All for One and One for All by Aviva Meshwork
There are a few incidents in life that one can recall with near perfect clarity. Not only can you remember the incident itself, but also where you were the moment it happened, who you were with, what you were wearing and maybe even where the sun was in the sky at that time. Such things as man’s first steps on the moon, the assassination of JFK and when Israel was declared a State are spectacular moments in history that people can never forget.
Such was the case for me when I first heard the tragic fates of three specific Israeli teenagers back in the summer of 2014. The news broke out that Naftali Frankel, Eyal Yifrach and Gilad Shaar were found dead and half buried in Hebron, thus ending an exhaustive 18-day search for them after their kidnapping by Hamas terrorists. It was the evening of June 30, 2014 and I was training as a Trip Director for the JWRP at Decks restaurant in Tiberius. My phone rang as I was sitting down to eat with a group of women who had just arrived to Israel hours earlier to begin their 8-day Momentum journey. It was my husband calling to tell me the horrible news. I quickly excused myself from the table to speak to him and could instantly tell that others were getting the same information as me. I was wearing a black long sleeve shirt with a long white pleated skirt with a butterfly print. The sun was just about to set.
A very composed but visibly saddened, Lori Palatnik took to the stage where she normally would have introduced the evening’s festivities of dancing and music. However, that particular evening’s announcements were very different. She was tasked to announce to the 200+ participants that our collective nightmare had come true. I remember her saying that as Jews, there are times when we celebrate together and there are also times when we mourn together, and this was one of those times. So rather than beginning the party, we ended the evening in a state of collective mourning. Together, we walked back to our hotel, united in our sadness for three Jewish boys whom we had never met but whose loss was felt nonetheless.
That particular JWRP Momentum trip in 2014 was full of inspirational and life changing wisdom as are all other Momentum trips. However, this one had an undercurrent of unification that was felt straightaway. We were immediately threaded together in a blanket of united grief as Jewish mothers from across the globe and spectrum. We were heartbroken for the Frankel, Yifrach and Shaar families who would forever be without the physical presence of their precious sons. Together we were touched by the countless hours that the soldiers and volunteers dedicated towards finding these boys in the heat of the Israeli summer. The unity didn’t stop with us- it was reverberated in Jewish communities all over the world.
What Naftali, Eyal and Gilad managed to do in their tragic deaths is something we have been working to accomplish for thousands of year- Unity to the Jewish People. The pain of their kidnappings and subsequent murders triggered our recollection that we are a People that belong together, and when even one of us is so tragically ripped from us, let alone three, we are left with an irreparable tear in the fabric of our Nation. And it hurts us all.
It’s no surprise that this was the effect on our People since the Torah is replete with examples, discussions and praises for a united Jewish People. It is written in Psalms 133; “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” How good it is to be pleasant towards one another and to value each other as members of our collective People with whom we live amongst. Conversely, how devastating it is when we forget that fact. Benny Ganz, former IDF Chief of staff has said; “I truly believe that the security of our future, as a People and as a country, relies on the strength we possess when united.”
Unfortunately, we have at times needed tragedy to put us back together when we have become fragmented. The shattering effects of judging each other unfavorably, speaking negatively about one another and ultimately the unfounded hatred one may feel when another’s mistakes differ from one’s own has caused divisiveness amongst us for far too long.
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks wrote; “No small people is more diverse, ethnically, culturally, attitudinally and religiously – and the more religious, the more diverse…Diversity is a sign of strength not weakness…” Therefore, diversity amongst us is a respectable thing. It means we take a stand, we are passionate, we are thoughtful and we have an opinion- we are alive! We may not like or understand all of our brothers’ and sisters’ motives and ways of doing things but we mustn’t forget one thing: We may dislike the behavior of a person, but not the person them self.
Unity does not require large fundraising efforts, organizations or rallies. It requires each and every one of us to condition ourselves into thinking that we are all beloved and valued creations from the Almighty whose purpose is of immeasurable value. Unity starts with you. It starts with me.
This is part of the legacy of Naftali, Eyal and Gilad. The light that they left behind should always reveal that we are a single People, each member a valued and sacred patch in the beautiful and holy quilt that is us.
At the end of the day, we are all for one and one for all.
Aviva Meshwork is an educator, writer, and Trip Director for the JWRP. Originally from Toronto, she now lives in Israel with her husband and four children.