D’var Israel — Delivered at Shabbat Services on October 17, 2015
By Rachel Bar-Din and Ben Vaknin
A few weeks ago, Jews all over the world celebrated the High Holy Days. On Rosh Hashanah, we celebrated the beginning of the New Year, on Yom Kippur we reflected on the past year, on Sukkot we celebrated the harvesting of fruits and vegetables. And then we celebrated Simchat Torah, which symbolizes the cycle of the year in Israel.We celebrate that we start reading the Torah from the beginning. Then everyone goes back to their normal routine after a month of holidays.
But the festivals are a unifying time for Jewish people all over the world. For generations we have all celebrated the holidays on the same days of the year, even if we live thousands of miles apart. This is a time of happiness and connectedness for the Jewish people; it’s a time of year where we all stand together. Today, with all the events that are happening in Israel, it’s even more important that we are standing together at this time.
On October 1st, Eitam and Naama Henkin, along with their four children, were driving their car in Samaria on a road between Alon Morah and Itamar. The car was shot at by terrorists who were driving by. Their children, Matan, Nitzan, Neta and baby Itamar, were all sitting in the back seat and witnessed their parents’ murder. Thousands attended the funeral of the couple. In the very emotional funeral, Matan, their oldest son (only nine years old), said Kadish for his parents.Since that incident there have been over 30 terror attacks with terrorists throwing rocks, stabbing, shooting, and more.During these awful times, the Israeli nation feels the collective pain from the attacks and we come together, we unite as one family.
I remember that last Tuesday I woke up in the morning, and as always, the first thing that I looked at was my phone. I opened my family group chat, and my sister, who lives in Jerusalem, wrote that she’s okay. I didn’t know what she was talking about, so I checked the news app. I saw that a terrorist had killed three people on the bus and injured 17 more.
I was shocked. One of those killed could have been my sister. That is a horrible feeling when someone you know and that is very close to you could be one of the people killed in a terrorist attack, or one of the 17 people that were injured. That thought haunted me the whole day.
I noticed something on social media. Facebook has become a huge source of news, and place where more and more people are sharing their thoughts about the currents event. One of the things that really caught my eye was a photo posted by an Israeli soldier that showed a selfie of her face with her hand revealing something she had on it. Her hand read, “Hating Arabs is not racism. Hating Arabs is right.” I was shocked when I saw this, but I wasn’t surprised. Every day, I see more and more angry Israelis posting these kinds of things. Those words, in my opinion, are leading people to more hatred and driving people to harm innocent people.
A few days ago, a Jewish man killed two Palestinians and two Bedouins because he thought that all Arabs are terrorists. In another event, dozens of Israelis attacked Arabs in Natanya while they were shouting “all the Arabs must die”. In those times I think, is that the right thing to do? To seek revenge? In my opinion, we should not. We need to be the side that is against violence, the side that wants to spread peace, and the side that is not losing control and their humanity while the other side is spreading hate and cruelty.
I find myself waking up with at least three news alerts on my phone that start with the words “Another terror attack.” I feel like it has become normal when I ask my friends for information about the terror attack that happened that day, and they answer “which one?”
About a week ago, I got very upset as I found out that one of the female terrorists in the attacks in Jerusalem was actually 18 years old — my age. She was a student at the Christian University of Beit Lehem, studying to be a history and geography teacher.I sat and tried to figure out why a young woman who has friends, family, and who chose the path of education in life, why would she throw it all away? Why would she choose the path of hatred and death? Then it hit me. Until now I had told myself that they all probably had a hard life that led them to this action (not to defend or excuse what they did). Now I had to confront the fact that this terrorist had a good life.It was at that moment that I realized that the real question wasn’t why they do it, it is actually what can we do from this moment on as Jews in Israel and outside of Israel?
I don’t have the answer, but I do know that in these times we need to strengthen each other, to support each other, just like those thousands of people who came to a funeral for a couple they didn’t know before, even if they had completely different opinions and the only common thing they had was that they were all Jews.As ShinShinim who came to represent Israel in Canada, we feel that our role during these times is more important than ever. The tragic events that are happening in Israel, as shown in the media here, are not all that Israel is, and are not all that we represent.
As hard as it is, we still have to try to show people the many good things that are happening in Israel, and to show the full picture. We watch the horrible things that are happening, and we are angry, sad and scared — thinking about our family and our friends serving in the army. Yet tomorrow, we will enter classes with a big smile on our face, and we are going to talk about all the good things in Israel, and that won’t be easy. But this is what we are here for.