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Friday, December 26, 2014

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Fighting the need for revenge

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Bernie Farber

They could have been your children, they could have been mine. Three teenagers, still boys really, Naftali Frenkel,16, from Nof Ayalon, Gilad Shaar, 16, from Talamon and Eyal Yifrah, 19, from Elad, were kidnapped in June. Their bodies were discovered in a shallow grave not far from Hebron.

They were like any other boys. They enjoyed music. Naftali, I have read, had a beautiful voice and would sing often, guitar in hand, friends listening and joining in. Eyal, too, liked to sing. I heard him on a YouTube video, a young voice full of hope, with a smile that lit up his face. My two boys also play guitar and love to sing, and I thank God every day that their voices are still strong.

How does one cope with such searing horror? 

Yes, the world is sometimes a very dark place. In Nigeria, 200 school girls are kidnapped by an extremist Muslim sect, Boco Haram. In parts of Africa, there is still horrendous child slave labour. In South America, drug cartels murder seemingly at random. But these were our boys, our Jewish children. This happened in our home.

Our anger seems to know no bounds. We cry out for justice. Our sorrow seems to know no depths as our tears are endless. 

The immediate human emotion of desire for revenge is hard to keep in check. Indeed, immediately after our boys were found murdered, a Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and murdered outside of Jerusalem. A Jewish man and two minors were arrested.

Yet, despite our immense grief, the vast majority of Jews and Israelis reject such hatred and have not succumbed to lawlessness. Despite our heavy hearts, Israeli mothers have not cheered the death of Arab children. 

Indeed, Naftali’s family had this to say upon hearing of the murder of the young Arab boy in Jerusalem: “If the Arab youth was murdered because of nationalistic motives, then this is a horrible and horrendous act. There is no difference between [Arab] blood and [Jewish] blood. Murder is murder. There is no forgiveness or justification for any murder.”

Yet how does one strive to understand? How does one move on? 

Tragically the history of the Jewish People has been filled with such catastrophes. We have had to endure war, genocide, anti-Semitism and discrimination. 

Our history is filled with the tears of mothers grieving for their children and the broken hearts of fathers wanting to embrace their sons one last time. We have had to endure monumental pain, but we have also learned that justice cannot be ruled by emotion. 

Sadly, the events have led to yet another round of war. 

From angry words to Hamas firing dozens of lethal rockets into Israel, no nation can be expected to withstand such an onslaught, and so, Israel has done what it must do to protect its people. 

Hamas is a cult of death manipulating even its own people to ignore Israeli messages to vacate areas to protect Gazan civilians. The more Gazans killed in Israeli bombings, the more Hamas rejoices. 

For us, we must not give in to the temptation of revenge, even in these times.

In eulogizing Gilad Shaar on behalf of the family, Yair Lapid, Israel’s minister of finance, expressed what I want to believe we all hold in our hearts. 

He said in part: “If we want to take revenge on these murderers, and we find them and punish them, the true revenge will be the ability to transcend the differences among us and to embrace one another, despite all of our shortcomings and the disagreements among us. If, indeed, we want to sanctify Gilad’s memory, we need to choose what to sanctify: the hostility toward the other or the love for each other – that which divides us or that which binds us, the suspicion or the trust among ourselves.”

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