Israel’s Sandy Hook
By: Yonit Rothchild
Five years ago I sat staring at my computer screen horrified at what I was reading and the images before me. It was March 6, 2008 and the start of the month of Adar on the Hebrew calendar. News had just broken about the Merkaz Harav Kook massacre in Jerusalem, Israel. A Palestinian terrorist had broken into the prestigious school and opened fire, claiming the lives of eight boys. Eight innocent teenagers were murdered in cold blood as they studied the Bible in their ancestral homeland.
To compound the tragedy, the date of the massacre left me stupefied. There is only one month on the Hebrew calendar that is known specifically as ‘a time of joy' -- that month is the month of Adar. It's the month in which we celebrate the holiday of Purim which commemorates the events that are recorded in the Book of Esther. In the time of Esther, God saved the Jewish people from imminent destruction and their mourning was turned into joy. The eve before the month of Adar begins is traditionally a time of great joy and celebration. Indeed, on that fateful night, the celebrations were about to begin in the Merkaz Harav school. But instead, their joy would be turned into mourning when the unexpected happened and eight students were murdered.
What irony, what tragedy! The sadness was overwhelming. At the time, I was living in Miami, Florida, but in my heart, I felt connected to Jerusalem. My husband and I arranged for a memorial ceremony in our synagogue to commemorate the massacre. There were a lot of people that came to honor the slain boys, but I could not help but wonder how there wasn't an overflowing crowd pouring out the doors!
Fast forward to December 14, 2012. The news had just broken about the horrible tragedy that unfolded in the Connecticut neighborhood of Sandy Hook. Twenty young children and six teachers were murdered by a crazed gunman in cold blooded murder. Again, the horror. Again, the senseless hatred. This time I am living just outside Jerusalem but my heart is with my American brethren. I mourned with the nation, and indeed the whole world, as the details emerged about the horrible, senseless killing and the loss of twenty six angels. I grieved for the children and for the parents whose lives would never be the same.
Shortly after the Connecticut tragedy, I was speaking with a friend about it and I wondered out loud where the world was when the Jerusalem massacre had occurred five years earlier. Where was the universal outrage? Where was the world-wide sadness and unity with the Israeli people? It was only right that good and decent people around the world would be moved by the senseless killing of children. Where were they when Jerusalem's children were murdered?
My friend’s words stung. She said: "People expect these things to happen in Israel. But they are shocking when they happen in America. These things are not supposed to happen in a free and democratic society in that part of the world." The words hurt because they struck me as true. All too true. But certainly not right.
Today, I live in the town of Efrat, just outside Jerusalem. One of the victims of the Merkaz Harav massacre lived in my town. Another child lived in the town across the valley, Neve Daniel. A close friend of mine sends her son to the Merkaz Harav school. It’s very possible that one of my own sons may go there one day. And so the question I have is this: Is the blood of our children worth any less? Should the world care any less when a child is killed in Jerusalem than when one is taken in Connecticut?
The answer, of course, is NO! Absolutely not!
It’s not ok when a child is murdered in the US and it’s not ok when it happens in Israel. It’s also not ok when it happens in Syria or when it happens in Africa. The Bible teaches us that all children are created “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27), and it is only when we value each and every child's life - and pledge to fight for every child’s safety - that we can hope to heal the wounds of the world.
Join us as we fight darkness with light. Join us as we diminish hatred with love. And join us as we pray for God to turn all pain into joy and all mourning into celebration. As King David says: “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy” (Psalms 30:11).
For the sake of ALL of our children, may that day come soon!
In loving memory of Neria Cohen, Segev Pniel Avichail, Avraham David Moses, Yehonatan Yitzchak Eldar, Ro’I Roth, Yochai Lipshitz, Yonadav Chaim Hirshfeld, and Doron Mahareta.
Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Rachel Davino, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Dawn Hochsprung, Madeleine Hsu, Chatherine Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Anne Marie Murphy,Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto, Benjamin Wheeler, and Allison Wyatt.
May their memory be a blessing to all mankind.