By Leah Henkin.
The Temple of the Arts, StandWithUs, and The Israel Institute co-sponsored a soul-searching and emotionally stirring shloshim of “our boys” at the Saban Theatre on July 30, 2014. A large crowd attended wearing kippot of various styles and women’s head coverings to match. Many unaffiliated Jews welcomed the opportunity to put on tefillin and pray. The event was a study in contrasts – aesthetically pleasing and well guarded by community groups and the LAPD.
Rabbi Pini Dunner spoke. “As the quest for Jerusalem continues, we mourn Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal, and we mourn Zion and Jerusalem.” Rabbi Dunner continued with uplifting words of Tehillim 30:12: “You have changed for me my lament into dancing; You undid my sackcloth and girded me with gladness” and he continued, “We have exhibited extraordinary unity, even as we mourn. Let us dance with joy as Jews of every age, every denomination have come together as one for the continuity and safety of Jewish life.”
“Not knowing was the hardest thing,” Leehy Shaer, Gilad’s aunt shared as she spoke to the attendees. “And when we heard the news, the sky crushed down.” To paint real-life portraits, Leehy described each of the boys’ chessed activities: humor, courage, talents, and dedication to Torah study. Typically we don’t know why events happen, Leehy said. This time she felt Hashem showed us why: the boys’ abduction and death lead to finding the tunnels. Leehy reminded us that we searched and davened for 18 days and 18 equals chai. “Because of their death, Am Yisrael Chai!”
Cantor Arik Wolheim led the stirring Kel Malei Rachamim. Pensive and quiet, we were stirred by Rabbi Hier’s probing questions. “What is there to say about our modern day Macabees?” Why is it only an emergency when Israel defends itself? Why wasn’t it an emergency five years ago? Why were there no alarms bells creating pressure for Hamas’ funders? … How many countries who are at war with terrorists make phone calls that warn citizens of the enemy that their building will be bombed?” “The saddest thing about the war in Gaza,” Rabbi Hier reminded us, “was that little has changed despite thousands of years; just the names have changed.” In spite of brutal kidnappings and the tragic deaths of the boys, the nations and world media still do not focus on the story; Israel is judged by a different standard than the rest of the world. “The solution for the people of Gaza,” Rabbi Hier roared, “is no more tunnels, no more rockets, and no more Hamas!”
The Counsel General of Israel, David Siegel, reminded us that Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal brought light to the world through their Torah study and gave the Jewish people the light of unity. We have a responsibility to continue their legacy. As a people, we have never abandoned hope; we have always overcome darkness. We’re the people who light Chanukah candles during the dark winter.
As Leehy Shaer declared, “In your life you gave us life. In death, you gave us the same. In the merit of these boys, may we no longer know war and sadness—only peace and happiness.”