The levayos in Israel for victims of the terrorist attacks on Sunday were notably modest in size. Media reports spoke of the dozens or hundreds rather than the thousands of people who usually come to bury those who fall in war and terror.
This was not because of any lack of feeling for the loss of their families and communities, but because, while the fighting was still going on, air raid sirens still wailing and rockets still in the air, the military authorities advised against public gatherings of more than 300 people.
It was a reasonable precaution, but the many hundreds who came to mourn could not hold back. They had to come.
They could not hold back after hearing of the death of Pinchas Menahem Pshevesman, Hy”d, 21, a Gerrer Chassid in Ashdod who was killed while rushing to a bomb shelter during a volley of Gaza rockets on Sunday night.
“I don’t understand why this is happening, but I am sure that you have fulfilled your purpose on this earth,” his father, Harav Chaim Dov Pshevesman, said at the levayah.
“I had a great blessing to raise you for 21, nearly 22 years,” he said.
They could not hold back and stay home during the levayah of Moshe Agadi, Hy”d, a 58-year-old father of four, in Ashkelon.
“Moshe was a modest man. He knew how to respect everyone; loved everyone and was loved by people. He was happy and smiled constantly,” his brother Shai Agadi said in a hesped, accompanied by the sound of explosions from the fighting in the background.
Agadi ran a pair of produce stands at the Ashkelon open market. “I worked beside him for almost 30 years at the market. I never heard a bad thing come out of his mouth,” said a coworker, Baruch Sa’ada.
Of how many of us could the same be said?
Our hearts go out to the families of these and other victims of the vicious terrorists of Gaza. We continue to daven for the wounded, who suffer both bodily and emotionally from the pain and shock of sudden violence. These are traumas that often take years to heal, and sometimes never do. They and their families will need strength to deal with the difficult challenges of healing and recovery they now face.
It is well to remember, too, that when the media reports tell of “light injuries,” it is somewhat misleading, for they are light only relative to more serious and life-threatening injuries. But in many cases these too involve serious trauma. The injuries may be light for those reporting them but not for those who suffer them.
In his message on the security situation Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also said, “I send my condolences to the families of those killed in the battle, and my hopes for the recovery of the injured.”
President Reuven Rivlin paid condolence calls on the Pshevesman and Agadi families, as well as the al-Hamamda family in Segev Shalom, whose father Ziad was killed when a rocket slammed into a factory in Ashkelon. Other Israeli ministers attended levayos and will be visiting the families.
It is one of the grim duties of leadership. No amount of cynicism can minimize the importance of these gestures of humanity and fellow-feeling. It is as much a part of holding elective office as directing the military in a time of war or passing legislation and making speeches. And in recent years when Israeli officials failed to be there at a levayah, they were called to task, and rightfully so.
However, it must be said, too, that there were other politicians who could not hold back either — though there is reason to feel that it would have been better had they done so.
Even while the shooting was still on and no ceasefire of any kind had been reached, certain individuals who like to think of themselves as leaders could not hold back from criticizing the government.
Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz saw it as an opportunity to find fault with Netanyahu, saying that the ceasefire was “another surrender to the blackmail of Hamas and the terrorist organizations. All that the government did, once again, is to facilitate next flare-up.”
Gantz’s No. 2, Yair Lapid, was characteristically venomous, charging that “Netanyahu used the residents of the south as a bulletproof vest on the way to a complete submission [to] Hamas.”
“Netanyahu will not solve the problem in Gaza. He does not have the operational and political courage to do so,” Lapid tweeted.
Gantz, Lapid and other critics seem still to be living in the election campaign. But the campaign is over. It would seem that the patriotic thing to do when lives are on the line is to give the government full support, at least in public, and any criticism should be given over privately or saved for the next election.
It is always much easier to say what you would have done, but you were not the one called upon by the people to make the fateful decisions of war and peace. Had you been in that position there is no guarantee whatsoever that you would have done better. Perhaps you would have done worse.
May Hashem grant wisdom, humility, and compassion to all those in positions of power, as their actions affect the lives of countless others.