It’s been a difficult week for the people of Israel.
The murder of three Israeli teenagers—Naftali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar—has deeply affected Israelis in a very personal way. When Prime Minister Netanyahu says that all Israelis weep with the families of the victims, he means it. There are makeshift memorials all over Israel and gatherings of hundreds, even thousands, of people coming together to talk, sing and pray. Kikar Rabin, the square in Tel Aviv where Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated that was made into a permanent memorial to that moment of searing pain almost two decades ago, is a powerful and poignant place to be. My son Josh, who now lives in Israel, sent us a photo of Kikar Rabin taken on Tuesday night with the simple caption “the start of an incredible evening.” Candles, placed on the ground to form words of hope and the names of the victims, are everywhere, and Israelis are drawn there, perhaps by the memory of the late Prime Minister who inspired hope that Israel might one day live in peace with its neighbors. And here in New Jersey, just as in Jewish communities across America, we share our feelings of grief and bewilderment and gather to honor the memory of three young, innocent Israelis who were killed by people who hated them solely because they were Jewish and Zionists.
What now? Will this event simply fade from memory as life returns to the normal daily routine that we have created for ourselves? Will we be changed in some way by this heinous act and, if so, how? Among the conversations I’ve had in recent days about the discovery of the boys’ bodies and the funeral, one person expressed curiosity about why there hasn’t been more dialogue about the political realities that lurk beneath the surface. Why, it was asked, aren’t people talking about what type of long term political solutions are required to prevent this type of terrorist act from happening again? I suggested that now is the time for grief and anguish, a time to express sympathy for the families of the victims and to stand in solidarity with Israel. Perhaps with the passage of time the dialogue will slowly be directed toward political themes.
Yet the events of the past few days can have a positive influence on us. It is possible to draw out something hopeful from these days of anguish. Among all the e-mails and Facebook posts I’ve read, there have been many that have moved me. One organization sent an e-mail with its condolences and included this teaching by Rabbi Avraham Isaac Kook:
The pure righteous people do not complain about evil but rather they add justice, they do not complain about heresy but rather they add faith, they do not complain about ignorance but rather add wisdom.
Our tradition teaches that when we face darkness we seek light. When we encounter injustice, we seek to make things right. When there is pain and suffering, we seek healing. What now? Inspired by Rav Kook, and moved by an act of senseless hatred committed against three innocent boys and against the people of Israel, may we all seek to add justice, faith, and wisdom to our own lives, to our community, and to the world.