We’ve just wrapped up the Jewish holidays in Israel. Basically, my life consisted of working, sleeping and observing Shabbat and the Jewish holidays. It was a marathon of a holiday season that I’m sad to see end.
The holiday mood in Israel changed a bit when the last few days were marked by an increase in attacks on Jews: stabbings in the Old City, people shot in their sukkahs, and a couple killed while four of their six children looked on in horror. All of the victims were civilians.
In 2000, I returned to Israel for a second year of post-high school study before attending college in the U.S. That was the year that the second intifada began. There were numerous shootings and suicide bombings that year. How did I and the rest of the country react? For the most part, we continued on with business and life as usual. We never became desensitized or careless about what was going on around us, but we didn’t let it ruin our daily lives.
Nothing that occurred in the wake of these holiday attacks surprised me. To get the negativity of these events out of the way, it didn’t surprise me that some international newspaper headlines downplayed Israel as the victim, in favor of the actions of the Arab terrorists who perpetrated these crimes. There were headlines such as, “Israelis fatally shoot Palestinian,” which omitted the fact that the man was shot while fleeing the scene of his stabbing spree. I’ve already commented on the pro-Palestine versus anti-Israel nature of such things in previous articles and will not touch upon it further here.
The reactions within Israel, however, were more hopeful. As always, we mourned as a country. At the same time, we didn’t allow these incidents to take over our lives. If you give into the “terror” in “terrorism,” then the terrorists are beginning to win. For instance, within hours of the incidents that took place in the Old City, people went out of their way to gather in the areas of those attacks. I saw people saying how, even though they hadn’t planned on going to Jerusalem, they made sure to go out of their way and have a cup of coffee there. Calls for prayers at the site of an attack, as well as at the Kotel, were put out and answered en masse.
Street parties, planned in advance of the attacks as a way to celebrate one last time after the holidays were over, proceeded as scheduled. Large numbers of people came out to enjoy themselves. Thousands of people even attended a Bon Jovi concert over the holiday. These were not acts of defiance, just acts of living.
During the second intifada, my parents didn’t like that fact that I traveled where I wanted to and when I wanted to in Israel, as I still do to this day. The world is a dangerous place, no matter where you are. FACT: I’ve been in relatively close proximity to three major terrorist attacks in the U.S., and none in Israel. I could see the Twin Towers burning from my dorm room (which occurred within weeks of my return from studying in Israel during the aforementioned period), was taking off from Logan Airport at the exact moment of the Boston Marathon bombing, and was within a 15-minute drive from Sandy Hook as the shootings were taking place.
If a current analogy is necessary, then it’s interesting to point out that the shooting in Oregon took place on the same day as some of the attacks in Jerusalem. Did schools throughout America close down? Were people too afraid to leave their homes? Based on the frequency of such attacks, deep down, Americans know that this will not be the last incident of its kind. And yet they still go to school and visit movie theaters.
What makes all of these attacks in both Israel and America different is that they are high profile, unique and politically charged. They don’t reflect the normal day-to-day existence of a society. Hypothetically, we could all spend our lives locked indoors, hoping that no intruder will penetrate our “safe zone.” That’s not called living. It’s called trying to survive.
Here in Israel, we don’t know what this current string of attacks will lead to. Already, there have been numerous stabbing attacks in the 48 hours between my first and final draft of this article. Perhaps it’s simply a temporary uptick in violence, or the beginning of something much bigger (God forbid). No matter what, the citizens of this country have weathered many storms and will continue to do so.
And we’ll do this for the sake of living, and not just surviving.
DANIEL STIEGLITZ (email@example.com), a Providence native, made aliyah in 2007. He holds a master’s degree in creative writing from Bar Ilan University; is the Director of Staffing and Recruitment at Sachlav/Israelonthehouse, a Birthright Israel trip organizer; is a certified Life Coach; does freelance content writing; and lives in Jerusalem. He has had two short stories published in FictionMagazines.com publications.