Terror on my Block
By Jonathan Feldstein
This past Sunday I woke up early, very early. Not by choice, but because I was very jet lagged from my recent speaking tour in the U.S. I turned on the news to see what happened overnight. Both the international English cable news and Hebrew Israeli news were reporting live on the terrorist bombing in NY. I was shocked and my thoughts and prayers turned to the residents and law enforcement professionals.
Throughout the broadcast I kept hearing sound of traffic, heavy vehicles, and sirens. They sounded close to home, but I wrote it off due to my exhaustion as background noise from the live broadcasts in New York.
I was glued to the TV and news happening 6000 miles away. Then I got the SMS from the security department in our town. What was unfolding in front of me on TV, and in my front yard, were surreal. But you probably only heard about the news from NY.
Setting the stage for what was happening in my neighborhood, it had been a weekend of lots of violence in Israel. There were several stabbing and car rammings that continued into the new week for five days straight (as of this writing).
As I slept, under the cover of darkness, a Palestinian Arab terrorist was spotted entering my town from his adjacent town. Overnight, led by our volunteer rapid response security team and many soldiers, a manhunt began to find the intruder. I got wind of this all around 5:00am. Residents were instructed to stay indoors until further notice. About an hour later reports started coming in that the terrorist was found and shot. “Neutralized.”
The terrorist was found in a neighbor’s yard where he surprised a soldier, stabbing and critically wounding him. 20 minutes later, dozens of neighbors would have passed that exact spot, many casually on foot, not quite awake yet, heading off to the early morning prayer service at my synagogue. Despite the soldier’s serious wounds, a much greater potential tragedy was avoided. A miracle.
However, to be sure we were all safe, dozens of soldiers fanned out across my neighborhood, literally going door to door, looking under and behind anything and everything, to make sure that the one terrorist didn’t hurt anyone previously, and that there weren’t more terrorists. We were all still on lockdown.
About an hour after that, as my oldest daughter was getting anxious that she was going to miss her ride to school an hour away, we got the all clear. I drove her to her ride, and saw dozens more soldiers and military vehicles up the block blanketing our neighborhood. She made it and things started getting back to normal.
After the all clear, neighbors started coming out of their houses, talking together and comparing thoughts. It reminded me of the time a rocket from Gaza landed across the valley from our homes in the 2014 Gaza war, and resembled the Munchkins slowly coming out after Dorothy's house landed in Munchkin Land, killing the Wicked Witch.
We got the all clear in time to get all the other kids to school, though they were understandably scared to walk to the bus. As I drove them, my 11 year old son said he was nervous. I tried to calm him with the parental, “everything will be OK.” But how could he not be nervous? And how could I be sure it would be OK?
I was glad that he articulated it because overcoming fears like this requires first being able to affirm it. Many Israeli children carry traumas like these with them, so it was important to start the dialogue. Hopefully the increased security presence at all the schools that day was something that brought comfort, not something creating more fear and stress.
After taking him to the bus I brought a cake to the soldiers still in our neighborhood. It was a really good one left over from our Shabbat. But it was morning, they had been up all night, and they needed and certainly deserved it more than I did. They spent the night watching my back figuratively, and I gave it to them to say thanks, and as to watch my waistline.
Now everything's back to "normal" almost. The sounds of the heavy military vehicles and sirens were replaced by sounds of kids in the street and adults driving car pool and going to work. The one sound missing was that of the din of the heavy machinery grinding down the ancient Judean Mountains across the valley, excavating new neighborhoods in our town. No Palestinian Arab workers were allowed in town that day. But by the next day, everything was back to normal with hundreds of Arab men carrying heavy tools coming to work right up the block.
Later in the day, I realized that while the incident in our town was relatively minor, it comes in the context of yet another increased wave of violence, leaving many Israelis hurt, some severely. Looking at this through my son’s eyes, I realized that our children carry a great burden. My son’s response was normal. But then I wondered about his friend whose father died, and thousands of others who’ve lost a parent or sibling due to terror or other tragedy. I understood how the trauma of listening to the news or reading the morning paper can inflict a sense of fear and insecurity that adds to the trauma they have already suffered. Regular violence compounds deep seeded trauma.
I developed a new appreciation for the work I do every day with The Koby Mandell Foundation, www.kobymandell.org, to heal the invisible scars of women and children who have lost a loved one. Healing from grief is not a finite process. Grief doesn’t just stop. And even when one is recovering, a stabbing in the Judean Mountains far away can open the wounds and set back the healing process. I am grateful for the opportunity I have to do what I do because the renewed and ongoing potential for terror attacks in Israel remains a daily reality. Organizations like The Koby Mandell Foundation are all the more critical when terror is in the news, even when it’s quiet, or the terror attacks just aren’t reported, because even invisible scars never quite go away.
Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. He has a three decade career in nonprofit fundraising and marketing and throughout his life and career, he has become a respected bridge between Jews and Christians. He writes regularly on major Christian web sites about Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He can be reached at FirstPersonIsrael@gmail.com.