June 16, 2014

Bring Back Our Boys

After last Thursday’s kidnapping of three Israeli teens, the country has become gripped by tension, heaviness, worry and sorrow. It is as if the nation has been stabbed in the heart. And as the days go on with no new discovery, the knife twists, deepening our anguish. The TV, radio, Internet, Twitter, and Facebook beep and tweet with angles on the story. The “Bring back our boys” Facebook campaign was recently started at Bar Ilan University and is gathering force. We check the news countless times during the day, hoping, praying for a good ending.

This morning, I was part of a large group of women who gathered to recite tehillim; mothers and grandmothers, each one of us in the room has loved, doted and nurtured children, and each of us felt the depth of despair of the families involved.

Slowly, a woman read a verse of the psalms and we all repeated it. The room was silent except for the ancient words of King David that echoed in the synagogue. Someone sobbed, another’s woman’s voice shook as she broke into tears.

We may not personally know the boys, but feel like we do. They are our children’s age--young, sweet boys simply on their way home from school. They have never known violence or fear, just the tender love of their parents, warm friendships, the fun and freedom of being a teen. And this has all been destroyed.

‘Why?’ we ask. They are just children. Our children. Everyone’s children.  My friend knows one mother well and while praying for the boys’ safety, she stumbled while reciting the mother’s Hebrew name, the shock and fearful reality weighing her down. Another boy is the madrich, the youth group leader of my daughter’s classmate. Yesterday, this 13-year-old girl spent the school day quietly reciting psalms. Another boy is close family friends of our rabbi and over Shabbat, the Rabbi and Rebbetzin were in a dazed shock.

We are all affected and feel like we cannot live our normal lives with such heaviness. Everything now seems trite, unimportant. Saturday was a friend’s birthday. All day she walked around tearful and when asked if she wanted to go out to celebrate, she said ‘no.’ How can one celebrate at such a time? 

The army is now on high alert. I received an SMS that my son’s best friend, a paratrooper, was moved to Hebron. Standing Together, an organization that helps soldiers visited the special forces who are working on the case and appealed to people to donate cold drinks and ice cream. Everyone in the country is involved, body and soul.

Before Kabbalat Shabbat at synagogue in Tsfat, we all gathered and recited prayers. On Saturday, we found ourselves in a cave in Tsfat atop the metsuda. A large group of kids who were the same age as the kidnapped boys were in the cave. Spontaneously, they formed a circle in the darkness, hugging each other tightly and swaying. They sang:

Ana b'choach gedulat yemincha tatir ts’rurah
kabel rinat am’cha, sagvenu, taharenu, norah

O Lord, with the greatness​ of thy powerful right hand, we pray to thee to loosen those that are bound in captivity​. Accept the cry of thy people; exalt and purify us, O thou who art tremendou​s!

The words echoed against the dank, old walls of this cave. I could tell these teens felt the pain and they also knew the power of prayer. It came from a deep place inside each one and poured out, creating a bond of unity. These teens were Modern Orthodox and suddenly,  out of the shadows, bobbed three young Hareidi men. They joined in the song, their black hats swaying along with the group, their prayer coalescing with the teens’ prayer. The pain stings, yet it promotes unity and strength that know no equal. 

In tears, I looked up, as if following the streaming, floating words of their song and spied a tiny opening at the top of the cave. Cobwebs, weeds and beyond, a dab of brilliant blue sky above.

We may now be in confusion and darkness, but we must believe in the light. The entire country is now gripped in pain and prayer. Our thoughts are constantly returning to these boys, our prayers concentrated on their safe return, may they come home speedily.

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