Recently I found myself more frequently engaged in discussion about the event that not so long ago changed everything. That turning point in one’s life that impacts how one thinks and even acts, very possibly for the rest of their lives. Although, as in this case, it is so often a tragedy, it can also be such a positive paradigm shift that it not only remakes the tragedy, but occasionally makes you feel a debt of gratitude to the victims.
The tragedy I am referring to is the kidnapping and subsequent murder of Naftali Frenkel, Eyal Yifrach, and Gilad Shaar. So much has been written about the impact their loss had on the events that took place in the weeks that followed. The evidence that Hamas was responsible for their murder, together with the ongoing barrage of rockets being fired into Israel, was the motivating force for Israel’s operation into Gaza this past summer. As we know, the operation uncovered the terror tunnels built by Hamas to carry out potentially devastating terrorist attacks. It’s widely been recognized, even by Naftali Frenkel’s mother, that the death of the boys, as tragic as it was, saved many lives. That was the immediate impact. What we don’t know yet is the impact their deaths will have moving forward based on the residual effect of the events that have taken place. We will learn that as time goes on. What I do know right now however, is the profound effect the tragedy had on me personally and many like me.
There is a major difference between turning to hate and no longer being tolerant of evil. Granted it is sometimes hard to distinguish between the two, but doing so is important. Baseless hatred and anger can be and often is more destructive than beneficial. However, being aware of what is happening around you, recognizing the truth no matter how harsh it may be, and knowing who your enemies are is something positive that can save lives today and in the future. Tolerance for one’s enemy is not a good quality. It’s dangerous, even life threatening. Being a moderate in this day and age is a luxury we can no longer afford. It is something I once was and now no longer am. That ended when the boys were found dead. When they were declared kidnapped I became involved like so many others did, getting behind the rallying cry of “Bring back our boys”. When they were found murdered, I had finally had enough. My limit of tolerance had been exceeded and I was changed for what I believe is most likely forever.
The Jewish High Holidays make many of us extremely reflective, and when I reflected on the change that had taken place in me as a result of these boys deaths, as sad as the event made me, I came to the conclusion that it made me a better person. It made me care a lot more about the well-being of others as opposed to primarily caring about myself. It made everything my parents taught me growing up blend together in a way it never had till now. It made me feel that I no longer am happy not being part of the problem. Now I want to be part of the solution. I want to be one more voice for Israel and the Jewish people. I want to be one more voice for humanity, for what is right. When I reflected on this over Rosh Hashana, I wanted to thank these 3 young men for having such a profound impact on my life. Unfortunately, as we all know, I’ll never be able to express my gratitude to them directly. But what I can do is tell their mothers and fathers that in more ways than they can imagine, their boys changed the world. They changed my world. They made me and so many others care more about the things that are really important. Their lives were far too short, but their lives had such deep meaning, and because of that they will never be forgotten. Because their deaths caused others like myself to become better people, it may translate into saving more lives down the road, and I can’t imagine a better way to honor their memory and to bless their souls.
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