This year I was blessed to go to Israel for the High Holidays. As is the usual practice for college students, I crashed with family.
On Sunday, September 16, I was staying with my grandparents in Efrat, a Jerusalem suburb. My grandfather drew a deep breath while sitting at the kitchen table and said, "There was a piguah," using the Hebrew term for terrorist attack. I realized that the attack was a five-minute walk from where I was standing. My grandfather looked deeply disturbed --- more than he should have been.
It didn't take long for me to figure out why. "It's Ari Fuld," my grandfather said. "I just saw him in shul [synagogue] this morning."
For the rest of the day, tears, anger and frustration were common themes.
On the way to the funeral, I heard a bystander paraphrasing an ancient Jewish teaching: "One who is compassionate to the cruel, is cruel to the compassionate," intimating that the terrorist who murdered Ari should be shown no mercy.
Another person talked about using torture as a deterrent for terrorism, suggesting this as a punishment for Ari's murderer.
Still others predicted, bitterly, that the terrorist would be released within five years.
Then we arrived at the funeral. There, the message was entirely different.
Several thousand people crowded into and around the funeral home, the crowd extending as far as the eye could see. The sounds of shuffling feet and hushed whispers became deafening.
A large Israeli flag silently waved over the crowd. And then the Nation of Israel began to sing.
We didn't sing loudly. Rather, it was a hushed whisper. The collective voices of thousands of people.
We sang songs of mourning and unity. Songs like Gam Ki Eileich, Ochilah La'Eil, Ana Hashem and Acheinu. The crowd was filled with all types of Jews: Soldiers, rabbinic dignitaries, Chiloni'im [avowed secularists], Dati'im [the faithful] and visiting Americans; so very different but united in pain. Those who knew each other hugged. Those who didn't stood in solidarity.
When the family offered eulogies, "gibor" (hero) was the word repeatedly used to describe Ari.
Ari was remembered as among the strongest advocates for the Jewish people; a man who lived his life to the fullest.
One of Ari's brothers, Moshe, said, "Who else could manage, upon sustaining a fatal injury, to draw his pistol, jump a fence and shoot his attacker to make sure he would not hurt anyone else? Only my brother, only my brother."
Dani, another brother, related a conversation he had with Prime Minister Netanyahu. How was it possible, the PM asked, that Ari was able to pursue his attacker after such a wound.
Netanyahu posited, "Perhaps he had enough blood left in him." Dani disagreed. "It was not blood that propelled Ari to pursue his attacker," his brother was certain. "It was Ari's neshamah [soul]."
The overall message of the funeral was not anger --- though perhaps it would have been justfied. The message was about Ari, a hero who lived his life to the fullest, an example of something we should all strive towards. It was also about solidarity.
The Nation of Israel has stood and always will stand by their brothers and sisters.
Like Rabbi Judah Michel said, "Ari was a true Oheiv Yisrael (Lover of Jews), a fighter for Am Yisrael (Jewry), a defender of the honor of our nation. Ari represented the quintessential proud Jew, completely dedicated with Mesiras Nefesh [self-sacrifice], an idealistic and unapologetic Jew."
In a word, he was a hero.
(COMMENT, PLEASE, BELOW)