OUR POPULATION IS SMALL IN NUMBERS, BUT TREMENDOUS IN STRENGTH 

By Rachel Lavictore
AJT CONTRIBUTOR

All day, I’ve been struggling to sit down and write this article. Not because I was avoiding work or busy with other things, but solely because of how difficult I knew this would be. All over the world, there are people in situations similar to mine—writers, rabbis, teachers, and parents—and we’ve all been tasked with the daunting responsibility to address our communities in light of the recent events in Israel. The situation overseas is impossible to ignore, but it’s also certainly not easy to talk about.

A few weeks ago, on Thur., June 12, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped on their way home from school. One of their fathers reported his son missing the next morning and the police search began promptly. The car that had been used in the kidnapping was discovered early that morning, but the boys themselves were still no where to be found. It wasn’t until last Mon., June 30, that a civilian search group spotted the bodies in an area between two Palestinian towns near Hebron. A nation livened by hopeful prayer was immediately transformed into one struck with both grief and anger.

The boys were Naftali Frankel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach. Eyal was the oldest of the bunch at 19 years old – Naftali and Gilad were both 16. They all went to school together, and they were all good kids.

But this isn’t a news report. Rather, my goal here is to provide some form of solace—for my audience, as well as for myself. These boys were my age. The fact that their lives were ended so early, and by such tragic events, is… well, there are no words. There is truly nothing that could be said that might diminish the horror of the situation. However, I think some comfort can be found in the world’s reaction to such an event.

Hours after the boys’ bodies were found, Israeli Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, released a statement saying, “our hearts bleed, the entire nation cries.” While this is a remarkable thing – that the entire country of Israel cared so deeply for the three boys – it doesn’t even begin to cover the breadth of the situation. In response to this tragedy, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide came together to both celebrate the lives and mourn the deaths of Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal.

The support didn’t go unnoticed – Gilad’s father openly thanked the world for its support: “Our Jewish people, we love you with all our heart, we feel your warm-heartedness to the bottom of our hearts and it reaches our children. This is what gives us strength. Thanks to your prayers, our Jewish people, all of us are strong… We are going through difficult times. I want to embrace the Jewish people with an embrace of gratitude, and embrace of thanks, an embrace of prayer. You are giving us strength and resolve in these days, and we are transmitting all this positive energy to our Gilad. Gilad is strong as are his two friends.”

This week’s Torah portion, specifically, has little relevancy here; but what is important is the section of the Torah we’re currently reading, and have been reading for some months now. It was back in January that we read the story of the Exodus. G-d took the Jewish people out of Egypt, saved them from their lives of slavery, and destroyed the Egyptians in the Red Sea. He promised the Israelites a homeland and since then, Moses has been leading the people through the desert. They’ve suffered famines and grown angry; they’ve built sanctuaries and won wars; they’ve faced deaths and also celebrations. And yet, the Israelites are still in the desert. No one said the journey would be easy.

This is the strength that Mr. Shaar spoke of, the undying strength of the Jewish people. Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal were killed because they were Jewish. They’ve joined the long list of martyrs throughout our history and unfortunately, we all know they won’t be the last. But being Jewish has never been “easy,” and has always required us to come together and to have faith—as the Israelites did—that one day we will see a brighter future. Our population is small in numbers, but tremendous in strength. We will get through this together just as we have gotten through the countless tragedies that polluted our incredible history. Just as Mr. Shaar said, “We are believers and the children of believers. We believe that everything G-d does, He does for the good.”