This month we had an unusual day in Jerusalem. Like on any normal day, I took my son to nursery school and then I walked to work.
One of my coworkers called to say that she had dropped her son off at his school in the Old City. The school’s security guard had stopped her from continuing to the bank. “Don’t you know?” he asked her. “There’s a suicide bomber in the city.”
We turned on the news. We heard nothing.
The Israeli media doesn’t report on a crisis until after it’s resolved so it was not surprising that nothing was reported.
A few more calls came in with the same message.
I called my wife and decided not to run the errands I had planned for that morning.
I called a colleague who had a meeting at Hebrew University. As of that day, the last successful attack in Jerusalem had been at the university. Nine people had been killed in the cafeteria I had frequented as a student. Of those killed, I knew one, and two others were close to friends of mine. My colleague’s wife had already called him to tell him of the threat.
My thoughts turned to a client who was in her first trimester of pregnancy. I knew that she regularly took the bus to her downtown office. I quickly called her on her mobile phone, trying to catch her before she left for work. I reached her while she was riding the bus. I wasn’t about to tell her of the terrorist until she was safe in her office.
“Call me when you get to work,” I told her. I wanted to know she’d arrived safely.
“Why, what happened?”
“Call me when you get to work,” I insisted.
The memory was still fresh. At that time, the last bus bombing in Jerusalem had been in June. Nineteen people had been killed during the morning rush hour. Many of those killed were children on their way to school. That bus exploded at a familiar intersection through which I often drive.
I looked out onto the street. At the bus stop located in the space of the six apartment buildings between my office and my home, I saw a police officer armed with an assault rifle.
The day went on like this. Nothing happened. No news, just waiting.
That night, my wife had a Tupperware party so I made arrangements to go out with a friend who works in Tel Aviv. While planning where we’d go for dinner, I warned him that he may encounter a lot of traffic. He hadn’t heard about the terrorist on the lose or about the increased police presence. The news hadn’t reached him in Tel Aviv.
We went out and, among the police interspersed at bus stops and intersections, had a very enjoyable evening.
The news media didn’t report anything about a terrorist in Jerusalem that day. Like so many other attacks that have been prevented by the Israeli security forces, we never heard about it on the news. From a distance, it was just another day in Jerusalem. For Jerusalemites it was not.
Not long thereafter another Jerusalem morning started with the telling question, “Did you hear the news?”
Again it happened during the morning rush hour on a crowded Jerusalem bus. Of the eleven people killed, four were children on their way to school. Among the dead were a mother and her son; a grandmother and her grandson. Close to fifty others, including many of our children, were injured.
While there have been over 80 successful terrorist attacks since September 2000, there have been many more attacks which we haven’t heard about because they have been successfully prevented by Israel’s security forces.
At this time last year, on the first night of Hanukkah, I experienced a miracle. My second child was born. This year during Hanukkah (which means “rededication”), I rededicated myself to the appreciation of life and the meaning and value of our lives here in our homeland.
During Hanukkah, the holiday spirit fills the air throughout Israel. I see Hanukkiot in almost every window as I walk down the Jerusalem streets. Large Hanukkiot are lit at major intersections throughout Jerusalem. Hannukiot and candles are prominently displayed for sale in supermarkets, as are holiday foods, especially the traditional doughnuts (sufganiot). Our supermarket even gives them out for free to customers when the staff lights candles each evening.
The rededication of the Temple long ago in this very city was brought about by a spirit of national liberation. This year in Jerusalem, we rededicate ourselves to that same value. We continue the struggle to be a free people in our own land and we hope not to be greeted by the question, “Did you hear the news?”