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My Heart is in the East

I am in New York, but my heart is in Israel. Work has called me to America, but the news turns me around so that I face east, worrying about my beloved homeland.

When I awoke this morning, the news was grim. It was hard to absorb that since Rosh Hashanah eight Israelis had been killed. The news made me more home sick than ever. Eight Israelis, walking home, traveling on buses, going about their daily lives, murdered.

This wave of violence began right around the start of the High Holidays, escalating daily. Since Sukkot, a holiday known as z’man simchatenu, or the time of our celebrating, things have gotten much worse. This holiday of joy became a time of trouble, as the dark clouds gathered and troubling winds swept away the festivities and uplifting atmosphere of the High Holidays

During the Sukkot, Eitam and Na’ama Henkin with their four children were on their way to see friends when a gunman shot and killed them both in front of their very young children.

Aharon Benita, a father of a small baby, was on his way home with his wife and child after visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City during the holiday. When Nechemia Lavi, a father of seven, who lives in the Old City, heard screaming, he rushed to the Benitas’ rescue, only to be shot at as well. Aharon and Nechemia left eight orphans, who joined by the Henkin’s four orphans, leaving us to wonder why an innocent family trip on the holiday of joy, ends with dead parents.

Since waking today, I hear that three Israelis were murdered and dozens were wounded in five terror attacks in Jerusalem, Ra’anana and Kiryat Ata. Among them, Rabbi Yeshayahu Krishevsky, 60, known for his community charity, and Haviv Haim, 78, who was doing nothing more than riding the bus with his wife.

In the past few weeks Israel has experienced an onslaught of daily terror attacks, mainly in the greater Jerusalem area. It’s important to note that this current wave isn’t led by the Palestinian leadership, and isn’t indicating a planned organized uprising. Most terrorists are Palestinian teenagers with an average age of 13, stoning, stabbing and throwing homemade Molotov cocktails in sporadic terror attacks at passing by Israeli citizens. One Palestinian analyst has accurately described this reality: A personal intifada (uprising).

Muslims claim that Israel seeks to upend longstanding commitments about Jewish worship at the Temple Mount. The Israeli government continues to uphold a fragile status quo in Jerusalem, while expanding the numbers of police forces. And Israelis go about their business, ever-mindful of their surroundings, but maintaining a sense of normalcy—malls, and movies, restaurants and parks filled as usual.

And I’m in the United States, visiting some JCCs and participating in JCC Association’s board and staff meetings in New York. My perspective is colored by the distance, as I long to be with loved ones back home. As I work on, this month’s View from Jerusalem, though, I get to share with you a different perspective. Standing on this side of the ocean allows me to see Israel from a different angle, one that the hour-by-hour coverage of events in Israel is not concerned with. It is a glimpse into a world of mostly one-sided media reports, and seeing the need to look further for information and facts beyond the unbalanced, unobjective media feed scrolling on our computer screens.

The reality is that nothing Israel did caused this escalation of violence. Israel is committed to ending this too-long conflict, respecting the freeze in building outside the green line that delineates the West Bank, captured in 1967, from the rest of the land so proudly declared a state in 1948.

These eight innocent civilians woke up expecting a normal day, and instead became victims of terror, never realizing that the day would become the last one of their lives. Palestinians who set out to do harm, understood the score. They made a deadly decision to snuff out precious lives. Palestinian deaths are reported just the same as those of Israelis—perpetrator and victim as equals. This isn’t a balanced fight and numbers can’t and mustn’t be shared in one equal breath.

We read Genesis last Shabbat, a text describing the creation of a perfect world that is based on harmony. It is a world filled with colors, like an artist’s palate, yet where variation and differences make for a unified whole. It is a world that invites us to share and celebrate its beauty, this perfect world of Eden. But this coming Shabbat we will read parsha Noah, where man used his power to corrupt this harmony and do evil— evil that could only be ended by the mighty forces of floods and rain.

In the generations since Noah, humans have experienced many forms of corruption and evil. We have also learned to build bridges over troubled water and make attempts to repair the world without floods washing it away, without the need to restart it from scratch.

Exactly one week ago we started praying for rain—rain that will water our fields and grow blessings. Today, I pray that this rain will wash away the current evil that is hurting our country and will remind us of creations’ potential to live in harmony and peace.

And when today comes to an end, I can only hope that the rainbow that appears at the end of parsha Noah—the promise of harmony—will remind us that varied colors can work together like on the artists’ palate, creating hope for a better future.

Leah Garber, Vice President, JCC Israel Center
[email protected]

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