Rabbi Dov Zinger, dean of the Mekor Chaim Yeshiva high school in Kfar Etzion, opened a new school year on Monday.
However, the rabbi revealed it doesn't feel like a new year, but rather a continued period since two of his students, Naftali Frenkel (16) and Gilad Sha'ar (16) hy''d, were murdered along with Eyal Yifrah (19) hy''d on June 12 by Hamas terrorists.
Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Rabbi Zinger noted "to call it 'the start of the (school) year' is strange because we never stopped: we're in the midst of a continuing event like the rest of the people of Israel since that same bitter and hurried Thursday, and from there everything just rolled on."
"In a certain sense the whole year has been (the Jewish month of) 'Elul,'" remarked the rabbi in context of the current month, which is considered a time of repentance. "Certainly in the recent period they were days of Elul, and we continue them towards the (Jewish) New Year."
Following the abduction of the three, the IDF launched Operation Brother's Keeper to rescue them, an attempt that ended in tragedy 18 days later when their bodies were found just north of Hevron. Shortly thereafter Hamas launched a rocket terror war on Israel, causing Operation Protective Edge.
"There was a feeling that it was more than a 'regular terror attack' that happened here," recounted the rabbi, even while acknowledging "we didn't know that it would turn into war."
"We heard the terrorists on the recording saying 'get your heads down,' and I think that the response of the whole people of Israel was to raise our heads," emphasized the rabbi, referencing the chilling recording of Gilad's emergency call to the police in which the fatal gunshots could be heard.
Rabbi Zinger went on to say that the victory over Hamas is the sound of Torah study that could be heard in the background of the interview at the yeshiva.
"One of the hardest mitzvot (precepts) in the Torah is to choose life, (but for) youths it's even easier...we are tested through them and return to life, to simple life, with the memory in the background, but in the end we make a firm decision to choose life," said the rabbi.
The tragedy at the school led Economics Minister Naftali Bennett and MK Shuli Mualem (Jewish Home) to visit the yeshiva on Monday in a show of support.
Noting on the attention, Rabbi Zinger commented "in these days we have been exposed to the fact that we aren't a private yeshiva, and that means that we have left the anonymity for a feeling of greater responsibility."
A final point the rabbi raised was the steps the yeshiva is taking to commemorate the murdered teens. He noted that a campus is to be established in their names in the near future, but that more than the structure, the continued study is for their memory and merit.
Next Thursday a Torah learning circle is to be held at the yeshiva which will be open to the wider public.
"The idea in learning circles is like in war where the enemy doesn't distinguish between Jews and different types of kippahs - in this way we too do learning circles for the whole of the people Israel so as to continue this unity throughout the year," concluded the rabbi.