At the very moment that I was leaving from Alon Shvut to the airport last Friday morning at 2am, for a recruiting visit in South Africa, three of our dearest children were being kidnapped – they have since been identified as Eyal Yifrach, 19, from Elad; Naftali Frenkel, 16, from Nof Ayalon; and Gilad Sha’ar, 16, from Talmon. Three innocent boys on their way home for Shabbat from a week of learning Torah, have simply “disappeared off the face of the earth” and have not been seen or heard of since – we pray unceasingly for their healthy return.
I was oblivious as to what was happening back home during the 9 hour flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. I arrived pretty close to Shabbat and phoned home immediately only to hear this terrible news from my wife in Gush Etzion. I searched on the web for an hour but found nothing – it was only moments before Shabbat commenced here that the news finally broke out.
From that moment until this very moment, I feel as if there is a heavy stone on my heart. I cannot smile, I cannot laugh – and my recruiting is so hard to do with all of this going on while I am so, so far from my home; when every other moment my mind wanders, thinking of the parents, thinking of the boys. Every time the phone makes a noise I quickly run to pick it up to see if there are new updates. I wake up three times a night to check the news – but nothing, absolutely nothing.
But nonetheless in these terrible times – what inspires me most about our nation is that I know that everyone of you is doing exactly what I am doing – מי כעמך ישראל. Everyone here, everyone I speak to in Israel, any student or alumnus writing in – all share in the same terrible worry. Do you know of any nation in the world like that? On Monday evening here in Johannesburg, between Mincha and Maariv – the main Mizrach Shul was overflowing with people who had come to say Tehillim – it looked like Kol Nidrei! כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה is not just a beautiful notion – when push comes to shove, when the going gets tough, we unite in the most phenomenal fashion, like no other nation, because we are like no other nation; we do not simply share a faith, we are brothers. Everyone of us feels that their family has been attacked – who would not want to be part of such a nation – אשרינו מה טוב חלקינו ומה נעים גורלנו – the beauty of our גורל is not just that we are the people of The Book, but that we are all in this together, and because we are all in this together – “They come in their chariots, and they come on their horses, but we (together) will call out in the name of the Lord our God, they will bow down and fall, and we will (ultimately) stand” – forever.
One looks at and hears the words of the parents of these boys; we attempt to encourage them, but it is they who encourage us; one tries to console them, but the victims are the ones doing the consoling – their strength, their faith is a flagship for our nation. These people are the cream of our nation. Anyone can preach faith, but when the moment of truth arrives there are very few who remain standing to tell the tale. These are people to emulate, people who every one of us should be in awe of.
Hamas are not the first to try their hand at destroying the Jewish people, and they will most certainly fail just as their predecessors did. Kli Yakar on his comments to the verse – “אשר לא ידע את יוסף” – explains that if only Pharaoh had known the detailed life story of Yosef, his ability to survive against all odds, his complete life story that took him from the jails of Egypt to the role of Prime Minister, he would never have dared challenge his descendants.
We know that at the end all will be well – Hashem will save us and redeem us – but we do not know when that will be, and what the cost will be in the meantime, what price we will have to pay – God Himself knows how much we have paid hitherto.
So for now we are required to sit tight, strong in our faith with the knowledge that just as we have ultimately overcome our many enemies of yesteryear and are still here to tell the tale – so, b’ezrat Hashem – we will overcome these terrorist organizations, these people whose flag is a flag of death and destruction, people who would rather die and cold bloodedly murder than put out their hand in a real gesture for peace.
Now, we must turn to our God, King of the Universe and pray in truth with all our might, day and night. Whilst the rest of the world is totally immersed in twenty two people kicking a ball, Am Yisrael should be totally immersed in praying for their children – at the moment nothing else matters.
And what else can we do right now? We must take the unity that has emerged at such a terrible time and ensure that we sustain it. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world we are one and must remain one.
The last year has been a year of terrible internal strife in Am Yisrael. Much is a direct result of the political agendas and manipulations of just a few people. But during these times, here and now, we can see the truth, the real AmYisrael! We can see that when the need arises we are one, there is no difference between black and white, Sephardi or Ashkenazi, religious or irreligious, we are all in the same boat – and the name of that boat is Am Yisrael, and we are on a long journey to our final destination. In the context of our incredible history, I truly believe that we can see the sea shore, but we apparently have a few storms left to ride – so the orders coming from the Almighty, the Captain of our ship, is “all hands on deck” – we must and will unite as a crew, who all share the same dream of reaching the shore and celebrating the end of the long journey.
May the Almighty bless our missing boys and bring them home safely to their families,
May the Almighty bless the people of Israel wherever they are,
May the Almighty bless our courageous soldiers who will not leave a stone unturned in their search for the boys,
And may the Almighty bless – מדינת ישראל ראשית צמיחת גאולתנו
Wave that beautiful flag of our nation, because it stands for everything that is true and right in this world!
Rav David Milston