STRONGER TOGETHER: How 3 Boys Healed A Divided Nation

After nearly three years of terrible infighting, unrest and religious tension pulling at the tenuous fabric of Israeli society, the tragedy of three kidnapped boys gripped our people so strongly that we rallied in absolute unison to support them and their families.

But as this story comes to its devastating end, we are left with the challenge of making their legacy of unity last longer than the few weeks we’ve been searching for their safe return. Now is the time to create true healing and enduring change.

From the moment news spread of the abduction of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Frankel, our nation mobilized like a single, powerful close-knit family. Religious divisions and political grievances were put to one side for the common good of our children. Eyal, Gilad and Naftali became “ours,” and we wanted them home now.

We became activists, supported each other through painful days and turned to prayer at a time of real need. The unity was so powerful you could virtually touch it. One special moment will remain with me for the rest of my life.

In my tiny community, where Naftali Frankel z”l lived, the pain surrounding his abduction was overwhelming. Exactly one week after his disappearance, a special evening of song, prayer and study took place late into the night. It was a much needed outlet and a very emotional experience. As the final words left the rabbi’s lips, a flood of strangers made their way into the room.

These black and white clad yeshiva students came from Jerusalem to Nof Ayalon to make a statement. The battles which divided us – military service, welfare reform and education – no longer mattered. These were the tedious details for another day. That night, we stood as one family and called to the heavens in song. We locked arms and prayed. There wasn’t a dry eye in the building.

Sustaining this level of intensity and closeness for too long is simply impossible, as only times of crisis bring us together in that profound way. But, ultimately, we must return to the routine. And routine is where we begin slipping back into old ways.

Our differences become stumbling blocks to progress instead of a platform for diversity. Resentment builds and tempers flare. But we must learn from this terrible ordeal that we can see the beauty in our siblings from across the Jewish spectrum despite our differences. We have far too much to lose with the alternative.

Just as each of us brought a different element to the campaign to bring our boys home, we can also contribute in a unique way when focused on building Israel and strengthening the Jewish nation.

We must prevent ourselves from slipping back into that dangerous routine. Look at those people who sat by your side over the last few weeks and recognize the unity that was shared. Recognize the good in them despite their being different. Reach out and form a real human connection, and they will see the good in you as well.

“Our boys” brought us together, and we owe it to them to stop the madness which has pulled us apart. We owe it to them to create genuine connections that last longer than the few torturous weeks we spent looking for them.

The lives of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali are far too high a price to pay for this lesson in solidarity. We owe it to them to ensure their legacy represents a new, lasting reality for our an entire Nation.

If we have learned anything from this terrible ordeal, it’s that we will always be stronger together.

About the Author
Yoni Sherizen is a director of Gesher, a Jerusalem-based organization devoted to bridging the differences between Israelis and strengthening a shared Jewish identity.