Only on a Jerusalem Bus: Remembering the 8 Slain Students

The city bus driver asked permission to speak, turned off the motor, and spoke of his murdered nephew as the passengers shed tears.

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Hillel Fendel ,

The terrorist slaughter in Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav, in which eight budding Torah scholars were gunned down by an Arab terrorist, is constantly in the air.  A staffer from the Jerusalem-based Nefesh B'Nefesh organization related the following:

"Every morning I take the 35 bus line to work. It's a quick ride and usually takes no more than 12 minutes. The third stop after I get on by the shuk [Machaneh Yehuda outdoor market] is directly in front of Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav. This morning, I found myself a bit anxious, unsure of what I was going to see as we passed by. As I looked around, I saw death notices pasted all over the street, and flowers that had been brought lined the entrance to the Yeshiva. When the bus pulled up to the stop, the driver shut off the engine and stood. With tears in his eyes, he told everyone on the bus that one of the boys killed on Thursday night was his nephew. He asked if we would mind if he spoke for a few minutes in memory of his nephew and the other boys who were killed. After seeing head nods all over the bus he began to speak.

"With a clear and proud voice, he spoke beautifully about his nephew and said that he was a person who was constantly on the lookout for how to help out anyone in need. He was always searching for a way to make things better. He loved learning, and had a passion for working out the intricacies of the Gemara. He was excited to join the army in a few years, and wanted to eventually work in informal education.

"As he continued to speak, I noticed that the elderly woman sitting next to me was crying. I looked into my bag, reached for a tissue and passed it to her. She looked at me and told me that she too had lost someone she knew in the attack. Her neighbors' child was another one of the boys killed. As she held my hand tightly, she stood up and asked if she too could say a few words in memory of her neighbor. She spoke of a young man filled with a zest for life. Every Friday he would visit her with a few flowers for Shabbat and a short dvar torah [Torah thought] that he had learned that week in Yeshiva. This past Shabbat, she had no flowers...

"...The eight boys who were killed will continue to impact us all individually and as a nation. Each one of us has the ability to make a profound impact on our world. This coming Wednesday morning, I will be at Ben Gurion Airport at 7 AM with Nefesh B'Nefesh welcoming 40 new olim [immigrants] to Israel . We will not be deterred. We cannot give up. We will continue to live our lives and hope and work for change, understanding and peace."

A Letter From a "Greenhorn" from England
A young hareidi-religious man wrote to each of the bereaved families.  Each of the eight letters were hand-delivered by a neighbor to the Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Weiss, who said he would make sure each family received its copy:

Dear Lifshitz Family,
The truth is that I do not feel worthy at all of writing to you.  How can it be possible for a someone from the outside, who doesn't know how strong is your pain, to write words of consolation, when only you know the true extent of the terrible pain you are suffering... But still, I can't just stand by without writing what I feel in my heart, so please allow me the opportunity to do so.

The truth is that I am from abroad, from England. I am here learning in Kollel in Har Nof [a Jerusalem neighborhood]. I did not know your son, and I don't even know anything about Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav, but I am writing to tell you that even though I don't know you at all, your sorrow is my sorrow, your pain is my pain, and your loss is my loss.  It's not just your personal tragedy, but rather the tragedy of all of us; we have all lost a brother, we have all lost a son. And I am crying together with you.

How can I even imagine what it's like for parents to receive a call late at night with such terrible news, saying just that your beloved and delightful son who went to yeshiva to learn was killed in the way in which he was killed.  How can it even be imagined what a father and mother feel like when hearing such a thing? And how can I even picture the feeling of lacking, the anguish and the tears of a father and mother on the next day, this morning, when they have to bury their son who just a few hours before was their hope for the future?

I have nothing to say, no one has anything to say. All I can tell you is that now as I write, the tears are again streaming from my eyes, just as they streamed this morning when I stood on the street at the funeral of your dear son Yochai, may G-d avenge his blood.

 ...What is clear, though, is that these boys who were killed for the sanctification of G-d's Name went straight up to Gan Eden [Paradise], to the special place for those who died this way. They died in their place of Torah, in the place in which they went to perfect themselves in their worship and fear of G-d, and in their study of Torah.  And there in Gan Eden, they are beseeching G-d to give you the strength to weather these terrible difficulties.

...What I thought was that the Torah tells us that G-d said He would be "sanctified with [the death of] My holy ones" - and that [the fact that Aharon's sons Nadav and Avihu were killed] shows that they were the great ones... This Sabbath eve, when these boys were taken, it is also an aspect of G-d being sanctified with His holy ones... That they are the sacrifices shows that they, these pure and clean ones, can be seen to be the greatest of us...

It remains for me to say only that when one loses a child, it is like losing one of his limbs, a genuine part of himself, and just like a limb cannot be replaced, so too with a child - but just like one who loses a limb learns how to continue his life without that limb, I bless you that even though you lost something of a value that no one can even evaluate - do not forget him, his absence will be felt forever, but I just pray that you will have the strength and the consolation and the ability to continue despite the absence, to continue to live without pain, but simply with his great memory.

I just wanted to add that I give you my word, with no intention to vow, that just as his memory will never be forgotten by you, it won't be forgotten by me, and the memory of your son Yochai will always be before me. I pray that we know no more sorrow.

May Hashem comfort you amidst the mourners for Zion and Jerusalem.

Recognizing G-d's Hand
At a gathering of the Yeshivot Bnei Akiva movement in Ramot Shapira, in the Jerusalem Corridor, the revered Rabbi Chaim Druckman - long-time head of Yeshivat Or Etzion and teacher-rabbi in Merkaz HaRav - said, "We would have expected to hear the heads of our state declaring: For every yeshiva student who was murdered, we will start a new yeshiva; for every boy killed, we will start another Jewish community or neighborhood in the Negev, the Galilee, the Shomron and Hevron, and that for every person who dies for the sanctification of G-d's Name we will bring another 1,000 new olim [immigrants].  These are the proper Jewish Zionist responses to these terrible murders, at the same time as dealing militarily with the terrorists.  Our youth can carry out these missions and is waiting for them."

"In our time," Rabbi Druckman said, "we experienced hester panim [the hiding of G-d's face] within hester panim - double, triple, and quadruple.  Afterwards, we merited to receive a form of redemption, and that too came about with hester panim. Making light of what has happened in our times is heresy to the same extent as making light of the Purim story and the events of Mordechai, Esther and Ahashverosh."

Eight New Towns
Women in Green, too, called for the immediate establishment of eight new Jewish towns throughout Judea and Samaria as "true Jewish Zionist revenge."  The organization says that this is especially fitting "in light of the fact that Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav symbolizes Jewish settlement in Yesha. At this time, when the Olmert government continues to cave in to the Arab enemy by continuing to negotiate the matter of a new Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem, eight new Jewish towns will send a clear message to the entire world: The sons of Haman and their henchmen will not deter us and will not stop our settlement enterprise; we will rather strengthen and enhance our loyalty and attachment to the entire Land of Israel."



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