Disclaimer: I know this article is a bit longer than usual, and may be difficult to read. I wrote it on the morning of November 18th. Please read it through, even if you skip some parts. It is a tribute to the Jewish people, to people of strong faith. To the power of faith. If you must, skip to the paragraph that starts “On faith”.
Where to begin. My stomach is churning and my heart hurts. Horror occurred this morning here in Israel. Horror that makes a mockery of all fictional terror. Real unimaginable horror.
And yet, a conundrum: faith that I see and hear in my fellow Israelis, faith that is deeper than that which is fathomable.
“How?”, I have often asked myself. Where does this deep unfathomable faith come from, in a nation of people that have been hit so often and personally with awful, gut-wrenching tragedy? Since I have moved here, in December 2000 – just after the second Intifada started - I have come to the realization that EVERYONE knows at least someone, if not multiple people, who have been injured, mutilated, or murdered by the hands of our cousins. And then there are those who have been killed or injured defending their country. And those, proudly wearing the Israeli Defense Force uniform, who have been killed and targeted because they are wearing their fatigues.
It really defies the imagination, what goes on here on a regular basis. We are a nation either at war, just after war, or just before war. And all throughout, terror attacks. Random acts of barbarism aimed at us for the undeniable fact of our hard-won act of carving out a narrow strip of land to call our own. We have won and re-won the land we live in, fighting for it time and again since the day after the UN announced the vote results on the creation of the State of Israel for the Jewish nation. A nation we worked to build with blood sweat and tears after the horrors of Nazi Europe. A land to defend our people from just such atrocity, which we unfortunately remain the target of, this time from a closer enemy.
We have, at times, even given pieces of our precious tiny country away, under the hope and lure of peace. But the cousins we live with do not want peace, they want us gone. It is their holy mission to kill us. To run us over while waiting at bus stops, and if that fails to kill us, to come out of their cars wielding irons and then attempt to beat us to death. To slam into our soldiers with a van as if they are bowling pins. To enter our synagogues with axes and knives and butcher our men, while the victims’ unknowing wives and children wait for their men to come home. And for all this, the knowledge that these butchers and cold-blooded killers’ families get rewarded monetarily, that they are educated to believe rewards await them in heaven, that they are taught and raised to be martyrs for this cause. Is the world blind to this, I wonder? Do people not get accurate news? How come the world is not in uproar? Immediately after the atrocity of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the other planes and targets of that infamous day, George Bush’s response was immediate and unforgiving. Yet we live with this - side by side with the terrorist, enjoying the same freedoms of citizenship - in our neighborhoods, on our streets, on our public transportation, and we are expected to sit on our hands and acquiesce to world opinion? We should sit by while our innocent citizens are mercilessly murdered?
But I am getting sidetracked from my initial statement.
On faith. That is the title, and that is the answer.
We are a nation that takes things on faith. It is precisely because we have witnessed such horrors that our faith runs so deep. Knowing that G-d is steering the world always toward a better place, knowing that these are choppy, unforgiving waters we are traveling in order to get to our ultimate destination, mapped out by G-d, that is how our world makes sense. Without this knowledge, without this complete faith that G-d is in control and has our ultimate best interest (both as individuals, as a nation, and as a world) in mind, always, we would be frozen by tragedy and terror. Yet that is not what you see on the streets of Jerusalem this morning, just 2 hours after this latest attack. People are in mourning, of course. People are heavy of heart and in a state of shock at this latest infiltration into the quiet peacefulness of yet another Jerusalem neighborhood. But we are walking with backs straight and heads high. We are functioning, albeit with stones in our chest and tears in our hearts. We are moving forward. How? (And that is sincerely a deep question. After 9/11, how long did it take for NY to function again? It felt as if the whole world had stopped and was in a state of shock. The fact that we live through terror attacks – albeit smaller in number of casualties per attack, but with a frequency that is halting, is not the reason we are able to keep moving. One does NOT get used to this type of thing. It is not casual or habit-forming – getting up and moving after a devastating attack like this.) How do we rise again and keep moving? Keep praying? Keep playing with our children? Continue with our Torah learning and observance of Jewish law? Only because of our faith in G-d. It is our strength. It is our signature character. It is the strength of our character.
He is in control. This is not random chaos or the atrocities of an unmannered, undisciplined world. This is purposeful movement through pain, leading to salvation. We liken it to labor pains. Marianne Williamson says, if one changes the context, one changes the experience. I offer this example: if a woman did not know a baby was forthcoming when she was in labor, certainly she would think she was dying, being torn in half. Only the knowledge that a baby will be the result of all this unfathomable intense heart-wrenching pain keeps her sane and focused. She understands her body is doing what it should, as G-d and nature intended, in order to bring absolute joy, beauty and perfection into this world.
So it is with this time in history. We are experiencing very personally and intensely the confusion and unfathomableness of labor pains. But we have our deep faith. We KNOW that beauty and perfection are on its way. We are eagerly awaiting to hear the cry of deliverance so that we may weep tears of joy, in place of these tears of tragedy.
May we all have peace of heart and mind, and strength to use our faith to motivate us and keep us strong. May our faith continue to carry us on this wave to deliverance, and may it come soon.
May G-d grant comfort and tranquility to the Jewish families that are mourning their loved ones on this November morning, and may they feel our compassion, the national sharing of their pain.
With tears and love, and undying faith,
Joining an Independence Day Parade in Jerusalem a few years ago.
Five terror attacks that I can think of have occurred just around this area in the past few months.
If you feel called to do so, come share your feelings and reactions in the Beit Roga community forum, www.facebook.com/beitroga