Three weeks and a day ago Avi Seton was murdered. He's an eleventh grader. Avi was always a funny kid: biggest kid in the class, sort of a teddy bear. Big heart, big brother to all the little kids he could get his hands on. Never a great student, he made up for it by having good cheer for everyone; by taking everything that came his way with a smile, by making the world a better place by pouring happiness all over it like syrup.
He had a best friend, who of course, was the shortest kid in their class. Shmuel Yerushalmi was feisty. A constant organizer, whether it was activities for the younger kids who he also was always worried about, or for his own class. He was in the process of organizing a class hike for the summer, in memory of Avi. Today, Shmuel was murdered, just like his buddy. In one sense, it seems like they couldn't bear to be apart.
Shmuel was present when the terrorist broke into his yeshiva, where of course he learned together with his buddy Avi. He succeeded in hiding, in alerting the security forces, and in helping bring about the end of the attack, but not in time to save Avi. He spent hours in the graveyard, perhaps not forgiving himself for being unable to do more against a man armed with a sub-machine gun. For months he had been struggling to get permission and training with side-arms. But he was seventeen; just a kid. Seemed a little silly to let him play with fire.
Tonight Shmuel was in Jerusalem. What was he doing so far away from that hilltop yeshiva of his? He was taking a Bagrut, a matriculation exam. It was scheduled for him in Jerusalem, as it was thought too dangerous to make kids travel to that distant Judean hilltop Itamar. So, in the safety of Jerusalem, holy of holies, Shmuel took his final test.
Bagruyot come in many colors. As a kid goes through high school, they take at least thirteen of these tests, which are supposed to measure how well they've 'learned the material,' but of course are mainly used to help or impede a kid from getting further education. There's History, English, Literature, Math, Tora, Citizenship,and a whole slew, of others, some optional, some required.
Today's Bagrut was in 'Eretz Yisrael.' Shmuel was being tested on whether he had a good enough grasp on what Israel is all about. And after finishing that test, he gave his life, just like his best friend did, for Eretz Yisrael. Does what happened tonight mean he passed, or he failed? I wonder what score he got? Does he get the exact same score as his friend Avi, who never made it to the Bagrut, but sure made it to the test? Or maybe the Master of the Universe knew how well he knew the material, and just couldn't bear to keep them apart?
They were just kids, and did what they were supposed to do, supremely well. God willing, we adults will face our tests as well; will do what we are supposed to do, so that we have a world safe enough that our children will not be faced with watching their friends die at the hands of a people who have forsaken all right to live amongst civilized human beings.
May their memory be blessed.
In memorial of these two boys, and their two great loves, people in Shilo have set up two 'pools.'
The first provides hiking material (tents, maps, sleeping bags, etc.), in memory of Shmuel. To find out more, or to contribute, contact Tsofia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The second is Clei Avi, which seeks to provide musical instruments to anyone who wants to make music, in memory of Shmuel. For more information, see Clei Avi or contact Ncoom at email@example.com .