The Quietest “Hatikva”: Monday night, June 30th (really 1:25am, July 1st)
There is so much to say, and nothing at all. After two and a half weeks of hoping and praying, waiting and more hoping, our boys were found and brought home—but not how we had hoped and prayed. Tonight I was passing by the soldiers’ temporary base here in the Bnei Akiva of Efrat and dropping off some goodies, as I heard that instead of the barbeque the Efrat residents had planned for them, they had been mustered out just minutes before. Only a few soldiers remained, along with many bags of supplies. It looked like something was definitely happening, but the few remaining soldiers did not look like it was good news. I heard them say that they were found—but that bodies were found. My heart broke and fell into pieces as I still hoped so badly that this was a mistake, they were wrong. I rushed home and turned on the news, although I knew that the news I’d heard was probably more on target, more recent—and sadly, it was. As we all found out soon after, they had found three bodies so very close to our back yard, but so far away, in a neighborhood I wouldn’t drive through alone or unarmed (no, I don’t have a gun). They had found them earlier but were, appropriately, contacting the families first. As they ran footage of the search, the station ran a banner headline saying there was a “suspicion” of the boys’ fate—preparing us for the worst. I couldn’t do anything but stare at the TV, and turn to the computer to read what everybody was posting: outrage, sadness, anger, helplessness. I feel sad and empty, and think about how just after we left the soldiers, when I already “knew”, my 8 year old asked “When are the chatufim (kidnapped ones) coming home? Why isn’t tefillat yeladim (children’s prayers) helping?” I didn’t even know what to say to that, although when I posted that someone responded, “Our tfilot (prayers) are heard- they are never lost- just sometimes hashem uses them just not as we meant them (sic).”
I felt lost, and when I saw that there would be a gathering in Efrat, I needed to go. There, the mayor tried to answer the questions we all have, which is how to go on tomorrow, and Rabbi Riskin consoled us but at the same time wanted us to remember not to go against the innocent—although we must fight the guilty. Then tehillim were read out loud to an almost silent group. But all that paled in comparison with Naftali’s cousin, a boy who just graduated in my 8th grade son’s class, who spoke simply but eloquently about how Naftali would no longer be here to play with him, to hear the latest disc, to share his life. When he finished talking, we sang Israel’s national anthem, Hatikva, but it was the quietest Hatikva I’ve ever heard. Usually it is sung proud and loud; here it was like we were giving voice to our pain, anger and sadness, and the only thing that is making it bearable is the fact that we were there together, in unity. We then sang a broken “Ani Maamin”, and people started to leave without talking, the way I remember leaving the movie “Schindler’s List.” It’s like you can’t believe this is really happening; we are all in shock. Weeks’ worth of hope turned into sadness. But then, one of the teenagers started singing again—“Acheinu”, “Our brothers”. And people gravitated there, joining in. And the soldiers, the same ones we’ve been taking care of here in Efrat, started giving the group cups of water. I had no voice to sing, but the words of the last song as I finally left are echoing in my head: “Vhi shamda—v’hakadosh baroch hu, matzileinu miyadam.”
“They stand up to kill us in every generation, but G-d saves us from their hands.”
It tragically was not true in this case, but we are still here as a people, and I believe we will continue to stand up to terror and hatred as long as we are still here. Earlier in the week I saw the Mark Twain quote about how great nations have come and gone, but the Jew is eternal; all I have left to say is Hashem yenachem et hamishpachot v’et ha’am she’ itam, and AM YISRAEL CHAI.