Last night I went to the memorial service at the Jewish Community Center for the three teenagers that were kidnapped on their way home from their Yeshiva. A yeshiva is a school to study religious texts, so we are not talking about a reform school here, these were good kids. Naftali Frenkel was 16, and held duel US and Israeli Citizenship, Gilad Shaer was also 16 and Eyal Yifrah was the oldest at 19. They were hitchhiking their way home on 12 June 2014 when they were abducted. People in Israel get around different ways. When I was there we used Autobus, Trains and Taxis, we did talk about renting a car but dismissed the idea. These kids were in the West Bank, and there is not a plethora of mass transit available. I guess soldiers used to hitchhike a lot, but that stopped after 1994, and regulations were passed to prevent the IDF from hitchhiking. So while it might seem very strange to Americans that these kids were hitchhiking, in Israel, it isn’t that unusual. On June 30th the bodies of the three boys were found in a field near Hebron.
Yesterday morning after I got off work and did chores I decided to check email. I received an email that there would be a memorial service at the Jewish Community Center. It was an event in solidarity with Israel in mourning the loss. Since I’m not a member of the JCC I’m always a little hesitant at going to things unless I’ve been invited. I really wanted to go, but unsure I sent a frantic text to my friend Deb who is still in Israel. Would it be ok if I went? She answered back that not only would be ok, it would be a very good thing if I would go. Ok, so I’m going. I then waffle over what to wear and come up with something suitable and I find out that the “Force of Nature” will be there as well. Ok, I’m good, I’m set.
After a solid 4 hours sleep I’m up and getting ready to go, after I rearrange my schedule and get dressed I set out. I arrive in good time and go on into the Social Hall. I find a seat towards the back because I’m still unsure. It seems like everyone knows everyone else, and I, well, I don’t. But wait!! I see Henry and Sue Ellen! I know them! They are my friends from the Israel Spirit committee, now I’m really ok! Oh, I am glad to see them! Henry comes back and keeps me company and we discuss plans for the frozen coffee we will be serving this year at Ethnic Enrichment Festival. This has been Henry’s brain child from the beginning but perhaps sensing a fellow spirit he has graciously allowed me to be in on the project. So we discuss mixes and places we want to get them. We decide I will follow up on the place and mix I thought promising, and Henry is going after the one he likes the look of, we will try both! Great plan! The “Force of Nature” shows up and introduces me to some of the people around us. One lady I meet named Marta strikes me as someone who would be a hoot.
The service starts with the singing of Ha Tikvah, the Israel National Anthem. In Hebrew. I astonish myself by singing along with everyone else. This is made possible by the fact the lyrics are printed in Hebrew, English and best of all, Transliterated. I adore transliteration, it’s Hebrew “Hooked on Phonics” for me! I would say I get about 98% of it correct. No, I did not confirm this by asking anyone around me. But I really did enjoy, and was a little proud of myself that I too could sing with everyone else.
The 23rd Psalm was read after that. Then The Blessing of Memory. A poem, I suppose you would call it, titled They were Boys: A Yizkor Prayer by Alden Solovoy was read, it was very beautiful, and very sad. Of course. It talks about faith, mourning and the willingness to heal, it asks for comfort and relief. For the families and for the whole country of Israel. I would urge you to read it, it’s very good.
The Eulogy that had been delivered to the Nation by Shimon Peres was read and followed by El Malei Rachamim by Yehuda Amichai (God full of Mercy) Scroll down to page 3 of the .pdf. It’s in English. The “Force of Nature” realizes I’m TRYING to read it in Hebrew, he points as it is read so I can sort of follow along. My reading level is minuscule and this is big Cowgirl stuff, grown up stuff, but I’m trying.
At one point it is mentioned that a piece would be read by Rabbi Eliezer Ben-Yehuda. My head snaps up so fast that the movement must have caught Marta’s eye. I’m astonished, I thought he was dead, a long time ago. She kind of laughs as our eyes meet and she catches my questioning look and smiles and says “Yep, that really is his name”. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda is the man responsible for reviving the Hebrew language. He was born on 7 January 1858.
We then recited The Third Mother by Natan Alterman as a responsive reading. In English. Then the Memorial Prayer.
There was a Rabbi that spoke at the end and what a very powerful message he had. He talked about the pain and grief of the families and the nation. He talked about Justice being a very Jewish concept, but that revenge is NOT Justice. There was a facebook page started called “Israel demands Revenge” and talked about how many “likes”it had. Then he told us that ANY IDF soldiers caught holding up signs and supporting such a notion would be disciplined. This pretty much goes along with what I’ve been taught of the IDF’s concept of “Purity of Arms”. Scroll down, you’ll see it under “The Values”.
Then he begin to talk about two Hebrew words, “Nechama” (נֵחַמַה) which means Comfort and “Nekema” (נֶקמַה) which means Revenge. As you can see, the two are very close. Look at the next to the last letter in each word, if you are used to reading English, in Hebrew it would actually be the second letter. Notice how if you straighten the curve of what sort of looks like a “p” it would look a lot like the next to the last letter in the first word. One little line straightened and you go from “revenge” to “comfort”. I also found out that the word “enemy” (קם) comes out of the word “revenge”. Doesn’t it just? Out of revenge, comes enemies. Of course, the way I see it at times the desire for revenge comes out of the actions of your enemies. So, does another word come out of the word Nechama? Comfort? Yes, there is a word, (חמה) look at the last three letters, oops, that would be the first three letters for most, they are the same, correct? That means “sun”. Warm, comfort, sun.
So while at times it may not seem like God hears, or answers our prayers, he does. Sometimes he says “yes” sometimes “no” and sometimes “wait a while”. Those last two are very hard to bear at times.
The Rabbi then stressed that Israel does not demand “Revenge” Israel asks for “Comfort”. And that is what I shall pray for, that peace and comfort shall be lavished on the families and the Nation of Israel as it mourns.
In honesty, it will not shock my readers to find out political thoughts have run through my mind about this subject. But I shall leave those for another column. This one is for the memory of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal. Yes, the names of the suspected kidnappers are known. No, I will not be listing them. I learned from Lt. Col. Dave Grossman that we do not mention the names of the heinous people. They do not get to be remembered. Their names should be forgotten. The names of victims and heroes, those are remembered. And so I shall remember them in my prayers.
The service was concluded by singing the Star Spangled Banner, in English thankfully. I don’t think I’m ready to tackle that one in Hebrew yet.