Making the old city young again

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A Parent's Letter
from Mekor Chaim Yeshiva at the beginning of Elul 5774

We as the parents of the 12th grade boys of Makor Chaim Yeshiva in Kfar Etzion have just finished 10 weeks of the hardest roller coaster 'ride' with our sons, classmates of Naftali and Gil Ad z'l h'yd, two of the three boys murdered by Hamas on the last week of the school year here.   We stayed up nights and anguished for days with our sons as the class began the 18 days of search, hope, and prayer for the safe return of these three 'Tzadikim.'  The nation united from every background with an entire country searching, looking, and praying for the boys.   

The class 'stuck' together and became one big family.   The classmates said more tehilim than 'tilim' of the Hamas terrorists.   They three boys did not come home alive, but the State of Israel was re born again as a new type of nation over this summer.  The rockets began only a few hours after the triple burial of Gilad Ad, Naftali, and Eyal in Modiin's cemetery which over 100,000 people attended to give honor on the final path of the boys to their resting place.

This morning, our son, Simcha, who was Naftali's roommate in the 9th grade, slowly began to pack up his clothing and sfarim for the departure from home to join his classmates tonight back to dorm life in Kfar Etzion at Makor Chaim Yeshiva.   The backpack seemed heavier as did the quantity of sefarim and 'nosh' for the dorm room.   During the summer, he passed his first 'tzav' draft notice test with the IDF and was awarded the highest percentile of 97.   He was so proud of this ranking, which in the future will allow him to choose the highest unit of combat soldiers of the IDF.


The students welcomed each other back for Elul and the start of the new school year as seniors with other grades of new students from all over Israel.  They were proud that only 60 boys of 600 applicants get accepted to their yeshiva.   The class size grew with two new students but Naftali and Gil Ad were not here tonight.   Naftali's basketball and Gil Ad's flute were not heard or seen by the classmates.  The class stood near their table in the beis midrash and one can only imagine their thoughts staring at the empty space.

The 250+boys from grades 10-12 assembled in the beis midrash for Mincha at6pm.   The 9th graders arrive tomorrow for their first day.  The cellphones were slowly being turned off as they began to hear the news of another cease fire by Hamas tonight.

The first words of "Ashrei" were recited by the baal tefila, a 12th grader who was Gil Ad's roommate last year.  The Mincha was so loud that it sounded like the volume we use at Neila on Yom Kippur with the final words of Aveinu Malkeinu and Shma Yisrael.   

The Rosh Yeshiva reminded them to add "Yaaleh V'Yavo' for Rosh Chodesh.  Yes, to rise and to come, Yaaleh V' perhaps tonight, the memories and smiling faces of Naftali, Gil Ad in the beis midrash permeated the entire campus.

Rav Dov Zinger, the eloquent talmid chacham, their Rosh Yeshiva, now so well known all over Israel for his calm and voice of chizuk every day and night on those first 18 days of prayers for the boys, and the hesped he gave at the funerals as the Prime Minister and President of Israel stood near him, began his 'sicha' his speech tonight as the boys listened in absolute silence.

Rav Dov spoke about achdus, unity, and learning even harder in the coming year in tribute to their fallen classmates.   Suddenly, at 7pm, the time of the new cease fire, Rav Dov told the assembled student body to listen to the audio and loudspeakers.  

Rachel Frankel, the mother of Naftali, who shook up the nation and the world with her strength, her kaddish, her calm, her cries, and her tears, had taped a message as part of the annual 'Mekablim' dvar torah.  Rachel spoke about the strengths of her son and Gil Ad and Eyal.  Rachel's voice was piercing with such an effect that there were no sunglasses to wear as we could not  comprehend the surrealistic environment as the entire Beis Midrash began to sing "Ani Maamin" and "Lulei Heamanti."

The Rabbanim continued to speak as did a student, one who did not join the infamous hitchhiking ride to death because he forgot something in his room onJune 12.  

It was now time for Maariv to welcome the 2nd day of Rosh Chodesh Elul.  The boys began to daven after being reminded again for "Yaaleh Vyavoh."    The mourner's kaddish was recited after "Aleynu"and then the "LeDavid Hashem Ori" was shouted as it too began the cycle of the twice daily additional prayer from now until the end of Sukkot 5775.  The last words of "Kaveh el Hashem Chazek Vyametz" summarized these boys' challenges for the upcoming year of limudim.

The war that has ceased and fired (for now again) which began to eradicate Hamas Amalek from their tunnels to their terrorists to their missiles(not yet completed).........which perhaps, the murders of Naftali, Gil Ad, and Eyal, became a reason that Israel went to war?

The dorm rooms were full tonight at Makor Chaim Yeshiva in Kfar Etzion.........The sounds of guitars, harmonicas, and flutes could be heard in "Harei Yehuda" as we watched our sons begin their final year in high school around their sefarim in a packed beis midrash.   There were no reporters, no politicians, and no distractions.   Only the above picture reminded them to get stronger and never give up as there is no other home in the world except for Eretz Yisrael.

Tomorrow morning, the shofar will be used for the first time in a year, and I don't know if the cries of tears of Gilad, Naftali, and Eyal will be louder than the shofar tomorrow morning to awaken all of us here and there, that Rosh Hashana is now officially 30 days away