02 July 2014

Deep pain and grief

Three men-- Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach-- are dead. The words are intentionally bare and stark. They had not even lived 21 years of their lives. This gathering in Zion Square, a public square in West Jerusalem, Israel, located at the intersection of Jaffa Road, Ben Yehuda Street, Herbert Samuel Street, and Yoel Moshe Salomon Street. It is one of the vertices of the Downtown Triangle commercial district. Since the British Mandate era, Zion Square has been the focal point of the cultural life of downtown Jerusalem.

Zion Square was also the site of several terrorist attacks and a 2012 assault on Palestinian youth by a group of Jewish youth.

So it is fitting that this gathering took place after the world learned the fate of the three young Jewish teenagers. The world shook its head in dismay and disbelief. How could anyone take hostility to this low? We felt a kick in the stomach and like the people in the photograph, joined together in quiet reflection and in observable grief. And sharing together is the greatest way to ameliorate the pain.

I don't know if you were alive in 1970, but I had a flashback as I saw this. It was Ohio, in May 1970. I was living in St Louis, Missouri attending university there (at Washington University) when the news came across our radios. The scene was at Kent State University in the US city of Kent, Ohio, and involved the shooting of unarmed college students by the Ohio National Guard on May 4. The guardsmen fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis. Immediately like a kick in the stomach, university students country-wide knelt, ached, cried, and quietly sang. Then we got louder. And louder. How could this happen here? How can this happen anywhere?

Grief shared is lesser grief. I suppose it's like stress on a bridge or any structure when the tension is displaced across several layers. When we shared that day, singing songs by Jefferson Airplane and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, we found a peace that was tangible.  I don't know if that's what is happening here in Zion Square or anywhere in the world just now, but I join my voice saying kaddish along with what I imagine thousands of others, in hope that the families of the boys, the Frenkels, the Shaars, and the Yifrach family, will find peace and comfort.

Grief shared is lesser grief.

This is the photo by John Filo. He won the  Pulitzer Prize for this photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14-year-old runaway kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller minutes after he was shot by the Ohio National Guard.

May the Almighty console them among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.


Stephanie Hilliard said...

I think you are right, Bob. When we can share our grief and our pain, it helps us get through it. All of Isra'el (worldwide) and many others are sharing grief right now at the loss of these young lives solely to serve the cause of hate.

Bob Mendelsohn said...

Thanks Stephanie. BTW, today's Daily News has a stark opinion piece "Because they were Jews." Daily news article