Donuts at the site of a murder | Yoni Zierler

As thousands gathered for Eli Kay’s funeral on November 22, 2021, one could almost be forgiven for believing that the recent New York Times article presenting Israel as a gloomy and frustrated country. Although an ironic social media campaign swept the article with ironic messages detailing the beauty and warmth of “sad and sad Israel,” neither humor nor irony was present at Monday’s funeral. . Assassinated by a Hamas terrorist who opened fire (and injured two other civilians and two border police officers) in the Old City of Jerusalem last Sunday, Kay has been described by friends and relatives as a brilliant soul whose death left an incumbent void in the lives of those who knew him.

In the parking lot of Jerusalem’s Har HaMenuchot cemetery, familiar faces of grief gathered. Childhood friends, army buddies, journalists, politicians and anyone who never knew – and will never know Eli, but felt his soul calling them.

If you live in Israel long enough, this scene can become unbearably familiar. In a small country, everyone knows someone who has been killed or who has known someone who has been killed by terror. Tears flow freely as the mourners speak in low, uncertain voices, their crisp voices betraying deep sorrow. Sad, sad Israel.

But only for those who are deaf.

An hour before the start of the funeral, the growing crowd, reinforced by young students spending their years in yeshivas, seminars and other gap year programs, began to sing and shake hands. Ancient Jewish words of belief, steadfastness, resilience and unity filled the place with cold concrete and the heavy silence with a “why?” ” without answer ?

“The family,” the first speaker announced at the end of the song, “demand that no eulogies be uttered. Only strong words.

Don’t be sad for Eli, ”said his brother Kasriel,“ but think about what you can do, in your own way, to keep the light of his memory alive while strengthening the country and the people he loved.

Inspired by this accusation, my colleagues and I left the next day from the Jaffa Gate to the place of his murder. In our hands was a bright pink bag from the nearby Roladin bakery, filled with sufganiyot donuts, for the security forces stationed in the area.

Unlike Gaza, where Hamas terrorist supporters handed out candy to celebrate Eli’s cold-blooded murder, we handed out donuts and kind words to celebrate life; remembering the light Eli was to so many people and thanking the brave defenders whose instincts, swift actions and selflessness have saved countless innocent lives from the sheaves of terrorist bullets.

Symbol of the upcoming Hanukkah holiday, fried sufganiyot are reminiscent of the oil miracle that defied expectations and continued to light up the nights. Together with the Hanukkah candles, these two symbols remind us of what Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi once said, despite times of darkness, war and persecution, “a little light can dispel a lot of darkness.” And they sweeten the bitter taste of loss with the taste of life.

Indeed, Jews as a whole and Israelis in particular have an intimate knowledge of sadness, but a long time ago we learned to smile through tears. We have lived through countless trials and tribulations, but we have always found a way to light a way through the darkest times with our hopes, beliefs, and perseverance.

Eli’s horrific murder is another dark chapter for us, but the image of his dazzling smile, the stories shared by his friends and family, and the legacy of kindness and compassion he leaves behind. are a little candle that we now use to dispel the darkness and bring in the light.

Yoni Zierler is the chief tour guide and director of “Discover”, the tourism department of StandWithUs – a non-profit, non-partisan Israeli international education organization that works to inspire and educate people of all ages about Israel, as well as to challenge disinformation and the fight against anti-Semitism. Raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Yoni immigrated to Israel for his final year of high school, and then served (with excellence) in the IDF. Lover of history, books and music, Yoni is married and happy. to Yochi and the proud father of Golan Noam and Klil Eden.

Amanda J. Marsh