It was 30 days ago that we received the bitter news. For nearly three weeks Jews and non-Jews in Israel and around the world had been holding their collective breath. Those with a religious bent prayed and those without one hoped. But the sentiment was the same: If only Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah were still alive.
On June 30, the truth was known. Their bodies were found in a field not far from where they had been abducted on June 12. A national outpouring of emotion followed, which for many blurred the line that separates a level-headed call for justice from an angry demand for revenge.
A chain of events has since been set in motion by the kidnapping and murder of Naftali, Gil-Ad and Eyal. Muhammad Abu Khdeir was kidnapped and burned alive in a horrific act of blind vengeance perpetrated by a man who reportedly thinks he is the Messiah. Operation Brother’s Keeper, launched to track down the three kidnapped boys, was replaced with Operation Protective Edge, which aims to restore security and quiet to the millions of Israelis within the range of Hamas’s rocket fire.
Hamas began firing in “retaliation” for Israel’s attempt to track down and capture the three boys’ murderers. Both of the suspects are low-level members of Hamas.
The circle of Israeli mourners has widened to include the many family members and friends of the IDF soldiers who have fallen in battle and the several civilian casualties.
This evening, the 30th day since the discovery of the bodies of Eyal, Gil-Ad and Naftali, a special commemoration service will be held at The Great Synagogue in Jerusalem.
Members of the Fraenkel, Yifrach and Shaer families will attend as will President Reuven Rivlin, chief rabbis of Israel David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef, opposition leader Isaac Herzog and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
Prof. Asa Kasher, the author of the IDF’s code of ethical conduct, who will speak at the event, told The Jerusalem Post that one of the messages he plans to convey is relevant to all grieving families.
“More emphasis needs to be placed on perpetuating the memories of the deceased,” said Kasher, whose son died in a tragic hiking accident in 1991.
“We set aside a day of remembrance. What about the other 364 days?” Kasher established and helped raise funds for the Yehoraz Institute, named after his son, which has encouraged exploration of ethics in various fields. Two books have been published, one of which covers the field of military ethics. Two musical compositions in Yehoraz’s name have also been produced.
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, who established the Mekor Chaim Yeshiva High School where Gil-Ad and Naftali were students, expressed a similar idea.
Steinsaltz has called on mourners to not only recite the kaddish prayer for the deceased, but to embody the idea of holiness expressed in the prayer. We can do this “by studying more Torah, by fulfilling one more mitzva, by our physical actions or by giving of our time and money to those in need,” he said. “Our acts do not serve to elevate the souls of these boys – for they are in a supreme spiritual level that needs no further elevation. Our acts elevate our own souls, curing all the lacks that were and still are in our world.”
An exclusive interview with Steinsaltz will appear in this Friday’s Jerusalem Post Magazine.
One need not believe in an afterlife to derive meaning from the death of a loved one. The outpouring of grief and anger that accompany loss can and must be channeled into constructive acts that make the world a slightly better place. And this tikkun olam can, in turn, serve as a small consolation to those who are grief-stricken over an irrevocable loss. Perhaps in this way we can transform death, destruction and loss into a positive force for good.