Zev Shandalov

Unity for the Community

On Wednesday, June 3, 2015, an estimated one million people will commemorate what has been called Unity Day. This event will commemorate the one-year anniversary of  the murder of “the three boys,” Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shar and Naftali Frenkel, hy”d.

Events will include:

*Activities in schools, community centers, and public venues across the country attracting hundreds of thousands of participants

* A Jerusalem conference of Israeli and Diaspora leaders

* A reception and ceremony at the Residence of President Reuven Rivlin where the Jerusalem Unity Prize will be presented to four awardees who have been identified for their leadership roles in promoting Jewish unity in Israel and the Diaspora. (The 100,000 shekel prize will be awarded once annually, on the anniversary of the day the boys were murdered. It will be given to a person or organization that works to bring achdut/unity to Israeli society.)

It’s been a YEAR ?! Has it really been a year since those agonizing 18 days in which we prayed, cried, hoped and held vigils–all in the hope that the three boys, OUR boys, would be found alive!? It has been a year since thousands woke in the middle of the night and checked their phones to see if there was any glimmer of hope of good news. It has been a year since the faces of three young men became a part of the daily fabric of the Jewish world.

And it has been a full year since an unprecedented level of unity/achdut settled over Jews all over the world. These boys were no longer the sons of three random families. These boys became OUR boys, our sons. And no matter what you wore or didn’t wear on your head or what “flavor” of Judaism you identified with, EVERYONE had only one purpose and thought at that time: BRING BACK OUR BOYS. The unity and the love of Klal Yisrael — UNCONDITIONAL love, was truly overwhelming and powerful. Everywhere we went it was THE topic. And because this coincided with a time of year of so many weddings, their kidnapping brought even more love and unity at weddings. Prayers were said for the boys under the chuppa; special Tehilim were said at the wedding meals.

And then, of course, we received the tragic news (I, for one, was at a wedding when I received the initial news report). Three bodies had been found. Could it STILL be possible that these were other victims of other acts of violence? No. It was painfully obvious in a very short time that the boys we had prayed for for 18 days, had been found murdered. It was indeed the worst case scenario…

And yet…

There was one ray of hope that came out of this tragic story: UNITY. The feeling did not dissipate after the gut-wrenching triple funeral. The feeling of unity/achdut stayed long after the families got up from shiva. And, sadly, as we are wont to do, the feelings of unity DID dissipate. And, sadly, we resumed our sinat chinam and other acts in which we acted in the exact opposite manner than those days of unity.

And what did we gain with that unity? I can’t help but think how proud Hashem was of us for that period of time: as we poured our hearts out to Him and how we opened our hearts to our fellow Jews. How we acted כאיש אחד ובלב אחד (as one person with one heart). Thousands bemoaned the fact that that unity did not last. And, again as is our wont, we were quick to blame the “other person” for that unity coming to a halt.

And this is what the Unity Day is all about. It is about raising our awareness once again. But, this time, rather than coming to that point out of sadness and tragedy, instead we will come to it out of strength and purpose. Look at the faces of “the Three Mothers.” Read what they have been able to accomplish during this past year. Watch what they do on a day-to-day basis to not only commemorate the memory of their sons, but to spread the word about the NEED for unity.

So, on Wednesday, rather than just look at the day as a passing novelty, use it to become inspired. Become inspired to reach out to someone whom you normally might not be inclined to speak to. Become inspired to mend fences. Use the inspiration of that day to become a better person. By doing so, you will be helping not only yourself, but you will be helping ALL of Klal Yisrael.

About the Author
After living in Chicago for 50 years, the last 10 of which Zev Shandalov served as a shul Rav and teacher in local Orthodox schools, his family made Aliya to Maale Adumim in July 2009. Shandalov currently works as a teacher, mostly interacting with individual students.