The heart bleeds, splitting apart from pain. A miserable outburst. Nervous twitches remain, air that was trapped between the ribs is let out in tears. For two and a half weeks, the three families of kidnapped teens Gil-ad Shaer, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach along with an entire people held on with great belief, with optimism and with a love of life. Looking toward the door — any minute he’ll walk in. Making their way to him, the living child who is waiting for mom and dad. The newspaper articles they clipped for him so he can read about what happened while he was gone. When the police car was driving them to a meeting, they joked that they should make a movie about it — he wouldn’t believe what had happened to his mother and father.
And in truth, Gil-ad, you wouldn’t believe it. How your unknown parents with two other regular couples became the speaker for a new generation. How they gave others strength. How they knew to express their thanks, something we’ve forgotten the sound of. Thank you, they said over and over.
And you, Eyal, Naftali, and Gil-ad — what you’ve done to our people. How you taught us to pray. Religious prayer and secular prayer, that came together to heal a wounded nation. How you reminded us that we are one. After who know how long a separation, moments of unity are a precious light. Apart from a few cynics, the hearts of the entire people beat together with worry for you, and the entire people are weeping for your short time. How you caused flowers to bloom out of rock. In your deaths — pure and beautiful, young and smiling — you secured what many don’t manage to achieve in their lifetimes.
For two and a half weeks, we waited for you. And in the meantime, without knowing, you saved lives: huge stocks of weapons were found in Judea and Samaria, ammunition caches inside private homes. Who knows what slaughter they might have wreaked? The arrests of terrorists who were on the brink of the next attack, the intelligence gained, and waves of love for the soldiers. A smart, humane army that took on a huge operation in the name of the Jewish value of life. Everyone for the sake of three, and not a hair on a soldier’s head was harmed.
The dizzying days of waiting — reality? A dream? They were also days of grace and mercy. Your parents and friends had time to prepare for the worst. Maybe that time was a gift from heaven. Time in which they were embraced: you’re not alone, people shouted while waving flags at road intersections; you’re not alone, said the crowds who stood in silence at the rally in Rabin Square; you’re not alone, said the stream of visitors, the supporters, the worried, the ones who brought blankets. If only the echo of these voices stay with the parents while they are in deep mourning.
Two Fridays ago, the Talmon community, which turned out to be a jewel of humanity, became one big family, a capsule of kindness on top of a pretty isolated hilltop. We have been tied to each other in blood, forever.
But the creator doesn’t work for us. Maybe the prayers helped make the awful time of uncertainty shorter, who knows — maybe we were spared years of torture. Maybe we needed this time to grow. Anyone who spared you a good thought, who promised to be better for your sakes, to do a good deed for you, who remembered that it was possible to lift one’s eyes and ask for pity. Eyal, Gil-ad, and Naftali, you made this people greater. You made us all better.
Myself, I discovered what a curse it is to be close to the news. How I would have wanted to be far away, especially yesterday. The rumors began around 6:30 in the evening. We gathered in the home of the community secretary: the rabbi, a few friends, a social worker. The Shaers’ daughters and a few visitors were at home and Ophir and Bat-Galim were in meetings when the army told them to return home immediately and prepare for a dramatic message. They understood and didn’t want to understand. The trip to Talmon was very long, a trip inside a fraction line.
In the meantime, they asked me to go to their home and get the visitors out, so when the parents came they would see only the five girls. I tell everyone that it’s time to eat a family dinner and ask that they leave. Take the cheery vases of flowers out of the living room, along with the wreaths sent from all over the country. Clear the cakes off the table. The family’s phone doesn’t stop ringing. I tell the girls not to answer. I’m alone with the five of them, tense, knowing, and pretending. “There’s a military deployment,” I tell the oldest. “Mom and Dad are on their way here and they want to have dinner with you in peace.”
And then the parents arrive. The house is closed. Only the family is inside. Army officials go in to give the official notification. The parents tell the girls. “Baruch dayan emet” (“Blessed is the True Judge”), the words uttered in response to bad news, are whispered in the midst of a the fire burning in the heart, on the skin. Psychologists come in. Friends of the girls. Outside, police tape is put up. People outside on the street cover their mouths with their hands. No one can go to sleep.
The tension drops. The power and the fortitude and all the lofty words can’t bring a child back to his mother. There is no comfort. Only a few rays of sunshine in a cloud of mourning: Avi and Rachel, Uri and Iris, Ophir and Bat-Galim — you are not alone. You will never be left alone.