evidence, they suggested that nationalistic Jews must have murdered the Arab 16-year-old of East Jerusalem as “revenge” on behalf of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali. It is a despicable exploitation of the death of the Israeli teens and Palestinian teen alike.
And, soon enough, everyday people and world leaders linked the imaginary Jews who committed the crime with the “price tag” vandalists and “far right Jews,” suggesting, of course, they’re settlers from the West Bank.
In a television interview, the father of Mohammed was quick to call the culprits Jews. He then corrected himself. No, they were “settlers.” How would he know that? Do settlers wear a letter on their chest? I cannot doubt his pain at losing his son, but I don’t recall the mothers and fathers of Eyal, Gilad, Naftali so quick to call out even Hamas. They were focused on the search for their sons, on their grief, on not destabilizing the country.
I needed them to tell me through their eulogies that it was okay for me to live my life, the best life I could. That I didn’t have to live in the shadow of the sorrow that the deaths of their beautiful sons have caused.
And now we see headlines about the far right and the Jewish terrorists whom we don’t really know exist exacting “revenge” by murdering an innocent Arab boy. It is a disgrace to the memory of Mohammed. It is a disgrace to the memory of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali. It is not tolerant. It is not conducive to peace. It is not right. It is revenge against the Judeans for winning our hearts.