Coming to Terms With Terrorism

My four-year-old son lets me know about what he deems my unjust behavior.

“It’s not fair,” he all too often yells with determination.

“You’re right,” I assure him.

“Life is not fair and the sooner you learn that, the better off you will be,” I respond, sounding a bit more parental than I like.

Unconvinced, he retorts, “You’re not my friend,” launching an offensive and trying to escalate the argument.

“OK,” I answer him simply and calmly, toning down the exchange; accepting his stance. Shemer doesn’t understand a lot of what I tell him: Why he has to go to bed when he thinks he’s not tired; why he can’t drink juice after he brushes teeth; why he can’t pull toys away from his little brother. However, although he voices his objections and throws an occasional tantrum in protest, in the end he usually calms himself down. He may not understand his position and he may not like it, but ultimately Shemer accepts the position he is in.

Living in Jerusalem, I too think that life is seldom fair. This past month, many unfair things have happened around us – such as the bombing in Saudi Arabia, five bombings in a single day in Casablanca and six terrorist attacks within 48 hours here in Israel.

While there is a temptation to react to terrorism like a confused and upset child, many in Israel have come to accept that terrorism is not something that can be beaten with the military. We have learned that until we have a diplomatic solution, the violence will continue.

We Israelis have shed a lot of blood and lost many of our loved ones learning that a war against terror cannot be won. We realize that we must accept our enemies if we are ever to end the violence. Accepting our enemies does not mean that we agree with them. It does mean that we are willing to face them without hate or anger.

I know that my anger comes from a place of fear and that when I let that anger consume me, I act foolishly – to the point of endangering myself and those I love. Countries cannot afford to act this way any more than individuals.

When we recognize terrorism as a part of our world, it does not mean that we do not act to counter it. Every day the Israeli security forces foil terrorist attacks. Accepting the fact of terrorism, is not a passive act. It takes a great effort not to act out in retaliation like a four- year-old who thinks he is being subjected to injustice. However, by dismissing our anger and being proactive with clarity of thought and purpose, we can be more productive and effective in accomplishing our goals.

In Israel, we’ve learned to deal with terror and go on with our lives by bonding together, reflecting inward and gathering strength to calm down in order to return to our hopes and visions for building our future together. When confronting our fears and remembering what we really want, we empower ourselves to meet those goals and to fulfill our dreams.

This Jerusalem Day, the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies organized a free concert on the Haas Promenade in Jerusalem. The concert was held both as a celebration and as a memorial to Benjamin Blutstein and Marla Bennett, two American graduate students studying to become Jewish educators who were killed in last summer’s bombing at the Hebrew University. Both Ben and Marla would have made an immeasurable contribution to the future of Judaism. Marla, from San Diego, was 24 when she was killed. Ben, of Harrisburg, had just turned 25. I had connections to both of them through USY, Camp Ramah and Pardes.

The concert followed the beat set by Ben who was a percussionist and DJ and by Marla who embraced life. Jerusalemites of all ages came out en masse to sing and pray for peace in Hebrew, English and Arabic despite the risk of a terrorist attack targeting the open-air venue which is located only a few feet from an Arab village from which attacks have been launched in the past. The hip-hop music infused the crowd with life, bringing us together through our memory, our com- mitment to the present and our Coming to terms with terrorism

Our energies in the wake of such tragic events as the bombing at the Hebrew University, when focused creatively, enrich our lives. They do not only have to be funneled into destructive acts against those who threaten us. When terrorists attack in Israel, do not get angry. Engage others in discussions, voicing your fears, your thoughts, your dreams. Act in a positive way to support our homeland: Buy blue and white; tell your chil- dren how important Israel is – educate them; come to Israel for a visit, organize a group to come visit Jerusalem – share the experience with friends and family; fulfill a dream – make aliyah. Be creative and proactive. Join us in continuing our dream and in the fulfillment of our people’s hope.

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