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03/24/2011

Jewish community leadership statement on Jerusalem bombing photo

I was in the kitchen, dreaming absentmindedly while washing meat dishes, when I heard it. An explosion, ricocheting solidly from within.

My mind raced ahead, as it tends to do, imagining-Could it be? A suicide bomber? A bus? Here?

C’mon, I reasoned with myself, you would hear ambulances and sirens and police cars if it was.

And then I heard them. A couple of minutes later. Maybe one or two at first, and then many, many ambulances continuously driving by, sirens blaring. Close by. Repeatedly.

Well, who knows, I reasoned again, it could be a lot of things.

The sirens kept going.

I grabbed my winter coat, wanting to get to the bottom of this, slipping on my Naot sandals, and walked down the street that overlooked the bigger highway road, searching for signs. Clues. I saw the ambulances race by, and a couple of guys hurriedly running towards the direction of the noise. Are they going to help? I wondered? Should I go?

I watched people’s faces as they walked past me, looking at their cell phones, casually walking by. Nothing for certain. I turned around and returned home.

Scouring the Israeli news sites for any breaking news, I found nothing. I went back to washing dishes, determined to keep on with my life, my body starting to shake, imagining myself outside myself, others looking in, looking in at my life, knowing. What a story.

Ten minutes later, I checked again. And there it was: “Suspected bus bombing, in Jerusalem” it screamed. 15 minutes away from my home, in the direction of the sirens. I burst into tears, unable to control myself. I was shocked, yet I had known all along. My first time in Jerusalem experiencing a terrorist attack.

Everyone was shocked. The streets were somber; all eyes glued to their TV sets and computer screens, waiting to hear more. What to think? What to do?

Understandably, we may look for signs of safety from the outside world. But the true signs of safety are not from out there. Our anxiety will never be fully alleviated by the outside world. There is no fool-proof, bullet-proof land to run to. Freak accidents happen at every moment, at every socioeconomic level, in every country around the world. Heart attacks, random choking episodes, tsunamis. You name it.

The point, however, is not that we could die at any moment. The point is that we could live at any moment. The point is that we are alive.

We must look for the signs of safety from within.

“You’re still here!”your heart screams, celebrating with joy, every time it pounds within you. “You’re still alive!”

You gotta admit it, God is pretty determined to keep the Jewish people going, even though on paper we should have logically been drafted out a long time ago.

Against our will we are sustained, and against all rational, sensible odds, we triumph. How it always was and how it always will be.

If you listen closely enough to the history of the world, this is the story. THIS is the natural order of things. Every Jewish holiday, the joke goes, is basically the same: “They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat.”

Terrorist attacks actually remind us that the world is not chaotic after all. They reveal the deeper, truer reality. That there is a storyline here. That life is predictable. That we were put on this Earth to live. As Jews.

It is the terrorist’s dream to make us forget our supernatural, miraculous existence. It’s that simple.

To children who are trying to act up for attention, there is nothing more frustrating than adults who ignore them. There is nothing more aggravating to terrorists than civilians who refuse to stop living and laughing and loving and believing. Who refuse to leave their land.

We, the civilians, the men on the ground who he is targeting, the ones whose attention he craves, will treat him like the child that he is and ignore him, while he sulks and throws tantrums in the corner, as we go about our day. As we keep on walking.

We are not dealing with rational minds here and we don’t need to play their games. Of course, we must play by the rules. We must be cautious and intelligent, and upgrade on the military security efforts and speak up and protest and make sure that never again is never again.

But most importantly, when Shabbat comes, when the Bar Mitzvahs come, we must sing more absolutely than we ever have before, looking around and smiling at the precious people around us. Utterly calm. Entirely safe.

It’s our birthright, it’s our history. It’s our religion and it’s our story. No terrorist can take that away from us. And it eats him up inside.

So let him seethe. Let us dance.

Against our will we are sustained, and against all rational, sensible odds, we triumph. We cannot and will not stop our hearts from beating.

The point is not that we could die at any moment. The point is that we could live at any moment.

So let’s live. As Jews. Let’s live.

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