June 11, 2024
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June 11, 2024
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Unbearable Sorrow, Unbreakable Strength

I do not believe in words at times like these, and so I remained silent. I listened to the news, for five minutes? Ten minutes? An hour?

I do not believe in understanding at times like these. And so I did not try to grasp it, or to comprehend what it could possibly mean.

Only 24 hours ago I heard the words of our boys’ mothers, strengthening us, promising us, that if we do not lose hope, they too will not lose the hope that they have so fervently clung to. Only 24 hours ago, I stood in the midst of 80,000 beckoning people, praying, singing, crying, men, women, masses of teens, teens just the age of Ayal, Gilad, and Naftali. Only 24 hours ago I si­lently wiped tears from my trembling cheeks in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, and swayed together in a sea of prayer for the speedy return of our boys, our brothers. Only 24 hours ago the event came to a close, and there was a smile that crept onto the crowd of infinite faces, something in the air that bred hope, something in the unity that told all who were present that the strength of our na­tion will defy all tragedy, and that good news was surely on its way.

And then those 24 hours passed and the smile melted into aching tears, and the hope plundered into a deep helplessness shrouded by an impenetrable grief.

I am new to this side of the world. I am 21 years old, but only 3 here in Israel. And so you may say that, like a toddler, I gaze at the world in wonder and awe through my young, inexperienced eyes. Perhaps you are right. But, like a toddler, in my tears I reach for someone to hold me, and upon hearing your cry I unwillingly discover my own.

Twenty-four hours ago at Kikar Rabin I stood gazing in wonder like a toddler at the beauty of this country, this nation. And to­night, tonight through loss greater than one can imagine only because our nation has made it one so great, has felt it as one so im­mense, I stood again gazing in wonder at the beauty, the strength, the unity of this coun­try, this nation.

My neck is still sweating from the out­door heat. Only hours ago I found myself run­ning through the streets of Bnei Brak, fervently searching for a store open at such late hours of the night to sell me just a few poster boards, a couple of markers. Only minutes ago I stood at a junction amidst a group of olim chadashim, new immigrants to Israel, with Israeli flags, with (thanks to the Bnei Brak late night supermarket) signs written on them the names of our boys who were murdered, written on them words of hope, words of strength, words of faith, and words of unity. Merely minutes after the news of the deaths of the boys was released, people were already fervently searching for, continu­ing to create that unity. And there, on the side of that busy street connecting a Modern Ortho­dox community to one of Israel’s largest Ultra- Orthodox communities, where we stood sing­ing first quietly, then with a passion that I believe one feels only rarely in a lifetime, we were slow­ly joined by people of all denominations. I know we can see it on Facebook, we can hear it on the news. The pictures, the candles, the #s, the words of loss and of strength. But there was something in the streets out there, a loss that was, that is, felt so deeply, felt so violently, by thousands and thousands of people. The cars on the highway slowed down to read our signs that read am yis­rael chai (the Jewish nation should live), and one after the other, honked in camaraderie, in shared grief and in shared mourning. The men in black velvet kippahs waiting at the bus stop nearby held our signs, the non-religious sang our songs. There were words floating out there tonight, fly­ing out there tonight, that didn’t have to be said in order to be heard. Something to a tune I’ve never known before, with meanings of strength and of unity that I’ve only begun to discover to­night.

I do not believe in words at times like these. But I do believe, like my 3-year-old self, my 3-year-old self of wonder and of awe, I do believe in reaching for hands, for someone to hold us, in times like these when we feel tears that we have never known before. And I do believe in grasping strongly the trem­bling hands of others, and discovering the sound of our own grieving cries upon hear­ing the cries of each other.

I am thousands of miles away from you. But I am one to stand by my beliefs. And so I reach out my hand to you, I reach out to you the hand of the throbbing soul of this en­tire country and its tears, and let the tips of our fingers reach above the vastness of the sea, and feel in their touch our nation’s loss tonight, and know in the firmness of their grasp its unbreakable strength, and our im­penetrable unity in the depths of its beauty.

By Yael Herzog (The author was raised in Teaneck and made aliyah three years ago.)

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