National tragedy and personal loss
Today, three Israeli teenagers, Gilad Shaar (16), Naftali Frenkel (16), and Eyal Yifrach (19), are the children, the sons and brothers, of everyone in Israel. Today, Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal are the sons and brothers of the Jewish people the world over. Today, in Jewish community memorials, from North America to England, to France, to South Africa, to Australia, they have become part of the historic drama of being a member of the Jewish people. Today, the unspeakable crime committed against them is the subject of Israeli Cabinet discussion, plans for response, and the stuff of Israeli national news headlines. Today, the murder of three Jewish teenagers captures the attention of the White House, the Kremlin, the Elysee Palace, and 10 Downing Street. Today, the murder of Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal transforms all Israel into one family. Today, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Officers, and the security and defense establishments, and the members of the Knesset are immersed in what has happened to Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal. Today, everyone in the Jewish world knows these three names and recognizes their faces, Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal.
That is today, and for tomorrow, and possibly even for a few more days and weeks. In not too many days the news and the conversation will move their names and their tragedy aside and other events will overtake Israeli, Jewish, and world consciousness. When that happens not too many days from now, we, who will soon forget, must today remember that when all is said and done, Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal are the sons, grandsons, and brothers of only a few people. After today is gone and the Shaar, Frenkel, and Yifrach families go home and sit down at dinner this Shabbat, there will be an empty place at the Shabbat table. That empty seat will never be filled. And on Shabbat morning these teenagers will not walk to synagogue with their families, and will not be late coming home for Shabbat lunch because they were hanging out with friends after shul.
And when today is over, after all is said and done, Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal will have died only to their parents. For each one of them has only one father and only one mother, and only those six parents lost a child. Only those six parents will live the rest of their lives with this palpable void. At family moments, sad and happy, at milestone moments when they would have been 18, 21, 25…, when if they were still here they would have been doing this or achieving that, or helping with this or saying that, there will be an abyss. For in the end, while the Jewish people have a long memory, national tragedy and historic events are never as close and as real and as enduring as the death of three children to their three mothers and to their three fathers, who will live out the rest of their lives always wondering what might have been, what might have been.