In Defiance of Terror, Holding on to Hope

Though this week in Israel was quieter than last, there were still far too many tragic and painful incidents. And yet, yesterday when I was speaking to two community members, and they asked me if I would get on a plane tomorrow, I responded that I would travel there in a heartbeat.

I lived in Israel for a full year at what would be come the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2000. Terrorism does exactly what the word states, it terrifies people. The tension of living there during that violent time is still seared in my memory. But I also remember that in spite of the attacks, Israelis (and we American expats) went on with our daily lives. We went to school, we ran errands, we shared joy and celebrated simchas, and of course we mourned. We were scared but in defiance of terror, we held on to hope and kept going.  That is the Israeli way. That is the Jewish way.

A few months after I returned in 2001, I witnessed the planes of 9/11 slam into the trade towers from my Hoboken, NJ apartment window. I thought I was home in the US, insulated from terror, but in that moment everything shifted for me. Terrorism is not unique to Israel. It can happen anywhere in the world.

French Philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy's reflection on the knife violence in Israel this week posits that it is "a latest installment of a world wide jihad of which Israel is just one of the stages." I think it puts this new twist on extremist violence in a global perspective and is well worth considering. No matter how much we think that we in the US are immune, the effects of extremism are spreading. We should stand in defiance against such violence any place in the world. Why is the world not up in arms about these knife attacks? Is it because they are in Israel?

This week many of my friends and colleagues traveled to Israel to attend the World Zionist Congress as representatives of liberal Judaism. ARZA (Association of Reform Zionists of America) alone had a huge showing.  It is inspiring to me that this gathering to envision the future of the Jewish State took place in the midst of such a tense time. I love that my friends posted pictures of themselves in cafes, visiting favorite spots, enjoying Israel, and spending time letting Israelis know that they do not stand alone.

Our Israel trip plans for March continue. Joe Perlov, President of Israel Experts, is coming from Jerusalem to speak to prospective travelers next Thursday, October 29th at 7:30. He will address all concerns, but especially those about security. I invite all those interested in traveling in March to join us. 

Also, we have just received word that Gal Rice, our Philadelphia Federation Community Shlicha (Ambassador) from Israel will be with us for Shabbat Evening Services on December 18 (7:30) to bring us all up to date on current events there.

On a personal level, I cannot wait to travel to Israel once again. I want to go, not only in defiance of the terrorists, but also to see my beloved Jerusalem. I want to connect with people, food, and art, and history, and culture that I love. Of course, our group will only travel to Israel assured of our safety and security. I am eager to introduce members of this congregation to this life changing journey.

With prayers that this violence will cease, I hope you will join us this Shabbat in affirming our commitment to Israel and her people.*