The lyrics of the Israel rap group Subliminal’s hit song, “Tikva” (hope) seem extraordinarily appropriate this week: “A strong nation will not fold.”
Today I passed the bus stop where the three boys were abducted from and murdered. There were three large hand-painted signs on the stop. One sign simply had the three names that have been seared into the Jewish world collective consciousness for almost three weeks, “Eyal, Naphtali and Gil-Ad.” The second was a quote from the Book of Jeremiah, “Rachel weeps for he sons” and the final sign stated simply, “The people of Israel live!” (Am Yisrael Chai!). These three signs symbolise the power of the Jewish people to survive and thrive. Or to use Mark Twain’s expression, “The secret of Jewish immortality.”
Photo: (c) 2014, T. Book
The first sign, with the names, signifies the importance of family (Peoplehood). On Monday I attended the “Singing for our Boys” rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square with tens of thousands of Israelis from across the religious and political spectrum uniting in hope, concern and prayer for “our boys.” There was a surge of positive energy in that place. The tears of the conflicting emotions of joy and sadness were etched on so many faces.
The next day, following the shocking news, I was witness to one facet of the phenomenon of many teens from across Israel spontaneously getting together to “help the pure souls get higher to heaven” by singing and praying. I joined a group of about a hundred Bnei Akiva teens next to the Modiin mall singing, praying and showing tremendous strength, spirituality and yet broken by grief.
Yesterday, together with tens of thousands of fellow Jews, I accompanied the boys to their eternal rest here in Modiin. Almost every political party, the Prime Minister (who is no stranger to loss in his own family) the President and the Rabbi of two of the boys reminded us that at times like this we remember what we have in common as Jews and not what divides us. The waves of unity (Achdut), love, concern and grief from across the Jewish world and here in Israel was palpable.
The second sign, signifying the importance of our millennia old tradition, with a Biblical quote of a mother (Rachel the Matriarch) crying for her children illustrates that primeval fear of what psychologists refer to as, “reverse order death.” Parents should not have to bury their own children. Yet, sadly, all to often, this is the case here in Israel as the young defenders of our land are prepared to, and some do, pay the ultimate price for the “hope (Hatikva) of two thousand years, to be a free people in our land.”
The final sign, “Am Yisrael Chai” signifying our attachment to our Jewish homeland, reminds me of a quote by the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George who, back in 1925, stated:
You (Jewish people) have been hammered into very fine steel, and that is why you have never been broken.”
The sights and emotions that I personally witnessed and which were felt by Jews all over Israel and the world these past few days, (“All of Israel are responsible for one another” –Talmud: Shevuot, 39a) bear testimony to the indomitable spirit of the Jewish people. Far from break our resolve; the bestial enemy has strengthened it.
I have distinct memory of visiting the Madanjek death camp near Lublin in Poland with a group of American high school seniors. We were right behind an Israeli high school group. They had left a small Israeli flag in the crematorium next to a memorial candle and a sign in Hebrew that read, “Never-the-less, despite everything, the People of Israel live!” Like the mythical Phoenix arising from the ashes, our Jewish State rose out of the ashes of the Shoah and survived and thrived. We will overcome all of the evil perpetrated against us because the secret of our immortality is the strength of our faith/tradition, community and our beloved homeland Israel.
“A Strong Nation will not fold.” Am Yisrael Chai!