Responding to Terror through Love and Strength
By Jennifer Dekel
My entire body and mind filled with horror and disbelief reading the news on the morning of November 18, 2014 of the Jerusalem terror attack.
Four holy Jews were murdered and scores more injured in a synagogue in the American neighborhood of Har Nof by Arab terrorists.
Tears began to stream down my face as I looked at the photos of the aftermath; tallits (Jewish prayer shawls), siddurim (prayer books), and tefillin (phylacteries) all covered in blood. It was a massacre.
When will the terror attacks in Israel end?
How could this happen to such innocent, kind tzadikim, as they were engaged in the holy act of praying to G-D?
I had no answers. The act was “pure evil,” as many called it that day. I dried up my tears, and went to work shaken, not quite myself.
The Jerusalem synagogue terror attack affected me more than the previous acts by Palestinian terrorists in Israel over the past month.
Needless to say each terror attack that occurs in Israel – at any time and any location, regardless of who the victims are - affects me.
Every loss of life is accompanied by a feeling of pain for all of the people of Israel, whom I regard as my family. But for some reason, as many others would say, the Jerusalem massacre was different. It was an attack specifically targeting Jews, three of whom were American citizens, as they engaged in prayer. The massacre was reminiscent of the Holocaust.
The day after the attack, as life resumed to a state of semi-normalcy, I remembered I needed to make plans for my birthday the coming weekend. I contemplated the different options, different venues in DC, and activities to do. But nothing appealed to me. It didn’t feel right.
How could I celebrate with my friends while my brothers and sisters in Israel were in mourning?
After reading messages from the families of the victims, I realized something.
The families of the massacred Jews – the Levin, Goldberg, Kupensky, and Twersky families – continued on with life by responding to the attack with love and strength. They had one simple request; there was no asking for money, no political call to action, and no words of anger.
In a message disseminated online, they wrote:
“…We call on our brethren wherever they are…We ask that every person accept upon himself on this Sabbath Eve (Parshat Toldot, November 21-22, 2014), to set aside the day of Shabbat as a day of unconditional love, a day during which we will refrain from words of disagreement and division, from words of gossip and slander…”
I don’t remember the last time I read something so pure and beautiful. All they had asked is that Jews come together and show our love for each other, to elevate the souls of the murdered.
It was the families’ response that helped me understand that I too can celebrate life, while trying, in my very own small way, to be there for my family in Israel. I feel one with all of the people of Israel; they are a part of my limbs, my soul, my very being.
Thanks to the help of the Israel Forever Foundation and Thomas Foolery in Washington, DC, I was able to have a birthday celebration while raising money for the families of the attack as well as those injured in the attack.
My friends and I all came together to celebrate life, where I received much love and attention, and simultaneously raised money to donate to the families. This is what celebrating birthdays truly is about – bringing loved ones and friends together to celebrate G-d’s gift of life, while helping one another and trying to bring more good into the world.
The other day I watched a moving video of Michal Levin, speak of her father, Rabbi Kalman Ze’ev Levine, of blessed memory: “He would want that this occasion [the terror attack] would bring within us unity, would make us more connected. The last thing he would want is any anger, or hatred to develop through this…He taught us to really see the good in everything, even in a situation like this.”
If a woman can speak such powerful, peaceful words after losing her father in such a brutal and horrific way, the very least we can do, as a people and as a nation, is remain strong and optimistic, while uniting and showing love and support for one another and for the homeland of the Jewish people.
It is my prayer and hope, and my plea to others, to heed the messages of the victims’ families. As we continue with daily life, regardless of where we live, we should move forward in unity, striving to become better human beings and closer to G-D, and always keeping our arms wide open to all of our fellow brethren.
May the souls of Rabbis Moshe Twersky, Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, Kalman Ze’ev Levine and Aryeh Kupinsky, and Zidan Saif have an Aliyah in Heaven, and may their memory be for a blessing.
Jennifer Dekel is a young professional living in Washington, DC, and the Director of Research and Communications for The Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).