We’ve all been there, at a wedding, Bar Mitzvah, any happy event, when someone stands and reminds the company of the missing guest. Usually it is a grandparent, no longer living, who is remembered. Sometimes it is an ailing family member who is not able to attend. Other times it is a soldier who could not get leave. And then there are the terror victims.
Twelve years ago I was one of the many guests at a wedding here in Shilo. The bridegroom, a young man I have known since he was in kindergarten, stood under the chupah and reminded us of not one, but rather four, missing guests. The first was his cousin who had been murdered several months earlier when an Arab terrorist penetrated his yeshiva in Atzmona. Hamas claimed responsibility for that attack. The second was his close friend who had been killed a month later in the line of duty when his unit was ambushed in Jenin. Next to be remembered was one of the boys who had been in the youth group the groom had led. This young man was murdered in the spring when an Arab infiltrated his high school and shot three boys dead. Fatah took the credit for that attack. Twenty-two days later that boy’s good friend was murdered when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a crowded bus stop in Jerusalem. This time the “glory” of murdering mothers, grandmothers, babies, and students went to the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade.
As I stood at that chupah and heard the young man’s powerful words I knew I was not the only one to have tears running down my cheeks. Still, there was something in the words that gave comfort. We would never forget our missing guests. Later, after the ceremony was over the dancing began. One of the guests, who had been injured in the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade’s recent attack, sat in his wheelchair watching the dancing. It did not take long for someone to grab the handles of his chair and push him into the circle of rejoicing friends. Minutes later he was raised into the air along with the groom and they joined hands as others reveled around them. It was a moment of healing.
The terror continues and so does the healing. Recently I was at a joyous wedding of one of our Shilo boys marrying a Shilo girl. Instead of having a friend for one of his witnesses the groom chose a middle-aged man. I was not surprised. This man was the father of one of the groom’s close friends but his friend could not be at the wedding. He had been murdered along with seven other high school students in the Mercaz HaRav Massacre five years ago. That Massacre was praised by Hamas and 84% of the polled “Palestinians”.
As the dancing began I found myself sitting next to the murdered boy’s mother. Normally she is an enthusiastic dancer at weddings. This time she was content to watch the boys celebrate. Many of those boys had been friends of her son and she felt a connection with them. Although it must have been difficult she watched with a smile. We sat mostly in silence and then we rose together to join the dancing women.
There were questions I wanted to ask her. I knew she was able to deal with her tragedy because she believes that there is more to life that the here and now. How, I wondered, though, was she dealing with the recent prisoner release? I knew that a loud, crowded wedding hall was not the place to ask.
Actually, I really don’t need to ask her. Instead, I was able to read an article by a bereaved mother, Sherri Mandell: Please, Israeli government, I beg you: Don’t go looking for my son’s killers. The ones who cruelly beat Koby and Yosef to death with rocks, the barbarians who attacked two eighth grade boys — my son and his friend — who were on a hike near our home in Israel. Please don’t find them. Don’t apprehend them and put them in jail and make my family and me sit through a long trial and sentencing, where my heart will quake and my stomach will constrict and I will feel that I am about to faint.
Don’t find them guilty and put them in jail. Because I don’t want the torture of knowing that these killers will find their way to freedom one day, will be greeted by their mothers with hugs, while my son and Yosef lie in the ground. I could not bear to go through : betrayal by the government that is supposed to protect them.
For the rest of the article go to http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/im-glad-my-sons-murderers-have-not-been-found/
These twenty-six terrorists went home this week and were greeted as heroes. No doubt they will soon be guests as joyous weddings and other parties. Their victims, though, remain dead. They remain the missing guests at their families’ celebrations.
I pray the day will come soon that there will be no more missing guests.
For more of my thoughts on the release of terrorists see In Cold Blood, November 8th, 2013.