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December 26, 2014 / 4 Tevet, 5775
 
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Eight Golden Martyrs


The shock of the horrifying terror attack that took place at Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva last Thursday will not wear off easily. Eight of our nation’s finest religious boys murdered in cold blood, some with holy books in their hands, by a resident of a nearby Arab village with free access to all parts of Jerusalem.

The morning after the massacre I was near Mercaz HaRav as thousands streamed toward the stone plaza fronting the yeshiva where the bodies of the eight slain students were laid out on stretchers.

The eulogies were relayed by loudspeaker. The yeshiva head, Rabbi Yaacov Shapira, cried as he struggled to find words: “These priceless students were the best of the best, pure gold. Each one of them had unique and different good values in Torah studies, at work, in charity and kindness. These gentle souls were slaughtered in a massacre that constitutes the continuation of the [1929] Hebron massacre…”

Another speaker was Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski. “Lord, nations have invaded Your land, desecrated Your holy hall,” he lamented. “Eight of our sweet loved ones, may God avenge their blood, who only yesterday were living among us, are no longer with us …”

Everyone seemed to know at least one of the victims, or a family member. This is a tiny country and we are one family. We grieve together at every tragic loss. Yonatan Eldar, age 16, was a neighbor of my daughter Tammy in Shiloh, his father the ba’al koreh of their synagogue. Another victim was the son of my granddaughter’s teacher.

Watching the funerals on TV of these boys whose lives had barely begun – boys a few years past their bar mitzvahs – tore one’s heart out.

The family of the murderer set up a mourning tent in his honor. His uncle called it: “…a heroic operation against an extremist Zionist college that calls for killing Palestinians. My nephew was a martyr…”

In Gaza, there were wild celebrations.

Predictably, the foreign media referred to “the ongoing cycle of violence.” But there is no such thing. It is not attack and counterattack. Israel seeks peace with those who will live with it and defends itself against those who seek its destruction. But militant Islamists seek to murder Israelis wherever they can, firing thousands of rockets across our borders, targeting innocent women and children, slaughtering eight golden boys in their yeshiva.

It is a deliberately skewed assessment to call it a cycle of violence. There would be no bloodshed if Hamas and its backers in Iran and Syria were to cease their relentless violence against Israel.

We have paid heavily in blood and sacrifice, and the long list was joined last week by eight teenage boys, murdered while studying Torah. May their memory be for a blessing.

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