Monday night, around sunset, we had just finished a pizza dinner at an outdoor cafe that was about to be washed down with ice cream. The kids were racing to finish the dripping scoops from atop the cone before it turned to soup on their little hands. My wife and I were relishing the moment; in our homeland, on vacation and enjoying life.
My phone buzzed with some message, as it does every few minutes. Normally on vacation, I try to look at the notifications with less frequency. But it buzzed three times in a row. Maybe it was urgent. I read the message and the giggles we were sharing and jokes we were telling stopped instantly. My face flushed with seriousness and upset.
Our IDF soldiers had found the three missing boys abducted more than 18 days ago. They were murdered shortly after their abduction and their bodies disposed hurriedly with every attempt to hide them from ever being found. They were located just a few miles from where they were kidnapped, north of the city of Hebron.
Our children could sense the text message I just saw was serious and sad, though I said nothing. My mood changed 180 degrees. I showed the message to my wife, who wears less of a poker face than I, and we grabbed each other tightly. Our hearts sank together. We walked back to the car without uttering a word holding our kids’ hands for dear life. The kids were confused. They are at an in-between age where they know we protect them from things in the news but also are aware of some of the complicated and dangerous things we are shielding them from in the first place.
My almost 10-year-old girl is keenly aware of the search for Gilad, Eyal and Naftali. She included them in her prayers each day before her school year concluded. Posters demanding their safe return are on every bus and bare wall that we pass. Concerts are being held and vigils offered to bring the three back safely and soon. Upon arriving in Israel, you are instantly aware of the plight of the three boys. It is hard not to appreciate a country devoid of political and social differences for one moment, united in the quest for their safe return.
How would we tell our daughter the ugly truth? What words could explain the inexplicable? How do we ensure her safety and more importantly, make her feel safe in this land that she loves and adores? Is there a way to explain to her that some people hate her (and us) just because of the religion she was born into with so much animus that they derive satisfaction in killing her brothers and sisters? Even my precocious child can’t comprehend that. Hell, I can’t. Who could?
Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for every season; a moment for every feeling and emotion. There will be a time for anger. There will be a time for exacting punishment on the criminals who carried out this heinous act. But now, at this moment, I feel empty. Sad. Deflated.
Ironically, I am in the midst of two weeks of study at the Hartman Institute where we have been focused all morning and afternoon, through texts and discussions, on the notion of maintaining hope in our pursuit of peace. We learned that our fuel and passion for that goal might never be achieved yet, we can never diminish one iota of our desire for that destination. The sessions and texts were fortifying and enriching. Even in despair, it reminded us that core to our existence as Jews is the concept of hope. Perhaps that is why our national anthem is called, HaTikvah – The Hope.
The light of that hope is flickering tonight. The flame that burned brightly today and at other flashes in time has fallen victim to the winds of reality. I hope the light comes back and shines the way for the families of the boys to mourn and continue with life. I hope the light comes back to renew this country in believing in a better tomorrow. I hope for a way to find the courage and the words to explain the incomprehensible to my children. I hope they can sense the love I have for them and even their brothers we never met but deeply love and already miss.
Yihee Zichram Baruch.