Unanswered prayers

Unanswered prayers

I write this on Tuesday morning, as all of Israel – and decent people everywhere – reel from the cruel shock of yesterday afternoon’s discovery of the bodies of kidnapped teenagers Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrach.

Monday’s date on the Jewish calendar was 2 Tammuz, a day of emotionally mixed connotations for me. On 2 Tammuz a decade ago, my 10-year-old niece Malka Klein (may she rest in peace) was killed by a speeding van as she crossed a street on her way home from school in Rehovot. On 2 Tammuz four years ago, our first granddaughter, Elisheva Leichman, was born in Jerusalem.

Yesterday we began our day by singing “Happy Birthday” to Elisheva on the phone, and ended it by traveling to Rehovot for a 10th yahrzeit gathering at Malka’s grave. We drove home in silence in our rented car, never thinking of turning on the radio. And so it was not until 10:30 last night that we learned of the discovery of the boys’ lifeless bodies.

How could it be that these precious teenagers already were dead as millions of us gathered for mass recitations of Psalms? How could it be that they lay buried even as their mothers appealed to the U.N. Human Rights Council, wishing not for revenge but only for the chance to hug their sons again?

Hopes are dashed and prayers left unanswered for reasons no mortal can fathom.

As of today, thousands of words have been written about this heartbreaking tragedy, and thousands more will follow. I cannot add much to the outpouring of grief, anger, sadness, and the inevitable political commentary from all points on the spectrum.

But I would like to share just a few of the local reactions I have seen.

From a young woman in my neighborhood:

“The only thing we, as individuals, can do is try and make this world a slightly better place, in memory of the boys who won’t come home. Please pledge that for the duration of the seven days of mourning, every time you go to the supermarket or the makolet [grocery], you will donate three food items to the needy – one for each boy. If you enjoy a meal out, consider buying an extra meal to give to someone outside who looks hungry. Hopefully the families will find some small comfort in knowing that the memory of their sons is being honored by kind deeds.”

From Women in Green:

“As a Zionist answer to the despicable murder of our three boys, a pioneering group of Jews headed by Women in Green went up to Givat Oz – a hilltop overlooking Tzomet HaGush [Gush Etzion Junction] – in order to create a new Jewish presence in the area. Since the beginning of Zionism, the land of Israel is sometimes built with blood and tears.”

From a family expelled from Gush Katif in 2005:

“But if you will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then shall those that you let remain of them be as thorns in your eyes, and as pricks in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land wherein you dwell” (Numbers 33:5).

From Jerusalem Post columnist Herb Keinon:

“To understand Israel, to understand so much of what the country does, it is necessary to understand the insecurity that gnaws at the psyche after incidents like this: after kidnappings, after rockets randomly fired into living rooms, after bombs blowing up buses. Those incidents sap desire to ‘take risks for peace.'”

From Rabbi David Stav, chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical association:

“Now we have two options: the first is to return to the cynicism and arguments of yesterday, and to blame the police, the state, and anyone else. But there is another way too: to use everything that we have achieved in these days to [attain] new heights, to take all the love and faith that we learned from the [bereaved] families and take our people and our state to a new, beautiful and truthful place.”

As Israelis always do, we will continue praying as we mourn, and we will keep faith that some prayers, at least, will be answered.

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