The traumatic events of the summer of 5774 and the Gaza incursion Protective Edge have had a profound effect on the Jewish people. Many rabbinic leaders, politicians and scholars have written and spoken eloquently about these these events in the search for meaning. Perhaps the most poignant and inspiring words were voiced by the courageous parents who endured the most heartbreaking tragedy – that of burying their children. When calamity befalls the Jewish people the question that is most productive to ask is not “Why did this happen” but rather “How do we respond?” Only G-d can answer the question of Why?
The kidnapping of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach was uniquely different than previous tragic events in Israel because we got to know the boys and their families during those 18 anxious days of hope and prayer. As we became intimate with the parents and their sons, we were transformed into one family. Gazing at the vibrant eyes and the charming smiles of the boys we began to see the bright eyes and happy smiles of our own children. Similar to our children, they were coming home from school. Like our sons and daughters they had bright futures, dreams and aspirations. Then came the terrible, horrific and unthinkable news from Israel. Gone were the bright eyes, happy smiles, dreams and aspirations. There was no future for Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal (HY”D). For a brief moment we all became the parents of the boys – we all suffered a terrible loss. The Three Weeks had come early and we were all in a state of national mourning.
This tragedy was followed by Operation Protective Edge, the military action in Gaza. Here again, we experienced the loss of young soldiers who sacrificed their lives for Israel. These brave boys and their families also touched our lives. They left an indelible impression in our minds and in our hearts. The loss of the boys and the ongoing battle in Gaza has traumatized our People. This trauma has been amplified and exacerbated by the surge of anti-Semitisn throughout much of the world. Support for Israel is waning and most young Americans under the age of 30 are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. Radical Islam has incited fear and caused bloodshed across Europe and Muslim countries. The situation is frightening and images of Nazi Germany in the 1930s are beginning to haunt us. These events require us to seriously reflect on the situation and consider the implications for raising and guiding our children. Our sons and daughters are precious jewels and the family unit is our greatest treasure. How do we keep our precious jewels safe during turbulent times? What can we do to build resilience in our children who are exposed to trauma and hate? How can we strengthen faith in G-d during ongoing crisis?
To respond to these questions and to consider the implications of the events of the summer of 5774, I have listed a few thoughts that I trust will provide guidance to parents: 1) Safety: Our children are subjected to an inordinate amount of negative and frightening news. Natural disasters, violence, kidnapping, terrorism, accidents and abuse are just few of the calamitous events to which they are exposed. It is understandable that children are concerned about their safety. Since children are excellent observers but not always the best interpreters of events they may be harboring unconscious concerns regarding their security and well-being. It is likely that the recent abduction of the three Israeli teens and the war in Gaza has exacerbated their concerns. Parents, therefore, need to reassure their children that the world is basically a safe place. It is important that parents project a sense of confidence in their ability to protect their children and keep them safe. It is always valuable to review with children general safety procedures including, but not limited to, crossing the street, speaking with strangers and car and bike safety.