Three years ago on the 8th of Nisan, 5769, an Arab terrorist with an axe ran into the center of our community of Bat Ayin and killed a 13 year old boy named Shlomo Nativ. Every year at this time before the anniversary of this terrible event, our community comes together to remember and honor Shlomo and his family and to connect with one another. This year a new film has been produced by Shlomo’s family in collaboration with filmmaker Yosef Muskal. (The full one hour film can be viewed in the JewishPress.com video section – Editors)
I’ve written before about the higher level of life force that pervades this land. For the most part, this higher level of life force manifests in ways that are clearly and outwardly life affirming – the natural beauty, the clean air, the spiritual richness, etc. Today, we faced an ugly and uncomfortable side to that higher level of life energy, one that brought us face to face with an incomprehensible paradox.
The attitude of the community is that Shlomo was not a victim. Rather he was a holy Korban (sacrifice), whose death brought us closer to Hashem (G-d), drawing a greater light and life force into the world.
I was struck today by how deeply paradoxical this attitude is from a people with such profound respect for life. Almost every one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah is pushed aside in order to preserve life. Taking a life, whether that of another or one’s own, is considered among the worst betrayals of our relationship with G-d. On a gut level, the cruel and horrific taking of a young boy’s life seems anything but life affirming. Yet there is some peculiarly Jewish spiritual instinct that is aroused by such events, that takes us over, and that stubbornly insists on viewing events like Shlomo’s murder as life-affirming for all of us.
For me that was the main lesson of the day that I absorbed from my fellow Bat Ayin residents. Many people related stories of personal salvation and strength that they attributed to Shlomo’s elevation. The stories unfolded from the moment of his passing down to the present, 3 years later.
It’s a beautiful time of year in these hills. Every living green thing, from the biggest trees to the smallest grasses, is flowering and in the midst of a wondrous celebration of life. The seasonal transition of this landscape from the intensely brown and barren Fall to the wildly green and colorful Spring is incredibly dramatic.
For me this year, the great drama of Spring in these hills is intimately bound up with the lesson of Shlomo’s life and elevation. It’s as if the natural world takes us to a summit of appreciation for life in all its green and flowering glory. Shlomo’s yahrzeit gives me an appreciation for life beyond what nature has the power to easily reveal, a level of life that transcends its embodied state, life beyond the distinction of life and death. It’s a level beyond intellect that we can’t possibly understand and explain but somehow can experience through events like Shlomo’s elevation.
Sometimes I feel like I’m very much a part of this community (having moved here two years ago), and sometimes, feeling a small taste of what this community has been through, I stand apart from it in awe and admiration for a level of strength and dignity that’s way beyond me. That distance is closed when I contemplate a personal element that binds me to Shlomo Nativ, the day of his yarzheit is also the day that another Shlomo, me, came into the world exactly 52 years ago. I stand on the hills of his boyhood with my two young sons growing in the fresh air of the ancient Judean hills. May we raise families and grow a community that is an honor to his special soul.