The fate of Eyal, Naftali and Gil-Ad: Between faith and responsibility

I wish the families of the missing teens that their faith in God will serve them well, or console them if worse comes to worst.

Families of missing teens (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Families of missing teens
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
One of the worst experiences a person can endure is having his or her child abducted, and not knowing what has become of them – especially in a situation where all the indications point to his or her no longer being among the living. The absence of conclusive information is unbearable.
I expect that the situation is easier for a parent who believes in God and/or fate, and does not question God’s or fate’s motives, than for a non-believer like myself. I remember that I found no solace in what several of my religious friends said to me when my eldest daughter was killed in an accident 19 years ago: that God took her because he loved her. Nor did I find solace in the book Why bad things happen to good people (of which I received three copies), though these were certainly not offensive, as was the suggestion of one creature who called me up two days before my daughter’s funeral to say that I was being punished for being a “left-wing piece of shit.”
I should like to add that anyone crass enough to insinuate to the parents of Eyal Yifrah, Naftali Frenkel and Gil-Ad Shaer that they are being punished for sending their sons to yeshivot in the occupied territories – and I sincerely hope that they have received no phone calls to that effect – is no better than the creature who tormented me.
In my world there is no superior force that directs what happens to us for better or worse, beyond what other human beings (who might wish us well or ill, or act out of indifference) do, our own more or less responsible conduct, and sheer coincidence.
However, no matter whether one is or is not a believer, it is impossible not to feel for the parents of Eyal, Naftali and Gil- Ad. They all seem like very fine, positive human beings, appreciative of all the efforts on behalf of their sons, people one would be privileged to know, irrespective of their beliefs or political affiliations. In this sense all of us – Right, Left, religious and secular – are with them in our thoughts, and hope for a positive outcome to this nasty event.
Some of us may pray. Those of us who do not pray – because we do not believe there is anyone to pray to – simply place our trust in the security forces, which despite their failure on this occasion to prevent the abduction of the three lads by heinous, heartless terrorists, will at least bring this tragic event to the fastest possible and most positive feasible conclusion.
It is a shame that antagonisms of an ideological nature have burst out publicly before the youths and their abductors have been found. I had originally said to myself that I would not write about the controversies before that happened.
However, since the controversies have burst out in full force, and many harsh and even ugly words have been uttered and written on this issue from both sides in the past week, I shall write what is on my mind, beyond the hope for the youths’ safe return home.
As I have already mentioned, there is a difference in approach to what happens to us in life and death between believers and non-believers.
However, I find it difficult to fathom believers who do not seem to accept the principle that irrespective of what God does or does not do, we have at least some personal responsibility for our own fate, and certainly for that of our children, and one doesn’t necessarily have to believe in the saying that “God helps those who help themselves.”
I do not know how many religious Jews accept the statement by Rabbi Dov Lior from Kiryat Arba to the effect that the abduction occurred as punishment for anti-Jewish laws passed by the Knesset. I sincerely hope they are few and far between. To me this statement seems as sacrilegious (Communications Minister Gilad Erdan used the term chilul Hashem, “desecration of God’s name) as those of some haredi (ultra-Orthodox) rabbis who have argued that the Holocaust occurred because of the fact that Jews followed socialism, nationalism, Reform Judaism and other “sinful” ideologies.
This is as if to say that God collaborates with criminals like the German Nazis and Muslim terrorists in order to punish his far from perfect chosen people.
But leaving aside the venom that Rabbi Lior and his like spew, I hope we can all agree on the following facts: • There are murderous extremist Muslims, many of them in Israeli territory, who wish us nothing but ill.
• The Israeli security forces might be successful 99 percent of the time in stopping abductions such as the one which occurred 11 days ago, but there is always a chance that they will fail.
• Had the police emergency line been more professionally manned, the chances of the security forces getting the three lads back alive would have been much better than they are today.
• In the absence of a satisfactory political settlement attempted abductions will continue to take place, no matter how effective our security forces or the police emergency line.
• It is more likely that a youth will be adducted from a hitchhiker’s station in Judea and Samaria at night, and by means of an unidentified car, than from such a station during the day, in the car of someone he knows, or some Israeli public transportation vehicle.
• Though hitchhiking isn’t entirely safe within the Green Line, and ought to be avoided, it is certainly safer than in Judea and Samaria.
I hope we can also agree that just as responsible parents will do everything possible to prevent their daughters (or sons) being sexually abused, and that young girls and boys ought to be taught how to avoid getting into situations in which sexual abuse scenarios are more likely, parents and their offspring should do everything possible to avoid any other forms of harm, including abductions.
In this context the statements to the media by various settlers that “we shall go on hitching rides because it is our right to hitchhike in our homeland” anger me as much as do those by some of my more extreme feminist acquaintances, who claim that women should be free to go anywhere and do anything, and therefore are never responsible in any way for being sexually abused, even if their conduct was irresponsible in the extreme.
On the issue of avoiding sexual harassment or abuse (or any premarital sexual relations for that matter), the religious community is extremely vigilant, to extremes that I frequently even find objectionable when they involve the exclusion of women from the public domain, or denying them equal rights. That being the case I cannot understand why some religious persons from the national religious community object to taking precautionary measures on issues like avoiding abductions in Judea and Samaria.
Where is the moral and/or practical difference? Why is it right to take all necessary precautions vis-à-vis our own people, but not vis-à-vis potential enemies? I do not know where the parents of Eyal, Naftali, and Gil- Ad stand on this issue, and at this point of time it doesn’t really matter. However, I cannot help wondering whether in the midst of their great anxiety regarding the fate of their sons they haven’t given it at least an inkling of thought.
Be that as it may, I wish them that their faith in God will serve them well, or console them if worse comes to worst.
The writer is a former Knesset employee.