At the time I am writing this I am waking up to the news that six individuals have been arrested in Israel for the alleged murder of a young boy sixteen year old named Mohammad Abu Khieder who was abducted on last Wednesday morning and found dead burnt in the woods outside of Jerusalem East. This was less than forty eight hours after the discovery of the slain bodies of the three Israeli teens, Eyal Yifrach, z”l, Naftali Frankel, z”l, and Gilad Shaar, z”l, after a grueling intensive eighteen days of search and hope.
What have we done?
My heart sunk when I learned the news about the disappearing of the three teenagers, aged as my two boys and I prayed as intensely as I could for their safe return. My heart sunk again when I learned the news that they would return home lifeless. My heart sunk so many times in the interval praying for the families who were showing their beautiful resolve and demeanor all along the grueling weeks of anguish about their sons and loved ones. My heart was tight and my tears always on the cusp of my eyelids when I saw and read the words of those three mothers who stood up under the microscope that is so often geared at the place, this tiny homeland our hearts soar for, that receive so much hatred and criticism when its people show so much grandeur and qualities of the heart and dignity even in the face of despicable tragedy.
And then I learn the news about yet another horrific murder of a young boy. Who has apparently done nothing else than bear his origin in a family that is not a Jewish family, and speculations about the kidnappers went horrible very quickly, from rumors of it being a horrible crime of honor to the screams of revenge from nationalistic and extremist right-wing Jews.
I live very far on the globe from where all these events are taking place and yet it feels like it is happening outside my windows. Because I am a Jew and because I grew up loving Israel like my motherland and yearning for it the same way I yearn for other places far away that I bear in my heart and feel exiled from. I have grown up a Jew believing that it is my responsibility to hold a life of higher moral standards and to raise awareness to those moral standards in all ways that are in my reach.
I have seen the same higher moral standards in the way the family of the slain Israeli teenagers have conducted themselves, and I wanted to show my respect during this period of shiva, the seven days of deep mourning that follow the burial. Respect that include keeping silent until the mourner speaks and respect that means listening to what the mourner is wanting to hear about his or her grief, and not bring my own issues into the conversation, but only bring my compassion and love and support.
And then because it seems that other individuals have expressed their own ways in a horrific way of alleged revenge, in a senseless act as horrible as the death of the young yeshivah boys, as brutal as their despicable murder, as barbaric and inhuman in the supposed name of retaliation, I cannot stay mute and silent and I want to scream “what have we done?”.
I am thinking, without knowing who the suspected people are or come from, that they also have a family who love them, or so I do hope and sometimes I hope not: because how unbearable their pain must be that they are becoming the example of the forbidden acts that all our torah is laying out page after page? Where is the higher standard of a nation of priest that has to shine light into the darkness?
During seven days we are supposed to show all we can to tend to the needs of the mourners and make the transition into their shattered for ever world they will have to reenter after they buried their child. Knowing that this transition is tainted with the scare of escalating violence, discussions of whose blood is holier than the other, hatred and debates that do not do any kiddush hashem is breaking my heart even more.
I do not want to live in a world where things are so polarized as to whether there are “us” and “them”. I have dedicated myself to always rise when I hear discrimination between human beings because I strongly believe that there is only one human race under one Creator and that each of us is unique with a unique purpose and meaning and that the death of a single individual is the end of a world of possibilities. I strongly believe that our mission is to repair a broken world where we are separate and that it is morally wrong to emphasize those separations with discrimination.
This is not a time for justification. This is not a time for hatred and revenge which are forbidden by the laws I personally want to claim I abide to. This is a time for silence and increased acts of kindness, a time for building, including building bridges and relationships. If it is also a time to pursue justice, always, I do not want to be an avenger, I want to study and understand where justice is because I want to believe I am humble enough to admit I do not know.