The Gift of the Three Kedoshim
Dear Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali:
We are grateful that we do not have to face your families. We would have to say something – and we can’t. Can we tell them that we share their loss? If we feel a huge void, can it compare to the dark, cavernous expanse of their loss?
We cannot really grasp what our world has lost by losing you. We do not have the words to describe it, nor explain it.
We might, however, be able to articulate what we have gained, what you left us, Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali.
Many critics – including friendly critics – of the Jewish State have argued that Israel has turned into a soul-less country. Sometime after the June War, Israeli society went off in all sorts of different directions. A new generation grew up that knew neither the pioneering spirit of Israel’s founders, nor the bubble of bravado that enveloped them after the stunning victory over the Arab armies in 1967. Israel struggled with poverty, absorption of immigrants, the stratification of income. It tired of sending its sons and daughters off to the front to fight barbarians, only to return to homes under siege by other barbarians.
Through all of this, Israel survived, prevailed, thrived economically. But, according to several writers in the last few years, it lost its soul. Even non-Jews who visited found a different Israel than the one they admired in the first decades of her existence. Previously, there were no questions about who Israelis were, and why they had to fight for their country. Increasingly, it seemed to many, there were no answers.
For eighteen days, Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali, you gave us back our soul. You reminded us that we are not a few million people with some ill-defined ties through a history about which we have only some fuzzy understanding. You allowed us to look at each other, and see ourselves in the people around us. Until we found out about your abduction, we sometimes despised and vilified many of the people with whom we now stood in prayer and longing together. Secular and religious, haredi and dati-leumi, Ashkenazic and Sefardic, black and white, leftist and rightist, young and old. We found common cause, a common heart – and even common words of prayer. Even those who had not prayed in years. We discovered that when we stopped screaming at each other, we spoke to G-d.
Please don’t misunderstand me. We have come together before. We always do, at times of adversity. But far more happened in the last eighteen days. It was not that we were appalled by the kidnapping of three young people. It was you in particular to whom we responded to. Your smiles, your innocence, your dedication to ideal. We found, without saying so, that when we looked inside ourselves, what we wanted to find was you. We had rediscovered the part of our national identity that we could all share.
We found our national soul.
We cannot console ourselves. But we can say “Thank you.”
And we can daven, that with so many having found their souls, that they will nurture them, that the cold, dark sorrow of mourning will turn into a fiery devotion of a people to its G-d, its Torah, its people, and its Land.