It was the third week of September in 2001 when we spoke. She was a long-time resident in our little town who was a therapist, community volunteer, mother and all around generous soul. Honey Black Kay succumbed to cancer several years ago and our conversation in passing on the street popped into my head last week as I thought about the three Jewish boys kidnapped by terrorists more than five thousand miles away.
Honey lived in New York City for many years, as did I. When we spoke, a week after September 11th, she talked about the yearning to be in New York City and that this act of terror was calling her to go back and be part of the healing process in the city she loved so much. Honey was a healer; she was calm, smart, and patient. It made perfect sense to me that she would want to be there and she soon left with her partner to be closer to her family and to do what she did best, heal. She would be in our little Cape Cod town in the summer, but I think from the moment of New York City’s greatest challenge, her heart was rooted there. I remember thinking that I was a bit envious of her definitive sense of place that brought on this yearning to be there. She was so sure and so desired to be there, to be part of a city that she loved as it joined together to do the work that needed to be done. It is a gift to know where you are meant to be.
It comes later in life for many of us. Each trip to Israel has drawn me closer and now aliyah is less than five months away. Knowing this, the sense of yearning increased almost two weeks ago when Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-ad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach were kidnapped. It is not that I know them, or know their families; I do not. But, like many Jews in the diaspora, I pray for their safety and the strength of their families. Thanks to the Kotel cam, I could watch the incredible power of prayer shared among thousands who put aside religious differences to form a stunning display of Judaism at its most beautiful. I saw that food and personal care items were being gathered and delivered to those involved in the grueling and dangerous search.
There is a definitive sadness and sense of hopelessness when tragedy strikes a community. In this case, what I have witnessed is not despair, although I am sure it is felt on the emotional roller coaster ride that the boys’ families are on. What I have witnessed from all these miles away, is a community reaffirming the Jewish dream through prayer and community service, which are both in service to Hashem and are indicative of the spirit of Jewish life during turmoil.
These are things that draw so many of us to desire a life in Israel. Today, I watched Rachel Fraenkel speak at the United National Human Rights Council with the other moms sitting behind in solidarity. These are the words that struck me and I am sure so many:
“Mr. President, it is wrong to take children, innocent boys or girls, and use them as instruments of any struggle. It is cruel. This council is charged with protecting human rights. I wish to ask: Doesn’t every child have the right to come home safely from school?”
Her pain was evident as was her compassion for all children living in a world where kids are used as political fodder. These are the values that are most evident in Israel, even when there is dissension. Arguing can wait: find the boys, support the families and those searching and protecting. That’s what matters.
There is a deep connection to daily life in Israel that transcends the mundane, even when you have to deal with the dreary chores. I believe that what Honey felt in her desire to return to New York after September 11th was the desire to belong, but also feel deeply the importance of daily existence: every day matters. That is a yearning for a fulfilled life that can only be achieved by living in the present and allowing the gift of that day be felt, even in times of fear and sadness. That was the message that was sent by the huge crowds praying at the Kotel for the return of the kidnapped boys. Every day means something, make it matter. And if you yearn to be in a place that calls you, go and be part of something more than yourself. It might be the Kotel with the continuing prayers to Hashem to return the boys safely; it might be joining with those collecting food and items for chayalim, it might be a visit to the Ma’arat Hamachpela in Hevron to make a link with our past, or it might be moving home. #BringBackOurBoys