March 22, 2016
Dear Friend of Israel,
It’s a story I’ve told many times before. But, sadly, today it again bears repeating.
I returned to an Israel that is again under siege, not this time by bombs or rockets (though there are still occasional rockets fired from Gaza), but by “lone wolf” terrorists who, inspired and encouraged by organized terrorists groups, have been carrying out attacks against innocent Israelis – soldiers and citizens alike. Vehicular attacks, stabbings, shootings – they have all become part and parcel of life in Israel today.
On September 11, 2001, the day of the devastating terror attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., and the downing of United flight 93 in Pennsylvania, I was in Chicago. Fear was in the air, and there were rumors of other possible attacks. As IFCJ called a quick meeting before sending home our employees on that day, I recall telling the staff that Americans could now understand why Israelis, who live daily with the possibility of terrorist attacks, carry cell phones with them at all times (such a thing was far less common at the time): They never know when they may need to call a friend or relative to ask, "Are you alright?"
I was reminded of this story today after hearing of Islamist terror attacks in Brussels, Belgium, where three terror attacks killed dozens of people, and injured scores more. There were many calls today, I would guess, in Brussels, and by people with relatives in Brussels, to ask that simple question: “Are you alright?” In fact, one was made by a member of our Chicago staff to his brother in Belgium, who is often at the Brussels airport, where one of the attacks took place. After being reassured that his brother was well, he told a member of our Israel staff: “I would not wish this on anyone. But I hope that attacks like this will give the world a better understanding of the threats Israel faces every day.”
It is a time for sorrow and for prayer, but it’s also a time for resolve. The fight against radical Islamism is not Israel’s fight; it is not America’s fight. It is the fight of all people who believe in the principles of liberty, democracy, and pluralism. It is the fight of all free people against those who would murder the innocent, and seek to impose their misbegotten, oppressive ideology on others. It is the fight of all those who worship a God who treasures life.
Please pray for the people of Belgium, and for all who have been victims of terrorism. Pray for all those who put their own lives on the line to protect the innocent. And pray for an end to this violence, and for God’s greatest gift: the gift of shalom, peace.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President