Sunday, March 09, 2008

Mercaz Harav - Everyone knows Someone

I'd like to post two points about Thursday's pigua which is still so much in our minds.

The news of just so many teenagers killed in the Mercaz HaRav pigua has been heartbreaking. Moreover, with two kids killed from the Gush, one in Efrat and another in Neve Daniel, it has been very close to home. Israel is so small, that everyone knows someone involved. The boy killed in Neve Daniel has a sister in my daughter's class. The boy from Kochav Hashachar is the son of the Mohel who performed my son's Brit Mila. On Friday, I attended the Lavaye (funeral) of Avraham David Moses. Only when at the funeral did I realise that I knew both the father and the step-father of this child.

But this email that I received today took this all to a new level. It is from someone that I work with at Nefesh B'Nefesh:

Every morning I take the 35 bus line to work. It's a quick ride and usually takes no more than 12 minutes. The third stop after I get on by the shuk is directly in front of Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav. This morning I found myself a bit anxious, unsure of what I was going to see as we passed by. As I looked around, I saw death notices pasted all over the street and flowers that had been brought lined the entrance to the Yeshiva.

When the bus pulled up to the stop, the driver shut off the engine and stood. With tears in his eyes he told everyone sitting on the bus that one of the boys killed on Thursday night was his nephew. He asked if everyone on the bus would mind if he spoke for a few minutes in memory of his nephew and the other boys that were killed. After seeing head nods all over the bus he began to speak. With a clear and proud voice, he spoke beautifully about his nephew and said that he was a person who was constantly on the lookout for how to help out anyone in need. He was always searching for a way to make things better. He loved learning, and had a passion for working out the intricacies of the Gemara. He was excited to join the army in a few years, and wanted to eventually work in informal education.

As he continued to speak, I noticed that the elderly woman sitting next to me was crying. I looked into my bag, reached for a tissue and passed it to her. She looked at me and told me that she too had lost someone she knew in the attack. Her neighbors child was another one of the boys killed. As she held my hand tightly, she stood up and asked if she too could say a few words in memory of her neighbor. She spoke of a young man filled with a zest for life. Every friday he would visit her with a few flowers for shabbat and a short dvar torah that he had learned that week in Yeshiva. This past shabbat, she had no flowers.

When I got to work, one of my colleagues who lives in Efrat told me that her son was friends with 2 of the boys who had been killed. One of those boys was the stepson of a man who used to teach in Brovenders and comes to my shul in Riverdale every Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur to be a chazan for one of the minyanim.

We are all affected by what goes on in Israel. Whether you know someone who was killed or know someone who knows someone or even if you don't know anyone at all, you are affected. The 8 boys who were killed will continue to impact us all individually and as a nation. Each one of us has the ability to make a profound impact on our world.

This coming wednesday morning, I will be at Ben Gurion airport at 7 am with Nefesh B'Nefesh welcoming 40 new olim to Israel. We will not deter. We can not give up. We will continue to live our lives and hope and work for change, understanding and peace.

A second point is about the dignity and restraint which everyone has been exhibiting here. At the Levaye there were tears but no anger, no calls for vengeance. Just silence, tears and palpable grief. In fact, more than that. The mother of Avraham David Moses thanked God for "the 16 years we had the privilege of raising him, 16 years of purity of heart and honesty." How can a mother in her grief respond in that way? It is simply incredible.

On the night of the pigua, a few people stood opposite Mercaz Harav calling chants for vengeance and "Death to Arabs." The Rosh Yeshiva went to them and aske dthem to leave. "This is not our way," he told them. "We respond with love of the land, love of Torah, love of Israel. we will rebuild our land, our nation and remain attached to Torah."

How starkly different we are to our enemies. May we always be filled with gentle dignity, love and hope, even when our enemies exploit those "weaknesses" to frighten and hurt us.

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