Reflections on the Kidnapping and Murder of Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal

2 Jul

Last week at the URJ Kutz, camp during most of our worship services we prayed that Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach would be found and returned to their families and their homes. Along side of these prayers other faculty members and I talked about where we thought the missing boys were, what the abduction meant for the peace process, and Zionism in general.  I had the opportunity to teach a group of enthusiastic teens about Israeli culture and share my list of 65 things I love about Israel that I created for Yom Ha’atzmaut two years ago. In addition, during the week there was an all camp skype session with Rabbi Rick Jacobs to talk about the BDS (Boycott and Divestment) movement and the Presbyterian vote.  On Sunday right before I left camp we went to a program led by Joel Chasnoff called the, “Schizophrenic Zionist.” The program was engaging, informative for the teens, and of course funny. In sum, the week was filled with enriching and meaningful engagement with Israel, it’s values, and the relationship between North American Jews and Israel. I was glad to be a part of these conversations and programs. It left my heart hopeful that a strong and engaged group of young people cared deeply about the future of the Jewish state.

And now my hopeful heart has been filled with despair. From the news of the teens being shot dead soon after they were abducted to the now breaking news that a Palestinian teenager was found dead in a Jerusalem forest in what appears to be an act of revenge. I am saddened by the news that I read about some Palestinians celebrating the death of the three kidnapped Israeli teens. I am saddened that hundreds of what Ha’aretz is reporting as “right-winged” Israelis are taking to the streets rioting and targeting Palestinians with violence. My hopeful heart from Sunday, is filled with disappointment by all of these events. In particular, I am saddened by this “eye for an eye” mentality.

The biblical concept of an eye for an eye can be interpreted in different ways. One could argue that it teaches us that one is punished with exactly what one inflicts on another. Or we can see it as an instructive: someone who damage’s an eye must pay the value of that eye. In Hebrew, an eye for an eye is ayin tachat ayin. Literally translated as, “an eye in place of an eye.” When we render the phrase in this way perhaps we can understand “in place of” to mean that punishment must take place, but not necessarily the same action that was done to the victim. Mahatma Gandhi reminds us that, “an eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” Anat Hoffman wrote today, “We mourn. We do not avenge.” I hold these words in my heart as it breaks, over the death of these teens and over the violence that has erupted in my beloved Israel.

I pray these words from our weekday Amidah, “V’li’rushalayim ircha b’rachamim tifneih viy’hi shalom bisharehah v’shalvah b’lev yoshvehah.” “And turn in compassion to Jerusalem, your City O, G-d. May there be peace in her gates, quietness in the hearts of her inhabitants.”

May the memories of Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal forever be a blessing. May their kidnappers be brought to justice. May all those who crave revenge choose words over swords. May our hearts be brought back to hope.


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