This past weekend, I attended a Fourth Of July festival with my family. I sat there for several hours, burying myself in a book comprised of letters that Yoni Netanyahu wrote to his family and friends. I’ve been reading it on and off since April, but was all the more captured by it this weekend, as the 40th anniversary of the Entebbe mission and Yoni’s untimely death was just a couple of days away. While other people had no problem voicing to me that this behavior seemed “awfully un-American,” I was content with my choice of action for the evening. It wasn’t the easiest environment to mentally escape from, but the words inked into the pages in my hands were far more fascinating than those buzzing around my ears.
There were pangs in my heart as I read of Yoni’s continued struggles in the last years of his life, and my admiration for him only grew as I remembered that everything was detailed in his own words. Mere moments later, I felt an unbelievably strong sadness shoot through my entire body, one that I could have never predicted.
Holocaust survivor. Nobel Laureate. Political activist. No matter how he was described by each article, the news was the same. Elie Wiesel, one of my personal heroes, had died. Each new headline pushed a wave of emotion over me. I did everything I possibly could to contain that emotion within myself. Then the fireworks started.
The sky lit up vermillion, aureate, cerulean, fuchsia, verdant, magenta, every color known to man, yet the tears stained by mascara and eyeliner ran black down my face, matching the grief in my soul. The cycle repeated itself — a roaring whistle and flash of light, immediately followed by the stench of smoke. I thought of those in Baghdad, and Dhaka, and Istanbul, and Mecca, whose lives were recently lost to or torn apart by terrorism. They experienced the same sensory sequence, but for completely different reasons. The people there were screaming and sobbing, their cries rooted in anguish and dread, instead of hooting and hollering in celebration like those surrounding me. And the longer the display went on, the harder I silently wept, because the number of innocent people I was mourning steadily increased.
There is simultaneously so much mercy and misery in this world. Elie Wiesel’s entire life provided more than enough evidence of that. Even in death, he continues to be proof that with enough generosity, virtue, and kindness, we can fight back against the depravity, cruelty, and abuse that is trying to gain superiority in our communities. I never met him, but I can safely say that the last thing he would have wanted to happen is people taking the opportunities to purposefully harm others, when they could just as easily heal them. It is up to all of us to help create the peaceful, loving, nurturing society that he deserved to see. May his memory, and the memories of all those lost to hate and evil, be a blessing, and inspire all of us to be better, and do better.