Over the last three weeks we have been taught a lesson in courage, faith and character that has left an indelible impression on me and many others. All six parents of our three boys Eyal, Naftali, and Gilad have shown unbelievable strength through words and deeds alike – they have been an inspiration to the Jewish people and an example for the entire Western world.
They prayed, fought and rallied for their children, and they did so in a manner that united World Jewry. They have displayed true belief and they have taught us what man made in “the Image of God” can achieve if and when he chooses the right path. One is left after this initial period of mourning standing in absolute awe of the families, and we hope and pray that Hashem will give them the strength that they need and so thoroughly deserve with which to move forward.
And whilst this tragic shiva has been going on, Am Yisrael, in the south of our country have been under a daily bombardment of rockets. This is a norm that would be totally unacceptable in any other country in the world but, for some reason, requires “restraint” from us. For absolutely no rational reason we have been treated to a daily onslaught of missiles from the Hamas leadership and their terrorists in Gaza. Our people in the south are living in bomb shelters, and our government is trying its best to defend them without hurting regular civilians in the densely populated area of Gaza. In truth, it is miraculous that so far casualties have been minimal – we pray that this continues to be the case.
Once again, the regular people on the front line have taught us a lesson in determination and courage in the face of an enemy devoid of morals. We face an adversary who deliberately targets innocent civilians, that very same foe who is directly responsible for the abduction and murder of our three teenage Yeshiva students. Let it be clear to everyone – regarding Hamas, evil is the rule not the exception to it. Our Army, with the help of the Almighty, will defend us, but it is the inner strength of the regular people that both encourages and motivates us all – the inner strength that has brought us through the last two millennia. These people do not lead normal lives, but they remain in their homes – because they are our homes!
The three families, and the countless victims of daily rocket attacks, have set supreme standards for each and every one of us to emulate.
In this sicha, however, I feel the need to relate to a terrible event that has come to light over the last few days:
A minority group of extremists have been exposed and their recent actions have shamed the Jewish Nation to the core. First and foremost, I think it is true to say there is a feeling of nationwide shock. No situation, no emotion justifies this hideous crime. These murderers have presented us to the world in a light that is antithetical to everything that we stand for; indeed their actions negate the essence of Judaism. In Am Yisrael, these acts are definitively the exception and not the rule.
I have written to you, our students, several times over the last few weeks regarding our boys. And I now feel the necessity to write to you again. It would be contrary to what we stand for, and against everything we believe in, to remain silent in the light of the recent news reports.
I do believe and always have that the State of Israel is fundamentally good. However, that does not mean that we are always correct, it does not relieve us of the duty to analyze and introspect. With the help of God, the people of this country have performed miracles over the last 70 years, but there is still so much more to do. And the events of the last few days require immediate action, not Heaven forbid, because of World opinion – that is the least of our worries – but because some of our people have perpetrated a despicable crime and the massive majority who loathe such crimes cannot and must not remain silent.
It has now been confirmed that, towards the end of last week, a number of Jewish boys abducted an innocent Arab teenager from his neighborhood in Shoafat and killed him in the most contemptible way possible. We must scream out in outrage – this runs against every Jewish value that comes to mind. It is cold-blooded murder, and we must be quick in our overt and absolute condemnation of such acts of evil. It is our problem, and it must be rooted out immediately.
We live in the independent State of Israel, the Jewish State. We have a government, we have an army, and we have a police force. From the early hours of the morning after the abduction of our three boys, until this very moment, many of our armed forces have been involved in a manhunt after the evil terrorists that abducted and murdered them. That is their job and, Baruch Hashem, they do it well, with total commitment and enviable drive. In densely populated and often aggressive environments, they do their very best to filter out the terrorists and avoid hurting innocent bystanders who are frequently used as human shields. As we know only too well, and as Western armies fighting in the Middle-East have discovered in recent years, it is not always possible to realize the military objective without civilian casualties, and soldiers under pressure sometimes make mistakes. These mistakes are rarely left unpunished, specifically if they involve negligence, and to my mind we can boast one of the most moral armies in the world. The Israeli Army is called the IDF – its aim is to defend us from those who would otherwise drive us into the sea, and defend us they do.
But what do the actions of this group of Jewish terrorists have to do with the defense of our Nation? Who gives anyone the right to preach and perpetrate the cold-blooded murder of innocent people, whose crime is apparently that they were born as non-Jews in a Jewish State? What did this young teenager do that warranted such a vicious murder? This is way beyond taking the law into their own hands; this has nothing to do with law at all! For the last few days I have prayed that there be another explanation for the tragic death of this young teenager, but the truth has emerged, and the ugliness of that truth makes me tremble.
I am a proud citizen of the State of Israel. This is my country; it is my Homeland. We cannot choose to write about the heroes, and then opt for silence when matters of this severity arise. It is fundamentally wrong to sweep such acts of terror under the rug, especially when perpetrated by our own people. This has nothing to do with the Arab-Israeli reaction, it has little do with politics; we must not fall into the trap of making excuses; there are no excuses at all. This was a calculated act of murder, that has nothing to do with justice, nothing to do with our three boys, and nothing to do with Hamas, it is pure and simple hate and we cannot and must not be deterred from uprooting this evil – we do not do this!
Indeed, we have many sworn enemies in the Middle East, but not all of our neighbors are our enemies – that is so far from the truth. And we of all peoples should know that if groups of racists chanting “Death to the Arabs” are allowed to ferment in our society without a damning reaction from the decent law-abiding silent majority of citizens then we cannot be surprised by the ugly ramifications that we find ourselves confronted with today.
This is a desecration of God’s name because it is a cold-blooded murder of an innocent teenager; man made in the image of God must not behave in such a way. It is an act of qualitative evil.
Our President, our Prime Minister and his cabinet have spoken out clearly. Our Chief Rabbi, and Rabbi’s representing the entire spectrum of Judaism in Israeli society have openly rejected, in absolute terms, the actions of this minority group. But now we must go further:
Primarily, our leaders must act responsibly. They must be careful with their rhetoric; the reality in Israel today is full of complexities, there is no black and white, and we must take extra-special care of the messages that we relay. We do have enemies, but we have an Army to defend us from them and not everyone out there is our enemy. Most regular people just want to make a decent living and enjoy family life.
The word revenge must be omitted from our lexicon. The crime has been committed, the criminals have been caught and I am confident that they will be punished; we cannot turn the clocks back, but we must ensure that the lessons are learnt.
As Chief Rabbi David Lau remarked earlier today – the Talmud is very definitive on the characteristics of the Jewish Nation:
“This nation (of Israel) is distinguished by three characteristics: They are merciful, bashful and benevolent… Only he who cultivates these three characteristics is fit to join this nation” (Yevamot 79a).
As we head for our shelters and prepare to defend ourselves from the enemy without, we must ensure that we preserve the standards and values that have been ours since time immemorial. Truth and goodness will always prevail, and those are the ideals that we must strengthen and uphold.