Last Tuesday, November 18, a beautiful sunny autumn day in Gush Etzion, started wonderfully. Committed to improving my routine, I attended an earlier minyan, followed by a trip to the pool as evidence to myself and my doctor that I am taking this health thing more seriously.
Returning home, I made some breakfast (healthy and nutritious, of course), grabbed some coffee and, just before I could consult the day’s news I heard a commotion and voice broadcast over a nearby loudspeaker. Of late in Gush Etzion, when you hear a loudspeaker, you fear the worst. I went to the second-floor balcony, looked out to the source of the sound, and my eyes fell upon the spot that, Hy”d, Dalia Lemkos and Gilad, Eyal and Naftali fell, the source of the commotion. Mercifully, my concerns were immediately allayed. A stream of students from the local religious intermediate and high school started to gather around the sacred memorial. And more kept coming. And then more still. The students then proceeded to connect the loci of Gush Etzion, the bus stop memorial to Dalia, Gilad, Eyal and Naftali to the Gush Etzion Junction, the geographic hub of the region, traversing the mile distance by linking hands, creating a human chain.
From my balcony I witnessed the length of the chain both in duration and distance. The students acted with modesty and mentchlichkeit throughout. The proof: numerous Arabs walked past and went safely on their way, neither harassed nor disturbed, as it should be. Had any of these Arabs sought to join hands with their neighbors, I have no doubt whatsoever they would have been welcomed as brothers committed to coexistence. None did attempt.
The chain of Torah youth stretched long and strong in each direction, presenting the visual and aural grandeur of “Am Yisrael Chai.” They not only sang of the enduring life of Israel but also sang of the attributes and the unity of Hashem (Ani Ma’amin), the world being a narrow bridge and the essence of life is not to live in fear (Kol Ha’olam Kulo), and the truth of Torah and its home in Yerushalayim. I listened to them sing long after my eyes had watered, blurring my vision.
These would not be my only tears of the morning. Far from it.
I returned to my desk and immediately learned of the Har Nof massacre. My tears of a nachas-filled morning turned to tears of mourning as I heard the news.
Juxtaposing the kiddush Hashem of these youths with the deaths, al kiddush Hashem, of the tzaddikim torn from us in Har Nof was shattering. I once heard a story told of a great Rebbe (I believe it was the Rebbe of Skvere) who sobbed at a levayah in the afternoon and was completely b’simchah at a chasunah in the evening. A talmid asked him how he could experience such extremes of emotions. His response was that it is the way of a Jew to live in the present. I could not accomplish this monumental feat, but the Rebbe did have several advantages over me, most notably being a great Rebbe and tzaddik (neither of which I am), and hours to transition from one emotional extreme to the other. Again, I had no such luxury. For me, it was whiplash.
The residents of Har Nof are a peaceful, apolitical lot. They overwhelmingly do not serve in the Israel Defense Forces; they live within the “Green Line,” the pre-1967 borders of Yerushalayim, and they, to a soul, do not seek to ascend to Har HaBayis. These reasons are proffered as justification by Arabs seeking to defend their genocidal rage which is metastasizing into the incipient intifada being referred to as the “Al-Aqsa (Temple Mount) Intifada.” These murders eviscerate the vacuous arguments of the Palestinians and any who support them. The Palestinians and the Arabs want Jews dead without political reason or provocation. They want Jews dead for the offense of being a Jew, and it doesn’t matter if it is a young woman dressed modestly at a bus stop in Gush Etzion, three yeshivah bachurim in Gush Etzion, or four chareidi Rabbis — Rabbi Moshe Twersky, Rabbi Aryeh Kupinsky, Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, and Rabbi Kalman Levine, Hashem yinkom domam — in Har Nof. We Jews, whom they call “the offspring of pigs and apes,” are targets merely by our existence. If one wishes to make the spurious argument that it is because they want Israel, tell that to the Rav in Belgium who was stabbed, the chareidi Jew in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who was assaulted on a subway platform, or the four-year-old child in Auckland, New Zealand, who was smacked on the head by a 20-something-year-old man who was offended by the toddler wearing a kippah. All this, covering numerous continents and hemispheres, happened in the last week!
Today, as I was driving my daughter to a lesson in Yerushalayim, we saw a glorious rainbow arching through the Gush Etzion sky. I felt some relief in Hashem’s promise to mankind that he would never again destroy the earth. But then I remembered the rainbow was meant only as “flood insurance,” and my concerns returned.
Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst, and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at msolomon@Hamodia.com.