Reviewing: “Expecting My Child: A Mother’s Longing,” by Bat-Galim Shaer, 2018. Translated by David Swidler, edited by Hila Ratzabi.
As I begin to write about the courageous, heart-wrenching account written by Bat-Galim Shaer, households throughout many communities in Israel are celebrating Sweet Heart Day as part of the Sweet Heart project, preparing baked delights to be given to friends, acquaintances or strangers in hospitals, senior citizens homes, and at IDF bases, all in the merit of remembering Gil-ad Shaer on his January 16th birthday.
Gil-Ad, together with Naftali Frankel and Eyal Yifrach were kidnapped on June 12, 2014, almost six years ago. It was an occasion that brought the entire country and Jewish world together in prayer, sadness and hope. Where were these boys? It was definitely not in the nature of any of them to not call home to advise their families that they would be delayed. Gil-Ad and his parents Ofir and Bat-Galim enjoyed the company of his five younger sisters. He was their idol.
Bat-Galim shares from the very beginning their family’s slight worry as to why Gil-Ad had not yet arrived home as was expected from Yeshivat Makor Chaim and the continuing angst throughout the day when finally, a phone call came, telling them that the boys were kidnapped. Two of the three boys were classmates and one happened to be at the bus stop when Arabs dressed as Chassidim offered them a ride. It turned out that only Eyal was offered the ride and he then asked the two other boys if they wanted to join him. Of course at the very beginning the Shaers had no idea that more than their son had not returned that infamous night.
There were 18 long and painful days before the boys were found, and throughout that period of time the entire country of Israel demonstrated, cried, searched and prayed in the hope that they would be found alive. Whether or not people were affiliated with a political movement, wore a kippah srugah or a black hat, lived in the north or the south, the country became one as they waited and anxiously prayed for the safe return of these boys. Many in our very own community and many other North American communities posted signs on their lawns in solidarity with the three families agonizingly awaiting news of their sons.
Thoughout the pages of the book Bat-Galim “speaks” directly to her son as if he were in the room with her. Her thoughts and inspirations are prevalent throughout with her deep faith in HaKodesh Baruch Hu. Her worries of how this will affect her daughters, her husband’s strength throughout, their closeness with the media that was staked out in front of their house, was exemplified throughout.
Through their horror they never resented or complained of the scene which had become the norm for so many days in front of their home in Talmon. They in fact interacted and welcomed many into their home and celebrated when one of the soldiers assigned to their home had a birthday.
This story plainly tells the story of a woman who has passionate emunah and although she has great reason to question the horror her family lives through, she remains steadfast in her belief in HKBH. Many details of the kidnapping only were told to the family many days after the event took place. There in fact was a telephone call from one of the boys, actually it was their son Gil-Ad who whispered into the phone that he had been kidnapped. For a reason that no one will ever understand that call was not dealt with immediately as apparently there have been prank calls of this nature. In the same phone call it is believed that when the kidnappers realized what he was doing the boys were shot. It was actually on the first day that they were kidnapped.
Eventually, in a gut wrenching moment, the Shaers were able to listen to their son’s very last words. Months down the line Gil-Ad’s journal was found—most of it burned as was the car that the boys had been kidnapped in. Through major forensic work pages of the journal were salvaged so that the Shaers now have it in their possession. Segments of it have been shared in the book, which makes the reader sensitive to the outstanding thoughtful character of this young man who was killed so brutally.
This book is a work of art. Bat-Galim is in actual fact an artist which is noted by her own work on the cover of the book. However, she is also a poet as so much of the book is written in her own personal style.
As a tribute to all of these boys, it is imperative that we never forget them and their families. Bat-Galim Shaer gives us the opportunity to put things in their proper perspective when we worry about minor incidents in life. The more we live vicariously through the strength and vulnerability of this family we realize that somewhere in each of us there has to be an unknown resilience which we have been given. We need to learn from her how to actualize it.
Thank you Bat-Galim for sharing with us. Gil-ad, Naftali and Eyal will never be forgotten.
“Expecting My Child: A Mother’s Longing,” is available on Amazon.
By Nina Glick