Missing yeshiva students Naphtali Fraenkel, Eyal Yifrach and Gil-ad Shaar..
Like you, I have been suffering from depression since the three boys were kidnapped. First anger, then thoughts of the families, of the other students, of what the government might do. All these racing swiftly through my head. Then depression.
Our family has a personal stake in the search: two grandchildren, one religiously observant young woman and one observant male, both soldiers, both charged with specific roles in the search. In our family, which has a range of Jewish practice, mostly observant, two generations of observant women have worn or wear uniforms.
Like you, I have looked for ways of shedding the depression.
Suddenly, unbidden, the tune and words of the first “modern” Hebrew song I learned flashed into mind. I have heard it only from my Hebrew teacher in the Zionistic afternoon school I attended in Toronto 10 hours a week. I have never heard it since, nor have I seen it in any book of Hebrew poems. Written in simple, near Biblical Hebrew, here’s how it translates: Arise, my brothers / with a happy heart! / Do not cry! No, no! / We shall build our Land.
Almost embarrassingly simple, the words, “‘al la-bekhi, lo! Va-lo! – Do not cry! No! No!” rang silently in my head.
I was back in the front row of our Hebrew class, my friend Leo Chaikoff next to me on the two-seat desk, and our teacher, Mr. Abella, of the fabled Toronto clan, was pointing to the words written on the blackboard in his clear, large, Hebrew script, and singing them to us in his fine tenor voice. This was over 70 years ago. We Canadian children knew our parents cried when they spoke of di Heym, the home, the shtetl in Poland, especially as World War II raged then, and there was no word from our families still there.
That song, those simple words, may well have been written after the Kishinev pogroms in 1904, or after those which followed in Russia, Poland and Romania. Do not cry. Build your Land.
My heart is heavy, as are yours, dear readers. We cannot rejoice; we must shed a tear, or sigh. But the power of Jewishness has been and is to look forward; not just to cry, but to build a “good land,” a Biblical term, and a good people.
That may sound like a cliché. Just as that simple song, written probably a century ago after a pogrom and taught by Mr. Abella some 70 years ago, sounds like a cliché. But, we can have faith in the validity of our clichés, because any truth can be either an empty cliché or a wholesome truth, depending on how we live.
Yet another cliché/non-cliché: this morning a new great-granddaughter was born overnight. Joy pushed pain aside temporarily.
As I write, I do not know what we shall be reading about the kidnapped boys when this is printed. Carrying the pain, and hoping for joy, we go about our daily rounds, united for this while like the storied Abella family in Toronto. In that era of fearful ideological rifts, often ripping families apart, there were three Abella brothers: one Torah ve-Avodah (HaPo’el HaMizrachi), one Labor Zionist, one Revisionist. All of them were Zionists without a whiff of cliché.
We can learn from those three brothers. Tomorrow, we will divide again into our various camps of conflicting beliefs and competing ideologies.
Today, we are simply one family.
Avraham Avi-hai is a Jerusalemite. He has been a Zionist from age ten, when he realized that the land he was learning about was not a myth or fairytale; it was where pioneers were creating a firstname.lastname@example.org
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