Three boys were buried today. Three boys who were traveling home for the weekend. They never made it. Instead, these boys were murdered in cold blood for the simple reason that they were Jews.They were teenagers with siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. And friends. And you'd be right in assuming that anyone personally connected to them or their families would be at their funerals to pay their final respects.
Today, an entire nation is attending the funerals of Eyal, Gil-Ad and Naftali. We don't know them personally - at least, I don't - but we are there in some form or another. I'm only representing my small community when I say that what I witnessed today was remarkable. I was on my way to Modiin to pick up my daughter and saw carloads of young girls being driven to Talmon, the small community where the Shaer family resides. They were volunteering to babysit the myriads of children in the community so that their parents could attend the funeral. They didn't know the Shaer family personally, but they wanted to do something to help, and so they found something. When I returned home, I pulled up in front of my house and noticed that the streets were quiet. Too quiet. I ran upstairs and the television was already on. My husband and I watched the hespedim of these three boys, switching from channel to channel so that we would not miss a single word. And when I heard Gil-Ad's mother thank God for giving her the gift of raising her son - her only son - for the sixteen years she was given, my heart broke. There was no talk of anger at G-d, or revenge for the murderers, only tearful words of goodbye, words of strength and faith.
In the middle of watching the funerals, I checked my Facebook and saw a post that my neighbor posted. While our community had made arrangements for buses to take anyone who wanted to go to the funerals, she had received permission from the police for those who were unable to go to the actual funeral to stand at the entrance of our community with flags and a strong show of support for the grieving Shaer family that would pass by on their way to bury their son. She posted it at 3:45, asking people to come, to bring flags. The funeral procession was starting at 4:15. That didn't leave much time for the word to get out. While I was walking towards the front entrance, I saw three buses, packed to the gills with my friends and neighbors - most of whom did not know the families personally - pull out onto the highway on their way to stand with the three families. To grieve with them. By the time I made my way to the front entrance at 4:30, there were about 50 people standing there. By 4:45, close to seventy-five. By the time the family drove by with a police and army escort, we were more than a hundred strong. They held out their hands as if to touch ours and while most of us don't know them or have a personal connection with them, we hope through our standing there, they knew that they are not alone.
This is what happened today in my community. It's just one small community, but I can say with absolute certainty, we were not the only community to 'attend' these funerals. There are hundreds of small communities like mine who have shown unbelievable support over these last heart-wrenching 18 days. And during that entire time our entire nation prayed for their safe return - religious and secular prayers alike. We worried together, rallied together and sang together.
And now, unfortunately, we mourn together.
יהי זכרם ברוך