Just over a week ago, an Arab terrorist walked into a holy place in Israel, a place of learning, a place where boys grow into men. A high school, really. A library, a study-hall. Eight young lives were stolen from their families, from their friends, from Israel. The following was written by a “bus passenger” – and posted to various lists.
Every morning I take the number 35 bus line to work. It’s a quick ride and usually takes no more than 12 minutes. The third stop after I get on nearby the Jerusalem shuk is directly in front of Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav.
On a recent morning, I found myself a bit anxious, unsure of what I was going to see as we passed by. As I looked around, I saw death notices pasted all over the street and flowers that had been brought by visitors lined the entrance to the yeshiva.
When the bus pulled up to the stop, the driver shut off the engine and stood. With tears in his eyes, he told everyone sitting on the bus that one of the boys killed on Thursday night was his nephew. He asked if everyone on the bus would not mind if he spoke for a few minutes in memory of his nephew and the other boys that were killed.
After seeing head nods all over the bus, he began to speak. With a clear and proud voice, he spoke beautifully about his nephew. He said that his nephew was a person who was constantly on the lookout for how to help out anyone in need. He was always searching for a way to make things better. He loved learning and had a passion for working out the intricacies of the Gemara. He was excited to join the army in a few years and wanted to eventually work in informal education.
As the driver continued to speak, I noticed that the elderly woman sitting next to me was crying. I looked into my bag, reached for a tissue and passed it to her. She looked at me and told me that she had also lost someone she knew in the attack. Her neighbor’s child was another one of the boys killed.
As she held my hand tightly, she stood up and asked if she too could say a few words in memory of her neighbor. She spoke of a young man filled with a zest for life. Every Friday he would visit her with a few flowers for Shabbat and a short dvar Torah that he had learned that week in yeshiva. This past Shabbat, she had no flowers.
When I got to work, one of my colleagues who lives in Efrat told me that her son was friends with two of the boys who had been killed. One of those boys was the stepson of a man who used to teach at Brovenders Yeshiva; he comes to my shul back in Riverdale, New York, every Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to be a cantor for one of the minyanim.
We are all affected by what goes on in Israel. Whether you know someone who was killed or know someone who knows someone, or even if you don’t know anyone at all, you are affected. The eight boys who were killed will continue to impact us all individually and as a nation. Each one of us has the ability to make a profound impact on our world.
On Wednesday morning, I was at Ben-Gurion International Airport at 7:00 am with Nefesh B’Nefesh, welcoming 40 new olim to Israel. We will not be deterred. We can not give up. We will continue to live our lives and hope and work for change, understanding and peace.