There was a bus bomb yesterday in Jerusalem. Albeit, it happened on an empty bus and the parshanut that I read in Haaretz this morning noted that it was a relatively small blast and doesn’t seem to be connected to any organized terror organization.
I heard about the bomb when I was paying for my groceries after standing in line for half an hour at the checkout, together with, as we say, Kol Am Yisrael (with the whole Jewish people), everyone with their shopping carts filled to the brim in anticipation of the Pesach seder this Friday evening. The checkout guy said, “What? Line #12? That goes right by my house” and immediately got on the phone to call family. We all paused for a moment, I am quiet, but I don’t want my kids to hear about it. Then we all keep going, smile, wish each other Chag Sameach!
On Facebook in the evening, I see many Jerusalem friends sending general messages “We’re OK”, messages of hopes for the end to violence, links to articles that tell about what happened. And an outpouring of messages from people (many rabbinic colleagues) in the US sending support and prayers.
And the news is terrible – 20 wounded, some very seriously. Full body burns. My daughter’s friend is a resident doctor – she received some of the wounded at Shaarei Tzedek hospital. Each personal story is heartbreaking.
I think to myself, should I write a post also that says that I am OK? I had already talked to my mom in Cleveland that evening and she hadn’t even brought it up, so probably she didn’t hear about it. Do I need to write that I am OK? If I wasn’t OK, then people would probably be know. If I was dead, it would have been publicized. Is this something that I should add to my routine?
I think how does it look, this scene in Jerusalem? Because if someone were to call me up and ask me right this moment, how are things in Jerusalem? I would answer, everything is fine. There’s the atmosphere of chag (the holiday). Everyone is doing their shopping, wishing each other “happy cleaning” and Chag Sameach (happy holiday). All of our older kids are now on tiyulim (hiking trips) with their youth movements, mainly up north in the Galilee. The weather is absolutely gorgeous right now. The flowers are blooming, the birds are singing. Our neighbors got a puppy.
I then think about the existence of violence in the world. The world is full of violence. I grew up on the suburbs of Cleveland, one of the quietest and safest places to grow up, in my opinion. A fifteen minute drive from my parents’ house is the city where violence is an almost daily reality. For us, it might as well have been another time zone. If I got on a plane, I could be in Cairo in half an hour. I can go up to the Golan Heights and see the smoke rising from the destruction in Damascus of the Syrian civil war which has become also the breeding ground or the over-the-top violent Islamic State. My point being – that people can say that I live in a violent place. Or people can say that they’re afraid to visit Jerusalem or Israel because of the violence that they hear about or see on the TV or the internet. And then they come to visit, and they feel quite safe, and they understand quite distinctly the difference between the media and reality. Could I possibly dare to suggest that the situation in Jerusalem is a bit like the situation in Cleveland?!
But I cannot ignore the fact that there is indeed violence in the 60 km radius from where I live in the heart of Jerusalem (and if I lived in Cleveland, I imagine that I would get involved with the issues there). There are lots of people propagating violence. On the one hand, there is a giant will to live here – among peaceful Jews and Arabs. On the other hand, I am afraid that we are dulled to the pain of violence, the pain of the Other alongside the pain of our Brother. (I just noticed that Brother has the “other” in it)
Violence is ever present in the human condition. A survival instinct? A genetic mutation? G-d’s test of humanity? Or perhaps G-d’s joke? Or, heaven forbid, G-d’s failing?
I have always said, and I will continue to say: How blessed I am to live in Jerusalem. How blessed are we to live in a time when people can visit freely in Jerusalem. The city of my ancient past and the city in which I am building a beautiful future. A city full of culture and intellectual ambrosia.
Jerusalem = Yerushalayim. It has the word shalom in it. It has the word yerusha, heritage. The aspiration of Jerusalem is to be a heritage of peace. Peace is not for one person or another. Peace is universal. Three major religions made Jerusalem a sacred place for themselves. The reason must be connected to the peace that we must make here. That is the hope for peace in the world.
And now, having written all of this, I ask myself again – Am I OK?