This past Sunday, 18-year-old Ezra Schwartz was laid to rest in his hometown, Sharon Massachusetts. Ezra, may his memory be a blessing, was in middle of his third month at Yeshivat Ashreinu, when he was tragically murdered by a Palestinian terrorist at the Gush Etzion junction on Thursday November 19th. He was in a car with his friends, coming back from delivering food to IDF soldiers, when the terrorist drove his car through traffic and fired shots, fatally hitting Ezra, Yaacov Don (51) from Alon Shvut, and Palestinian Shadi Arafeh (24) from Chevron. Ezra’s life tragically ended, barely at its start, while he was performing a pure act of kindness and appreciation to his country.
Throughout the days following the attack, his family and friends spoke out about Ezra’s character and love for Judaism, Israel, and all those around him. They relayed stories that made you smile and cry, stories that made you instantaneously feel connected to Ezra, even if you never met him. Ezra became a dear friend to us all and we felt deep dark pain for someone so young who had his precious life and infinite potential stolen from him.
It seemed like the one person, who could have inspired millions to speak, President Obama, chose to stay silent. Obama’s office did not publicly condemn the attack until days later after, many petitions and pleas were made to him to acknowledge the incident. Once a statement was released by the National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price said:
“We were deeply saddened to learn about the death of Ezra Schwartz, an American citizen from Massachusetts who was murdered in a terrorist attack…we extend our deepest condolences to the victim’s family, friends and community as well as the family and friends of the four other people killed in yesterday’s tragic events… We continue to condemn in the strongest possible terms these outrageous terrorist attacks”.
Thanks so much for that sincere statement Mr. President — I mean Ned. It is not only disconcerting that it took Obama’s administration longer than a few seconds to condemn the attack after learning of it, but that this same laxity has been his evident in his action (or inaction in this case) since the wave of terror attacks against Israelis escalated at the end of September, injuring hundreds and killing 23.
While the president’s delay in addressing the attack was disappointing, the Jewish community placed their efforts elsewhere and decided to turn to fellow Jew, Robert Kraft, a great philanthropist, entrepreneur and owner of the New England Patriots, to gain his support in commemorating and spreading Ezra’s story. The Patriots, who were from Ezra’s home region, were his favorite football team and he was often seen proudly wearing their caps and apparel. His Patriots jersey was laid down on the ground at Ben Gurion airport in Israel as his family and friends sat in a circle, mourning and softly singing solemn tunes, as they escorted him on his last journey home to America. At the funeral, Ezra’s father, high school football coach, and friends expressed countless stories about his dedication and love for the sport.
After pleas from Jews from all over, including Israeli government officials such as MK Dov Lipman, ESPN announced that they would set aside a moment of silence to remember and honor Ezra’s life that was abruptly cut short.
The announcer said:
“We also pause to remember the many who have recently lost their lives in senseless terrorist attacks abroad. Last Thursday, this reality struck close to home when 18 year old Ezra Schwartz, a native of Sharon Massachusetts, and a huge Patriots fan, was gunned down nearly 5,500 miles from home while studying aboard. At this time we would like to honor Ezra Schwartz and the hundreds of victims like him with a moment of silence”.
Thank you for spreading the awareness of a precious and young Jewish life lost Mr. Kraft. You did what even the “leader of the free world” was not able to stand up and do, even for the sake of freedom and peace, which he supposedly defends.
But I must ask, as a Jew living in America, just like Ezra, how is it possible that in this day in age, where the bond between America and Israel seems indestructible (even if it is sometimes shaky), that the State of Israel was not mentioned by name on nationalized television, but rather called vaguely a country “abroad“?
America why can’t you say the word ISRAEL?
Why did the presenter not reveal to the thousands of people at the game, and millions watching from home, as to where Ezra was 5500 miles away from home and who took away his life?
This is not about political gain or agenda. This is about exposing all the terrorists for what they are for the sake of all their innocent victims and showing the world what horrible threats and dangers Israel faces every single day for just existing. It is about showing and addressing what Ezra went through, as he was just going about his regular day, doing good deeds of charity. Ezra had nothing to do with occupation or territories — he was an American teenager who came to study abroad, connect with his heritage, and simply spread kindness; just an innocent bystander who was caught in the senseless violence that took away his life.
I would have liked to think having such close ties with Israel in the diplomatic and political sector, America would openly condemn the attacks in Israel accurately, and not just blur them together with hundreds of people killed in the Paris attacks “abroad”. While the mass coordinated attacks in Paris were tragic, what has been happening in Israel is 24/7.
I am certain that if our President would have been authentic enough to denounce the attacks immediately with fervor, that the Patriots would have been inspired to do so as well, after all POTUS sets more of an example for Americans than we care to admit. For whatever reason it may be, even in the land of the free and the home of the brave, Israel has become a taboo word that people are anxious to say. We should not be afraid to be Jewish and to be connected with our homeland Israel, especially when there is a chance to speak out in front of millions on behalf of justice, reality, and the truth. When we have a chance to defend and speak up for those who are no longer with us and for Ezra’s memory, who we will continue living and protecting our nation for.
בלע המות לנצח ומחה ה’אלוקים דמעה מעל כל פנים