They were three boys, innocent young boys, trying to get home for Shabbat. This refrain plays itself over and over again in my head as I read the coverage of the murder of the three kidnapped Israeli boys.
I’ve covered terrorism for years, as a journalist, I’ve infiltrated terror groups, I’ve exposed terror plots and interviewed planners, victims and families of terrorist casualties. I’ve never been personally affected by the victims, it’s part of the job, unfortunately, to remain emotionally detached, objective if you may, to get the story. Emotion, feeling, empathy, alters the type of questions you ask and weakens the responses. So training kicks in and you become robotic, asking insensitive questions to people who are mourning a tragic loss, writing cold pieces devoid of any humanity describing the most gruesome details in order to feed the salacious gory appetite of the public.
It’s amazing I was able to for so long, because as a human, you can’t help but be affected by the human aspect of terror tragedies.
When I was six, my mother’s first cousin was gunned down with other Jews celebrating Shabbat in Hevron. He was killed, at 19, simply because he was Jewish, celebrating the Jewish Shabbat in one of the holiest cities of Judaism.
I remember clearly the news report playing in our home. I remember the tears, the discussions and I witnessed the psychological and physical toll the murder took on Holocaust survivor parents and their one remaining son.
Years later, when Koby Mandell and Yossi Ishran were murdered, I remember feeling numb. I didn’t know either family, but the thought that 13 year olds were stoned to death sent chills up and down my spine. When I had the opportunity to interview Koby’s father Seth, less than two years after the murder, I saw the pain and anguish in his eyes.
At the beginning of the interview he told me not to hold back any questions, that he was ready to answer anything, so being the journalist I am, I went in and asked loads of personal questions. Each one leaving my mouth as I choked back tears with my heart in my throat.
I have the good fortune of teaching high school. The only grade I teach is 11, which is filled with 16 year olds. It is fascinating to watch them start the year as children and blossom into pseudo mature men and women by June or July. Each one developing in their own way.
At the end of the year, watching them have a water fight or going to prom or graduation, you can’t help but notice that as mature as they are, they are still children. Children who need love, children who need their parents, children who fear, who cry and who have their lives ahead of them.
Naftali, Gilad and Eyal were just children. They were nervous about an upcoming test, worried about homework, learning, vacation, girls, typical things teen boys worry about. Naftali texted his mother telling her he was on his way home…but he never made it, none of the three did.
Unfortunately the outrage will dissipate. After the funerals, the shiva and the current Israeli action to counter Hamas, things will quiet down and Naftali, Gilad and Eyal will become another footnote in the book of terror victims in Israel.
That’s the strength of Israel, suffer massive heart breaking losses, but continue as a strong country. Perhaps we could, however, make their deaths worthwhile, perhaps we could take value from their lives, some good from the evil.
Instead of calling for revenge, we should examine what these three boys managed to do, they untied Jews. The right, left, religious and secular were united in their prayer for their safe return. Jewish factional fighting came to a halt, saving these three boys became the primary concern of Jews of all stripes and colors worldwide.
Our Jewish leadership should not let this unity fade, we should find a way to work together, to iron out our differences and create a unified Jewish people.
Sure, there will always be political fights, there will always be religious strife, but at the end of the day, what these three boys proved, to the Jewish people, is that, we all one family, looking out for each other, believing wholeheartedly that every Jewish child is our child.
May the memories of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal never fade, may they serve as an inspiration for all Jews to love each other and look out for each other.
May their families be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and may the Jewish people suffer no more sorrow.
Howard Silbiger is a seasoned journalist and editor of The Montreal Jewish News. He is also the host of the Howie Silbiger Show heard Sundays 6-9pm on 1650AM in Montreal or online at www.montrealjewishnews.com