(November 24, 2015 / JNS)
I really wanted to write about something else this week. But I just can’t ignore the unrelenting attacks happening in Israel. Just last week, a Palestinian terrorist murdered Ezra Schwartz, a sweet-looking Bostonian boy just 18 years old, while he was delivering food to soldiers. He was studying in yeshiva—I wouldn’t be far off to guess that he was learning about morality there, as the very act he was performing while he was murdered was one of chessed (loving-kindness). Just the day before he was killed, Ezra sent an email to the national director of the Israel Association of Baseball, asking to play in the association’s spring league.
To be completely honest, the day I found out about Ezra’s death, I tried to ignore it. Sometimes that’s the way that people cope with the murders and attacks that occur here every day. But it got more and more difficult to ignore—the kid was from a suburb of Boston that I’ve visited in the past few years. He grew up in Boston, a city that I love—a city where many of my friends grew up. The high school from which he just graduated was familiar—a friend of mine just wore her sweatshirt today that had the name “Maimonides” written on the front.
Posts continued to show up on my Facebook newsfeed about Ezra, some from friends who knew him personally. It became impossible for me to ignore.
One video I found showed all of his friends gathered at Ben Gurion International Airport, huddled around his coffin that was to be sent to America to be buried. The many yeshiva boys and his supporters sang Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah” (The Hope) and cried over Ezra’s body as he left Israel for the very last time.
A Times of Israel article by Sally Abrams describes the event so perfectly. She writes, “Every parent who has ever waved goodbye to a child heading to Israel has the same worry in the back of their mind. But one manages that fear by acknowledging that the odds of American kids on Israel programs becoming victims of terrorism are exceedingly low […] The Schwartzes are now living the nightmare of every parent.”
I can only imagine what my parents are thinking in America right now, given my recent aliyah to Israel. I know they worry. And when this happens to a kid from the U.S., a kid who probably told his parents that he is being safe in Israel, and that nothing will happen, it likely hits close to home for all parents who send their kids off to Israel.
Abrams goes on to say that Ezra looks familiar. Also very true: The other day, I stared at his pictures, sure I had seen him somewhere.