The tragic revelation that Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gil-ad Shaar had been killed brought the best out of Israeli and Jewish society. We came together as one. Their funeral was attended by tens of thousands, powerful and deeply moving eulogies were heard from the families which left tears streaming down our faces. It was as if Naftali, Eyal and Gil-ad were our own sons, our own brothers, our own friends. The diaspora Jewish community felt the pain just as acutely: vigils and acts of solidarity were, and are being, held in major cities across the world – the deep connection amongst the Jewish people proudly expressed for all to see.
At this point in our shared distress and despair, we can find comfort in the way in which we have rallied together. Ofir Shaar, the father of Gil-ad said in his eulogy “My prayer shawl is orphaned. It envelopes your untarnished body before you are buried in the soil of the Israel you so loved. You are part of the family of Israel. Your final message and your ascension to heaven brought down walls and unified an entire nation.”
It is with this unity and coming together that gave the families such strength, that we as a people must feel proud of. We must understand its importance.
And yet, the shocking killing of an Arab teenager yesterday shows the fragility of our communal response. While the motive in this instance remains unknown, the clashes in Jerusalem – characterised by Jewish ultra-nationals chanting “death to Arabs”, as well as the disgraceful ‘price tag’ vandals – is an utter betrayal of the Jewish values expressed above.
The Torah speaks of the Jewish people being a light onto the nations; and I believe yesterday, in part the Jewish people were. We showed the strength of our bonds to each other and the extent to which we cherish life and grieve its loss.
Those who seek revenge, stir up tensions, spew bile and hatred – presumably in the name of lost Jewish blood – lower us all.
Every society has racist thugs that preach hatred over love, that advocate violence over peace, and crave conflict; it would be just tragic however, if we Jews, who demonstrated our solidarity and unity yesterday – were to allow these minority and extremist elements to set the tone for our communal response, as we seek to come to terms with this terrible and despicable tragedy.