Yom shishi, 14 Tamuz 5768/17 July 2008, Thursday.
Yesterday and today were very sad days in Israel.
Yesterday, the bodies of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were returned to us, in exchange for five living terrorists. Today, our two soldiers were buried. May Hashem avenge their blood.
Today, amid discussions about what would have been the right approach to take in the so-called "prisoner swap," a nation mourned. We argued about whether the gains -- families able to find closure; an agunah unchained; military integrity regarding POWs; the halachic requirements to bury a Jewish body properly -- outweighed the potential harm: Why would our enemies bother to feed and care for our kidnapped soldiers, when they are worth as much dead as alive? Why wouldn't they kidnap more soldiers, when the strategic gains appear limitless, and the relative price to pay appears so low?
We mourned together, as a nation. We cried together, as a people, for the terrible trap of being a compassionate people facing a ruthless, monstrous enemy, in a seemingly unfeeling world.
When I was crying, every day it seemed, during the Oslo War, I had to disappear into "cyberspace" to find a group of people with whom to weep openly. Life in Chutz l'Aretz just seemed to march on to a much too normal beat. People were sympathetic, when I would explain why I was so upset. But I felt a little foolish to be so very sad, when so many people on the street seemed so unaffected.
When we were praying fervently for Gush Katif, and wearing orange, and people kept asking us, "What is 'Gush Katif'?" and "What's the deal with all the orange?", we felt like outsiders in our own community. Oh, don't get me wrong. Some people were happy to learn. Some clucked their tongues, and shook their heads, at the problems those poor Israelis were going through. A handful actually got it. When we lost Gush Katif, despite our prayers, some people who didn't really understand the situation reacted very calmly. "It was inevitable," said one. Open displays of pain seemed lacking in taste.
Today and yesterday, the whole Jewish country mourned together. The TV and radio news personalities spent time talking of these two men, who were sons or husbands or brothers to each of us, to all of us together. Today, my whole town, my whole country, shared my pain.
This is what it is NOT to be "the other," a stranger in a strange land. This is what it is to be home, among my own. This is what it is to be a Jew, living in the only Jewish country in the world.
To those who prayed for Udi and Eldad for two years: do not think that your prayers were wasted. Among the other powerful attributes of prayer, we learn that by davening for a righteous person, he is elevated. And if he is a worthy person, and we contemplate his life, as we learn more about him and his good deeds, his acts of courage, he becomes like a rebbi to us; and we, his talmidim, try to become better people. May the accumulated prayers for these dear soldiers help us indeed to become better Jews, that we may bring the Geula, bimhera v'ameinu.