Ceme­tery at­tack sham­bles

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHIEF RABBI EPHRAIM MIRVIS

“THIS DAY I call the heav­ens and the earth as wit­nesses against you that I have set be­fore you life and death, bless­ings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your chil­dren may live” (Deuteron­omy 30:19).

Through­out mil­len­nia, this divine call to choose life over death has been at the core of our Jewish iden­tity. In­deed, this bi­b­li­cal re­quire­ment im­me­di­ately pre­cedes the To­rah’s prom­ise of the land of Is­rael to the people of Is­rael, for the sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion of life is a pre­req­ui­site for, and hall­mark of, our dwelling in the land.

We love life, cher­ish life and sanc­tify life. The value of life un­der­pins the ethos of our faith to this day. Yet once again, we find our­selves grap­pling with tragic dis­re­gard for hu­man life.

This week, the world dis­cov­ered that Naf­tali Frenkel, Gi­lad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, the three miss­ing Is­raeli teenagers, had been mur­dered soon af­ter be­ing kid­napped. These pre­med­i­tated ex­e­cu­tions were an ac­tive choice to cru­elly ex­tin­guish in­no­cent life. The boys were mur­dered in cold blood.

So how did those who were hurt­ing most choose to act? In the depths of their an­guish, they spoke with love, hope and heart-rend­ing dig­nity. Be­fore tens of thou­sands of people in Rabin Square, the three moth­ers bared their souls to the world.

Rachel, mother of Naf­tali, pro­claimed it “an as­sem­bly of love and of unity”. Bat Galim, mother of Gi­lad, ad­dressed her son: “People have come to­gether to pray for your re­turn and when you come back you will find that our fam­ily has ex­panded greatly — you have broth­ers and sis­ters all over Is­rael and the world”. “We want you back al­ready,” said Iris, mother of Eyal, “we are wait­ing to em­brace you with warmth.”

And in cities the world over, for 18 days a people held its breath, re­spond­ing with mov­ing vig­ils and with prayer. It mat­tered not whether one is re­li­gious or sec­u­lar, Jew or gen­tile; all can em­pathise with the suf­fer­ing of a mother and fa­ther, of broth­ers and sis­ters and teach­ers and friends.

In the face of bru­tal­ity, we make the choice to em­brace life. We de­plore the loss of in­no­cent lives and reaf­firm our pos­i­tive hu­man­ity.

The moth­ers of Naf­tali, Gi­lad and Eyal pro­claimed hope, where hope seemed slim, and ar­tic­u­lated love, while their hearts were break­ing. Where oth­ers might have screamed, or sought re­venge, they main­tained their dig­nity.

As we wan­der, griev­ing, in yet an­other dark mo­ment, amid our pain we must strug­gle to re­mem­ber the re­demp­tive power of love and hope.

And though it is a strug­gle, it is one worth choos­ing. In the face of ter­ror, we walk to­gether, united. In our fear, we choose to open our hands and hearts to new friends we meet along the way. In our sorrow, we con­tinue to strive, yearn and pray for peace. And in the face of death, we will con­tinue to choose and sanc­tify life.

PHOTO: AP

Dig­nity: the par­ents of Naf­tali Frenkel

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