An IFCJ employee in Israel provides this perspective on the shooting that left three dead - among five killed in terrorist attacks in the Holy Land yesterday.
I know that traffic. That was one of the first things that went through my mind when I began to hear about the horrendous terror attack that took place, once again, a mere 10 minutes from my home. I had been on that road on which the attack took place just hours earlier.
I know that traffic. Around rush hour, you can expect to sit on that road as you creep toward the traffic circle and then things clear up and home is just minutes away. I’ve sat in my car many times at that time of day, tense, wondering if I’d get back in time to pick up my son from his taekwondo class. So I could picture the scene exactly as cars sat barely moving, stuck in that familiar traffic.
The terrorist who decided to end innocent lives that day knew that traffic, too, it seems. Taking advantage of the motionless cars, now “sitting ducks,” a terrorist drove up to them and then proceeded to shoot people in cold blood.
At first the details were hazy. We at home wondered who had been hit and the status of their condition. We all know that Thursday night so many of us drive to the supermarket off that road to buy food for the Sabbath. We know that kids are on their way home from school for the weekend. We knew that the people sitting in that traffic were our people. We just didn’t know who.
Then information started to emerge. One of the dead was an 18-year-old American tourist. Immediately I understood that this was most likely a Jewish boy here in Israel for his gap year as so many kids do before starting college. It turns out that he had indeed come from Massachusetts to study at a Jewish seminary and volunteer with special needs kids in Israel for the year. He was in a taxi on the way to perform an act of kindness -- to deliver food to the many soldiers deployed in our area. Obviously, Ezra Schwartz was a special soul who was just starting a life that would have been undoubtedly full of meaning and contribution.
Then I learned that he was the son of a woman who grew up around the corner from me in New Jersey. I know that boy. My stomach dropped and my heart grew even heavier. Her older sister was my camp counselor when I was a kid. Her younger sister was my childhood friend. She herself had babysat for my brother and me a few times when my parents went out. The terror was even closer to home.
A second victim was a beloved 49-year-old teacher who taught in a high school in my relatively small town. On my Facebook feed I saw friends writing, “my child’s teacher was just murdered.” My 12-year-old son told me that his friend’s teacher had just been killed. Our mayor posted a picture of his own son being embraced by this loving teacher. I know that man. Rabbi Yaakov Don, a husband, father of four, and inspiration to so many, was cruelly taken away from us.
Just for sitting in that traffic on that road in the Jewish homeland.
The principal of a local girl’s high-school was one of the injured. I know that woman. A friend’s cousin was taken to the hospital for shock. I know that boy. That night, I sat at a previously planned event where community kids, including one of my own, put on performances for their parents. I looked around at the faces of the other parents, wavering between looks of horror to game-faces for the kids. I know these parents.
And the world is silent.
Where is the button to turn my Facebook profile picture to an Israeli flag? Why isn’t #PrayforIsrael trending on twitter? Why aren’t the world’s greatest landmarks lit up with the colors of my flag? Where is the outcry? Where is the condemnation? How can this be allowed to continue?
I don’t know.
But I can promise you this because I have seen it firsthand. I know my people. The people of Israel are strong and full of faith. We are sad and angry and frustrated. But none of that will move us from this land. The Jewish people have returned to Israel and we aren’t going anywhere this time around. Am Yisrael Chai – the nation of Israel lives!
And we will continue to live.