Yakir Asaraf, a secular Israeli, who like many others was shocked by the immensity of the Meron tragedy, decided that he had to do something to share in the families’ pain, and he and a friend went to pay a shiva call to the Englard family of Jerusalem, who lost their two sons, Moshe Natan Neta, z’l, 14, and Yehoshua, z’l, 9.
He wrote a Facebook post about his experience, which quickly went viral and moved thousands of Israelis.
“It could be that I just experienced one of the most significant moments of my life,” Asaraf wrote. “I just left the shiva of the Englard family, who lost their two sons at Meron. And my heart is simply bursting with mixed emotions, my eyes are filled with sad tears, but my heart is full of simcha.”
“When my friend Maor and I, dressed in jeans and T-shirts, entered their home, we really stood out in the Chareidi crowd. Some people looked up and two wonderful Chareidim quickly got up and let us sit, mamash opposite Menachem Mendel, the father who lost his two sons just days ago.”
“The father noticed us and quickly stopped speaking in Yiddish with the other menachamim and turned to me and Maor in Hebrew.”
“‘I’m happy you came,’ he said, and his eyes are wet with tears but his face is radiant. “When are we already zochech to meet together – you and I?’ he said.
“Maor and I looked at him with sparkling eyes as if he’s a malach talking to us.
“‘You should know that what’s happening here is the truth,” he said. ‘You and I are both pained by the great loss. We’re giving chizzuk to each other. It doesn’t matter if you’re chilonim (secular) or Chareidim – we’re Jews.”
“Everyone else in the room – in eerie silence – is quietly listening to Menachem Mendel talk to us.
“‘I want you to invite me to your simchos!'” I say.
“‘And I’ll invite you to my simchos!'” he responds.
“A few minutes of silence and he looks down and mumbles; ‘Mi K’Amcha Yisrael.’
After the tefillah, we approach him and before we had a chance to say words of comfort, he says, ‘Thank you for coming. You were mechazeik me.'”
“Maor and I leave the house, looking at each other, but unable to speak. We can’t process what just happened, and while I’m writing these words, I still can’t process it.
“This meeting represents the truth of our Am, the endless Ahavas HaChinum we have for each other, our shared pain, the tremendous emunah that continues to unite us.”
“I’ll end with a tefillah l’Yoshevi Ba’Meromim – for Ahavas Chinam between us, and for besuros tovos, and for all the families of the victims to be zochech to true nachas, and that I’m zocheh to be invited to the smachos of the wonerful Menachem Mendel.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)