By Max Fruchter
The sight of countless Israeli flags waving at the burial site at the Har HaMenuchot cemetery caught my eye well before I reached my destination. For the entire day, my mind focused solely on those four victims of terror who died so tragically and were soon going to be buried in one of the largest, most holy cemeteries in Israel. Due to the large number of people set on attending the levayah, roads were closed off, leaving walking as the sole method of transportation. I encountered an array of news reporters, grieving citizens, and preaching men along my route to the cemetery. Upon finally arriving at Har Menuchot, I attended a powerful levayah for the four Paris victims of terror.
Amidst the whispers exchanged and tefillot recited, I quickly picked up on a large French presence. However, once the designated speakers mounted the podium to offer their remarks, a hush fell over the crowd of several thousand. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s powerful voice began the ceremonies as he addressed the need for Jewish solidarity in Israel and the world over. His words resonated deeply with everyone present as the only audible sounds were his voice echoing through the loudspeakers and the soft cries dispersed throughout.
Following Prime Minister Netanyahu’s passionate words, President Rivlin continued in offering sincere compassion and words of comfort. Interestingly, his speech as well as Prime Minister Netanyahu’s called more for a need to unite Jews across the globe than I would have expected. Although the victims were spoken about quite emotionally, the president and prime minister made a noticeable effort to draw from this horrible tragedy and guide Jews accordingly; their words reflected a powerful call to embrace our fellow Jew and build in the face of destruction.
Towards the end of the procession, a French minister began his address. Although the meaning of his words remained enigmatic to me, the emotional pitch audible in his voice told me everything I needed to know. In the 20 minutes or so that he spoke, I picked up on several distinct words that were easily recognizable–“solidarity,” “Judaism,” “anti-Semitism,” “family.” As he concluded, the names of those murdered stuck out from his speech and aroused an even more poignant feeling of sadness, grief, and hope.
Before the bodies were taken for burial, an Israeli singer delivered a powerful Hatikvah in which everyone partook. English, Hebrew, and French accents were audible throughout but composed one harmonious voice of Jewish pride. I believe that the words of Hatikvah, which assert the irrepressible hope of every Jew for the establishment of Israel as a homeland for us all, elevated the atmosphere for everyone present. Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Rivlin effectively captured Hatikvah’s message and brought every Jew’s mindset toward strengthening themselves and their fellow Jews with kindness, sincerity, and love. v
Max Fruchter is a graduate of DRS Yeshiva High School in the Five Towns and recently returned to visit the yeshiva in Jerusalem where he spent the previous academic year.