Uncommon courage: Facing terror in
Israel and supporting from Montreal
November 5, 2015
There is so much one can say about the State of Israel on a good day, a bad day and every day in between. But as I fly home from a week meeting with our partners in Beer Sheva and with Jewish communal leadership in Jerusalem, I can’t stop thinking about the people of Israel. About their courage in the face of terror, their resilience after every setback, and their indomitable spirit, especially during the most challenging times.
I arrived in Beer Sheva less than 48 hours after a terrorist attack at the central bus station left two dead, 11 wounded, and a city of over 200,000 so rattled that a burst of confetti at a wedding celebration in my hotel sent dozens of men, women and children running off in all directions, convinced they were under terrorist fire yet again.
As Mayor Ruvik Danilovich explained to me the following day, every conflict has a beginning, middle and end. Although we can’t know exactly when a conflict will end, we know from experience that it will eventually be over. This time is somehow different. The random, murderous attacks can come from literally anywhere and from anyone – even, shockingly, from children. And unless you decide to shutter yourself at home, there is no foolproof way to protect yourself or your family. There is no 15, 30, 45, 60 or 90-second warning, no Iron Dome to shield, no shelter for taking cover.
There is no way for Israeli leaders to reassure the public that these assaults can be stopped, or even contained. There is no way for parents to promise their children that they will be safe. There is no way for hotels to predict when seasonal occupancy rates will return, or for restaurants and shops to anticipate when people will resume eating out and shopping. There is simply no way to know whether this is a sickening spasm that will soon subside, or some kind of new normal for life in Israel.
I heard many stories about the impact of this violence on Israelis, but perhaps none as poignant as the one my niece told me about a call she received from her daughter – a smart, beautiful, fierce young soldier whose job is training other brave young soldiers – while she was waiting at the central station in Beer Sheva: Ima, they told me not to travel with my weapon because some terrorists are going after soldiers with guns. I’m scared, Ima, can you just stay on the phone with me until the bus gets here?
Israelis are certainly not cowed by this terror. As they are known to do, Israelis are living their lives as normally and completely as they can. But they are watching their backs. They are making minor adjustments to their daily routines. The wedding that got off to a frightening start last week, when guests mistook a loud noise for gunfire, was the same one that later kept me awake as revelers partied into the night.
As always, there are many acts of uncommon courage. There are people who run towards the danger, like Arie Levy, our Director of Israel & Overseas ran, gun drawn, when he heard the screams from the hotel patio last week. There are people who find the strength to comfort others despite their own pain, like the father of a seriously wounded 19-year old soldier who tried valiantly to make me smile while his son lay in an induced coma at Soroka Hospital. There are leaders who rally their citizens to resist the natural urge for revenge, like our good friend, Mayor Ruvik Danilovich of Beer Sheva, who remains steadfast in his determination to serve and protect all of his residents. In a city where a Bedouin security guard fired his weapon to halt an attack perpetrated by a Bedouin terrorist, Danilovich continues to create opportunities to build bridges between Jews and Bedouins in the Negev.
We can say many things about this terror. We can analyze its roots and motivations and offer opinions about its implications for security, for peace prospects, for the ability simply to co-exist. But beyond all the analysis it must be said that this terror is taking a human toll on the Israeli people. And it must also be said that they need and deserve to know that they are not alone.
What can we do as individuals? We can let Israelis know that we are with them in spirit and we can show them that we care by going to Israel whenever that is possible. We can exercise our power as advocates for Israel by participating in CIJA’s Take Action Israel campaign.
We can continue to support Combined Jewish Appeal and calls for relief funds that we may make from time to time. Your generosity allows us to support efforts to strengthen Israelis’ resilience in the face of terror, and to provide that support quickly and effectively. A case in point: just days ago, we allocated funds to a program that provides stress management training to Beer Sheva parents and elementary school students, helping them to cope with the emotional fallout of the recent bus station attack.
Having just returned to Montreal, I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that our presence, our commitment and our constancy truly make a difference. After all, we are family. Kol Israel Arevim Zeh l’Zeh.