I know it’s an absurd question. So I’ll only entertain it for a moment.
The eighth verse of Eicha (Lamentations) simply and plainly states that the Jews of Judea were themselves responsible for the Destruction of Jerusalem and the Exile from the land. “Jerusalem sinned grievously, and therefore became an abandoned outcast”. This assertion is central to the theology and religious worldview of Eicha, and is consistent with the predictions and pleadings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and virtually all of Israel’s prophets.
Nonetheless, despite this clear assignment of blame and responsibility, despite the assertion that the military defeat was justified in spiritual and moral terms, the book immediately proceeds to mourn over the loss of all the children who were caught up in the war. “For these I weep, my eyes run down with water. My children are lost, for the enemy has triumphed.”
On then, to the absurd question: Why does the book mourn? Isn’t this sort of mourning misguided and wrong? Doesn’t it reflect ignorance and willful disregard for the larger moral narrative? Isn’t it an expression of a dangerous – even threatening – emotional softness, when what it required is a hard, unflinching focus on the right-and-wrong of the story?
I know. It’s an absurd question. It’s an absurd question because the death of children, no matter how it happens, is a profound tragedy. Woe for the horrible waste of it. The undeserved suffering. The loss of innocence and beauty. What heart is there that can look the other way? The book of Eicha reflects what we all know. That no matter how compelling or morally weighty the explanation for it may be, the death of children is still heart-wrenching.
Each one of us has privately quietly mourned, after seeing the pictures and reading the stories of children who have died in Gaza. We have mourned because we are humans, and because we are Jews. And we have mourned thus, despite our knowledge that the blame and responsibility for these deaths lie squarely with the enemy, an enemy which holds children on its own lap while it fires at ours. We have mourned, because this knowledge does not make the outcome less tragic.
But while we have mourned in our hearts, we have been afraid of admitting to others that we have done so. We tend to feel that we mustn’t say it out loud. That we mustn’t include Gazan children in our public prayers for Divine protection. Because we think that this would be perceived as a betrayal of our people, a betrayal of our selfless and courageous soldiers. While in reality of course, such a failure to mourn would only be a betrayal of our own souls, of our deepest nature.
Each one of us is mourning the loss of every precious fallen chayal. Which of us could not see his own child in the sweet face of Hadar Goldin, or in the smile of Yuval Dagan? And we have, all of us together, just now completed the shloshim for Naftali and Gilad and Ayal. And the mourning for our own will always be more profound and more wrenching than the mourning for the other. But chevre, let us not be afraid to say publically that we also mourn for the dead children of Gaza. Because what kind of Jewish heart would not? What kind of Jewish nation could not?