Yesterday at 6:30 pm Israel time, three precious Jewish teenagers were laid to rest as they had died—side-by-side.
They died because they were Jews. They died because they were Israelis. Shirel Shaar, younger sister of the slain Gilad Shaar (16 years old), eulogized him. She said in part, “Gilad, you are joining a long list of heroes of Israel, not by choice, but by destiny. I hope you will be the last ones on the list".
They are our Jewish heroes, these three teens. Their blood is our blood—and now, their blood marks this land as ours.
Heroes, their coffins were draped with Israel’s national flag. May their families be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
These are our children. We mourn there passing. We will remember why they died.
At the time of the funeral, late yesterday afternoon, a friend of mine in my city picked up three teens who were ‘tremping’—hitch-hiking—at a bus stop. The funeral was in a different city, miles away.
In Israel, teens travel by tremping. They wait at a bus stop. But as they wait for a bus, they seek a ride from passing cars. If they get a ride, fine; if not, they’ll get the next bus.
My friend, as do many here, stopped voluntarily, to see where the boys wanted to go. They got into his car. He asked them what were they doing these days. They told him they had just finished school. He looked at them. He said, when I was your age, I danced in the streets for two days to celebrate finishing school. Why aren’t you dancing? One of them replied, how can we dance? Don’t you know there’s a funeral down in Modiin?
The funeral. Everyone in Israel knew about it. Everyone knew where it was---even teenagers who had just finished a year of school.
The news reported at least 50,000 people attending the funeral service. The time and place of the funeral had been published in the press on Monday around 1100 am Israel time. The funeral was scheduled for 5 pm that same day (this is how we do funerals in Israel; we bury our dead quickly).
Even though people in Israel had less than 6 hours to change their schedules to get there, they got there. More than 50,000 (perhaps more) showed up—just under one per cent of our population.
In America, a proportionally-sized crowd (just under one per cent of population) would mean a crowd of about 2.3 million. America has never seen a crowd that size—ever.
In Israel, we gathered almost one per cent of our population with just 6 hours’ notice.
These heroes, our lost boys, were family to all of us. When family is murdered, you show up.
That’s what Israel did. In a scorching heat, it showed up.
Even teens who never met the murdered boys understood what their passing meant. Even teens who have just finished a year of school understood that this was no time to celebrate. How could they, one asked, when we’ve got such a funeral to think about?
This is Israel. This is what it means to be a Jew. This is what it means to live upon your own national ancestral homeland. This is what it means when we say, Israel is special.