Prime Minister Netanyahu called it “A Day of National Mourning,” and that is precisely what it was, as Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach were laid to rest.
The families first had individual services in their respective communities. I was going to say “private,” but in fact they were televised, and we were able to see what was going on, sometimes via split screens.
Then all gathered for interment at a cemetery in Modi’in, at which both religious and political figures spoke.
At least fifty thousand people attended these services – some say many more. They came by bus and by car from all over Israel, and they didn’t stop coming. Many thousands more watched the proceedings on television.
While it is my great desire to convey to my readers what went on, I know that at some level it is not possible to impart the sense of it all: The feeling of oneness, the mourning for these boys as our boys, the shared pain and horror. My daughter-in-law said it perfectly:
“I came to stand with Am Yisrael (the people of Israel).”
And my daughter thought what was incredibly moving was the soft heart-felt singing – of psalms, words of prayer – done by thousands and thousands of people, their voices joined, while waiting for the proceedings to begin.
The messages of those who spoke were ones of comfort and praise.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, his face etched with sorrow (emphasis added):
“The whole nation prayed for the return of the boys, and the whole nation saw the nobility of spirit, and inner strength of you, the parents.
“The nation understood immediately the depth of the roots and the strength of spirit you possess.
“We learned a lesson that will not be forgotten, of faith and firmness, of unity and sensitivity, of Judaism and humanity.”
“A whole nation was banded together and was reminded of who are we and why are we here.
“You [ the mothers Racheli, Bat-Galim and Iris] gave the whole world a lesson about the cry of a mother.
“…A deep moral abyss separates us and our enemies. They sanctify death, we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty, and we sanctify mercy. That’s the secret to our strength, and also the basis for our unity.
“Life has it’s own strength, like a river that drags us forward, and gives us hope. The nation that has cried with you and embraced you will continue to accompany you and will be a source of comfort.”
President Shimon Peres (emphasis added):
“You, the mothers and fathers, raised children that Israel can be proud of. You inspired in them a love of their people. A love of Torah and a love of the land. You instilled in them devotion and a love of mankind.
“Naftali, Gilad, Eyal: Many of us saw only small snapshots of your personalities, of who you were. From those snapshots a beautiful picture developed of confident young boys, sure of their way, in service of their people.
“Youngsters with radiant faces, who stood tall. With a thirst for knowledge and a knowledge of prayers. Sure of their purpose and fulfilling the commandments. You showed the face of our people with a bright and painful light, our unity and morality.
“Gilad, Naftali, Eyal. Wonderful boys, sons of the whole nation. Rest in peace. We will bow our heads but our spirit will not break.”
The words of Rabbi Dov Zinger, head of the Mekor Haim yeshiva, were especially poignant, because he knew two of the boys personally, as students:
“Gilad and Naftali sat together in school in the third column, second row.Their seats will not be filled by others.
We have the privilege to be the generation in the land. But we are being tested now.”
He called for increased prayer, in which the “brokenness will transform into repentance,” and he appealed to all those assembled to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
This, then, is the glory of Israel: that in the midst of pain and suffering, wrought in the face of hatred, the talk is of love – there was a great deal of talk about love – and traditional values. Of devotion to Torah and prayer and Am Yisrael united, of concern for mankind and hunger for learning. Of our support for one another and the need to strive to be even better.
This is what we call Kiddush Hashem: Honoring the name of the Almighty through proper action as a Jewish people that can be seen by the world.
We here in Israel can hold our heads high, my friends. Without being complacent. As Rabbi Zinger said, we are being tested. We must work to hold on to the unity, to hold fast to the values that are transcendent, and to remember always why we are here.
I would like to think that the world would notice who were are, and approach us with a kinder spirit. But I know to expect this would be only great foolishness.
What I would hope is that young Jewish people outside of Israel actually might be touched by our behavior as a nation. I’d heard so much about how young American Jews are alienated from Israel because of the negative hype they pick up. I’ve heard some painful, painful stories.
And I want to say: Look, my young friends. See who we are and be proud.
In some great measure, what inspired the words of those who spoke was the exemplary conduct of the parents of the three students. Their faith, their devotion to traditional values, their ability to cling to life, their courage. All models for the rest of us.
Rachel Frenkel, pictured here, told her deceased son, Naftali,
“We will have to learn to sing again without you. But you will always be in our hearts.”
The interment was a private affair for close family and friends. Not televised – and the 50,000 plus people were sent on. The boys were buried next to each other, bound together for eternity.
I will deal only briefly here with what comes next. Focusing on this will require many emails over time.
A reader (thanks Jim C.) pointed out to me that while I used the term revenge in my last posting, “justice” would be better. And he is absolutely right. I had picked up on the term revenge because of the Bailik quote. But what we must do now is truly a matter of justice.
What is more, when one confronts consummate evil, there is actually a moral responsibility to eradicate it. To fail do so is wrong.
The problem, of course, is that the world is composed large of either bleeding-heart liberals who refuse to see consummate evil when it is staring them in the face (it’s all about “their suffering” and “understanding them”). And, amoral people who don’t wish to deal with issues of evil because all that matters is what impinges upon the situation politically for their purposes.
The failure/refusal of the world to see that consummate evil – and I’ll return to this – makes our position very difficult. It requires strength to stand strong. And that strength is required of us now. The people of Israel, and our friends elsewhere understand this.
I will provide here just one very painful piece of evidence of the consummate evil that we are facing:
Gilad Shaar used his cell phone very briefly to call police and let them know that he and the others had been kidnapped. Then the phone was silenced. But a leaked version of the call has been made available by the press. It includes a statement by one of the abductors to a third person, which can be heard in Arabic in the background, announcing “We’ve brought three.” And then the sound of gunshots, meaning that these evil abductors did not act alone, and that one or more (likely all) of the boys were summarily shot.
What particularly enrages me is a statement that came from the US.
“While emphasizing Israel’s right to defend its citizens, the White House’s Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes warns that Israel should ‘be precise’ and avoid an overly ‘heavy-handed’ response that could further destabilize the situation between Israel and the Palestinians.”
I’ve used terms in the past such as unmitigated gall, but none of them seem sufficient here. This is nauseating and morally reprehensible.
At no point that I have observed has Obama ever referred to Hamas as being in any way responsible for the murders, although he conceded they might be ‘involved.” After all, they are part of the unity government right now, which the US has said it would support.
What Netanyahu has said is that we will first find the perpetrators of this horror. Dead or alive, they are saying. And then we will deal with Hamas inside of Judea and Samaria. Lastly, we will deal with Hamas in Gaza as necessary. Cannot see that it won’t be necessary, consider that they’re still launching rockets, but one thing at a time.
We will be watching.
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