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We Are a Light

Portrait of Yael Eckstein

November 20, 2014

Shalom,

It was a typical morning. My alarm sounded at 6:30 a.m., and outside, morning rush hour began.

In my home, clothes were thrown around as my kids tried to find exactly what they wanted to wear, while I washed my face to try and wake up. The cereal spilled, the children laughed, and I quickly made lunches and placed them in their backpacks. My two older kids ran to the car dancing and singing, as my baby held her beloved bottle tight between her lips, sipping the last drop of milk.

We had a morning with no breakdowns, no crises, and no fights. I sat in the driver’s seat, took a deep breath of relief, said a small prayer of thanksgiving to God, and then I turned on the car.

It was then that everything changed.

“Four dead, many wounded in another terror attack in Jerusalem,” the loudspeakers shouted, leaving me numb and shaking. I turned off the radio, shielding my precious children from the terror in their midst, terror that they are all too familiar with, yet can never get used to.

As I have done many times before during times like these, I pushed my tears aside, painted on a smile, dropped my kids off at school, and then headed to work.

Sitting at my desk, I went over the morning activities in my head and began to feel sick.

As I was stumbling out of bed and thanking God for another wondrous day with my kids, terrorists were entering a synagogue and brutally murdering worshippers. While I was pouring milk in bowls of cornflakes, two Israeli Arabs, whose children are afforded the same luxuries of free education, health care, and opportunity as my children, viciously took the lives of four of my countrymen, leaving 26 Jewish children orphaned.

Looking at the surreal pictures of men in the synagogue wrapped in their tallit (prayer shawls) and teffillin (phylacteries) lying on the floor in pools of blood, I was left with two burning questions. First, how can the same world that contains so much holiness, joy, and kindness simultaneously hold so much anger, evil, and hate? And second, what can I do about it?

Throughout history the Jewish people have had enemies bent on our destruction, and that is no different today. As disturbing as this attack is, it is not surprising. I remember living in Jerusalem when a terror attack took place in Mirkaz Ha’Rav Yeshiva, killing eight students who were studying Torah. I’ll never forget the buses blowing up throughout Israel during the Second Intifada, or the restaurants and stores being hit by suicide bombers.

There is evil in our midst. Our enemies are ruthless, and have no regard for the sanctity for life.

But we do. From the time of its establishment, the state of Israel has been a “light unto the nations.” We are a beacon of democracy in the midst of a sea of dictatorships, and a voice of progress surrounded by stagnation. We even help our enemies during times of disaster, and continuously reach out our hand in peace to those who have turned it away forever. In the past 66 years, tiny Israel has registered more innovative, lifesaving patents than the entire Arab world put together.

There is no denying it, we are a light. And that is our answer to darkness.

Psalm 97:10 tell us, “Let those who love the Lord hate evil.” The Jewish people, along with the entire free world, are clearly surrounded by evil, and we are commanded to hate it. But we also must be exceedingly careful not to let that horrible feeling of hate spill over to other areas in our lives. Our answer to hatred must be prayer, love, kindness, and joy. For if we let our hearts be overcome with anger, hatred, and fear, even if our homeland is still standing, the terrorists will have won.

With blessings from the Holy Land,

Yael

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