Stumbling In The Dark

“May there be peace within your walls, security within your palaces.”

There is nothing within these words – taken from Psalm 122 – that describes how to fortify those long-desecrated walls. Nothing within them explains how we rebuild our shattered palaces.

Nothing ever could.

There is no human retribution that will adequately punish those who murder children. Satan himself is yet to devise a plan sufficient to deal with those who murdered our three lost boys.

Those responsible will – G-d willing – be brought to account and will suffer accordingly – a fate that no moral person would deny is fitting. There can be no doubt tonight – as we mourn as one – that demanding a response is both responsible and just. Kidnapping a child is the undertaking of evil – they who assist and they who defend it are as one. There can be no hiding place for the wicked, no cry for mercy.

If the PA and their unity partners will not act, Israel shall. Responsibility necessitates a moral justice system which punishes those who dance with evil.

Tonight, the State of Israel and the Jewish people – indeed all the free people of the world – are united in grief. Numb from the harsh reality that again grips our land, we are shrouded in a darkness that seeks to extinguish even the brightest lights.

Yet the State of Israel was born into darkness. From the furnaces of the Shoah, to the impossible numbers of the War of Independence, this most recent nightmare – brutal and inhuman as it is – is but an addition to the long list of nightmares that our people endure. James Joyce summed it up best – “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awaken.”

Similarly, the Nobel Prize-winning playwright Eugene O’Neill – “There is no present or future – only the past happening over and over again, now.”

In striving for peace, Israel plays a game that it surely cannot win when faced with an enemy to whom kidnapping and murdering babes is fair game.

There will be those who call for total destruction, from the West Bank to Jordan and from Gaza to the Sea. Their anger is not misplaced. No one who has suffered the murder of their child should calm their lust for revenge. Tonight we have all lost children.

There will be those who demand reprisals against the perpetrators and they too are among the just. Their pain and seeming hatred is born out of a tiredness from fighting an enemy for whom life is just a game.

We are all tired. We’re tired of waiting, we’re tired of trying to understand. We’re tired of trying to figure out why our children and brothers, and sisters and parents are not safe in a land of inherent peace.  We’re tired.

We are tired of stumbling at every turn, tumbling over stumbling blocks that rip the very flesh from our bones. We stumble, flailing, desperate to grasp something that will keep us from falling.

Yet Israel’s story is of one who stumbles in the dark, yet remains upright. From the horrors of 1940’s Europe, to the racism and bigotry of the United Nations, we have stumbled through 66 years of bloodshed but never fallen.

Our responses in times such as this – time and time again – are crucial in remaining upright. There is none who will dare to say that Israel’s response must be ‘measured’ or ‘proportional’. These games are surely over. We have known this for too long and those who call for calm should, with G-d’s help, never know the pain that insists that such decisions are taken. Yet within an adequate military response, we must remain steadfast in our belief that all life is sacred. The lives of our soldiers. The lives of Gilad, Naftali and Eyal. Yes, even the lives of those whose hatred for our people burns so deep.

They weren’t born hating.

Some call for vengeance from G-d. Hashem Yinkom Domam. Yet only G-d can be vengeful. His soldiers, the Israeli Defence Forces are his messengers, but only He can deliver true and just vengeance.

What good is our vengeance if it kills one more innocent child? Some may callously call it the cost of war, yet what good is our vengeance when mirrored with our enemy’s requests for vengeance of their own?

May their memories be blessed, may their blood be the last spilled. May we swiftly and harshly act to bring the perpetrators to justice so that the world may see we will no longer stand by. Our children are not players in this game and our lives come with a heavy, maybe incalculable, price.

Yet we have heard this before. May the day speedily come when we no longer need such platitudes, yet we have heard this before.

Israel stumbles because all around is in darkness. We do not fall, nor do we despair. We remain true to our mission as a light unto the nations, knowing all the while that stumbling in the dark is part of the test of that mission.

To stumble is human. To fall is utterly forgivable. Yet we know that falling is not a luxury with which we are blessed. We move forward, stumbling through the darkness because to break and be broken is unthinkable.

Together, with our moral vision shining clearly to light some of that darkness, we will stumble on. The light of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal continues to further illuminate the darkness that surrounds us – as does that of everyone who has come before.

May G-d avenge their deaths.

About the Author
Robert Marks is the Director of Leeds Jewish Orthodox Youth, and a part-time Chazan in England, having returned from learning in Yeshivat Hakotel. In any spare time, he enjoys playing cricket and recording music.