Michal Cotler-Wunsh

Reflections from a Grieving Country

So much has been written, said, sung and prayed over the last weeks about Naftali, Gilad and Eyal. Reading, listening, watching and singing we seemed to have transcended perceived or real differences. We stood united and breathless, listening to the parents, siblings, friends, teachers of the murdered teens. The pain is raw and deep. It is a pain that should be so foreign and yet feels all too familiar.

With a superhuman, admirable message of unity, the families of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal inspired a nation to fully comprehend the notion that we are indeed all in this together. Transcending geography, politics and religion, these heroic parents reiterated a clear and concise message in their daily actions. They challenged us in their words of unity to remember, no matter the outcome, that we must stand together to address the challenges ahead. They worried, in their most difficult moments, about the implications of the situation on our individual and national resilience and faith.

The story of the recent weeks did not come to an end yesterday. It is a story that continues to unfold in us, those that remained. If we are to learn anything from the last few weeks we cannot bury all that was unearthed without reflecting on what we can learn.

If we were truly listening to Rachelle Fraenkel, we should rise to the challenge of recognizing that this was not a story of hitchhiking, of choosing where to draw a green line, of differentiating ourselves as religious or secular. Naftali, Gilad and Eyal could be any one of our sons or daughters. The potential importance is in each one of us understanding that this is our story. It was no coincidence that Yair Lapid was asked to deliver a eulogy at one of the graves. What these brave parents were trying to tell us even in their darkest hour is that ‘us’, is not ‘us’ settlers, or ‘us’ Israelis or ‘us’ Jews. The call for unity that they sounded was the ‘us’ that is all free and democratic individuals and people around the globe. It is the ‘us’ that have to look deep in order to identify that we have more in common than that which sets us apart. It is the ‘us’ that defines the common shared values as transcending the differences that we respectfully have in our cherished democracies.

In an effort to seize the message of unity so incredibly reiterated by the families and ensure that the message resonates a little longer at a time and place that what happened yesterday is old news, let us all stop for a moment. Let each of us reflect as individuals, communities and countries around the world on that need to stand together in confronting the threat of terror, be it in Israel, New York, Boston or Belgium. Let us stand united in a deep understanding that terror is a network, and our only chance to effectively combat it is by creating a network of all those who oppose it.

A few months ago I was troubled to hear a talented and well respected artist say that ‘we live at a time of moral ambiguity’. I have been replaying these words in my mind in so many contexts only to become more disturbed by their implication. It will be difficult to address the challenges ahead if we continue to draw moral equations between moral incongruities. We must seek to find the moral clarity that binds ‘us’ together in confronting the threat of terror.

About the Author
The writer is a lawyer, research fellow, and policy and strategy advisor. She served as an MK in Israel’s 23rd Knesset, co-founding the International Bi-Partisan Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism.