My Word: Look for the helpers
They might not be superheroes, and they might not be able to stop the world constantly getting back into trouble, but look around and you’ll see helpers, heroes and human angels.
Israeli survivor is carried on a wheelchair after burgas bomb Photo: REUTERS
In my favorite quote from my favorite superhero movie Mr. Incredible complains:
“No matter how many times you save the world, it always manages to get back in
2012 was that kind of year. The world just kept getting
Although The Jerusalem Post enters 2013 celebrating its
80th anniversary, a journalist friend of mine wryly commented that the least
credible part of the Superman series is that the Daily Planet newspaper is
thriving and still provides Clark Kent a steady job. As for Batman, well, the
premiere of the latest movie has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons.
On July 20, James Holmes opened fire on the packed screening of The Dark Knight
Rises in an Aurora, Colorado, theater, killing 12 people and wounding
Now, as the world enters 2013, America is grieving the Sandy Hook
Elementary School massacre that brought Newtown, Connecticut, to global
attention. What decent human being didn’t feel a stab of pain when they learned
of the 20 children and six adults whose lives were brutally cut down on December
14? Why don’t you always name the victims, a reader castigated me and the Post
in general following another atrocity – the terror attack on Ozar Hatorah school
in Toulouse in March. Why do you always name the perpetrators but not those who
died? She has a point. In the case of the victims of the attack on the French
Jewish school, there are four names that should never be forgotten: Rabbi
Jonathan Sandler, 30, his two sons Arye, six, and Gabriel, three, and
eight-year-old Myriam Monsonego, daughter of the school principal. In many other
cases this year, the list of dead has simply been too long to repeat each
And that is part of the tragedy, that young people disappear into a
While most Israelis became familiar with the beautiful smiling face
of six-year-old Noah Pozner, the youngest and only Jewish victim in the Sandy
Hook school attack, they are less aware of the identities and stories of those
who died with him.
Facebook was filled with photos and names and requests
to light a virtual candle in memory of all the victims. It was one of those
occasions where the “Like” option seemed particularly inappropriate.
the links full of sadness and despair scrolled down my computer screen in a
devastating parade, my friend Jen Feldman, a Reconstructionist rabbi in North
Carolina, shared a welcome piece of wisdom.
It was sensible advice from
Fred Rogers, known in his lifetime for his way of helping families with young
children deal with difficult moments.
“When I was a boy and I would see
scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You
will always find people who are helping,’” Rogers is quoted as
Given that I am a news addict who has turned a sometimes bad
habit into a profession, I am often – way too often – exposed to bad news
without always having the option of simply switching off.
suggestion provided a welcome coping mechanism. Amid the blame throwing that
surrounded the Newtown massacre, when I couldn’t switch off the news I could at
least seek the helpers, a positive focus.
Similarly, while nothing will
wipe away the memory of the funerals of the victims of the Toulouse atrocity,
the visit last month to Jerusalem by a delegation of French Muslim imams who
stopped at the cemetery to pray next to the graves gives hope.
courage – both moral and otherwise – stands out.
Bravery of a different
type was shown this year by 18-year-old American Jewish gymnast Aly Raisman at
the London Olympics.
She won a gold medal for her floor routine set to
the tune of Hava Nagila and dedicated it to the memory of the 11 Israeli
athletes killed in the Munich Massacre. While the International Olympic
Committee lacked the moral fiber to declare a minute’s silence to commemorate
sportsmen killed by Palestinian terrorists at the Games in 1972, Raisman showed
the world she is proud of her religion and people.
And the Jewish people
and Israel had much to be proud of in the past civil year.
infighting between ultra- Orthodox zealots and Orthodox and secular Jews in
certain neighborhoods in Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem, which had friends in
America and England asking me if Israel was in danger of “Iranization,” as I
went through my day I met more good people than bad and, yes, I saw
When Hurricane Sandy wreaked devastation in October, Israelis
sent aid and teams of enthusiastic young people went to participate in the
clean-up efforts. And the IDF Home Front Command sent an 18-member rescue team
to the capital of Ghana in November following the collapse of a multistory
In last month’s eight-day mini-war, Operation Pillar of
Defense, there were many unsung heroes and helpers in Israel – including those
manning the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system which saved an inestimable
number of lives, those helping trauma victims, and of course the huge number of
At a time when it seemed like the whole world was weirdly
dancing Gangnam Style, one of my favorite versions starred the worst dancers: a
bunch of IDF reservists wearing flak jackets trying to go through the motions as
they waited for a possible ground campaign in Gaza.
Among the strongest
images of the war was the picture of a bloodied and traumatized baby being held
by a rescue worker, moments after her mother had been killed.
holding the tiny child is a helper if ever there was one. In the warped
Palestinian war for sympathy, the picture, with the Hebrew logo of the Kiryat
Malachi Municipality on the worker’s vest still evident, later turned up in the
social media purporting to show a victim of Israeli aggression in Gaza, not the
child of Chabadniks who will never know that no matter how hard a helper tries,
nothing feels the same as a mother’s hug.
But for me the ultimate helpers
this year were members of the team that flew to Burgas in July following the
suicide bombing at the Bulgarian airport that killed five Israelis (and a local
tour bus driver).
Within hours, Israel had organized a rescue mission
with a medical team to treat the wounded and volunteers carrying out the
ultimate altruistic mitzva of collecting and identifying body parts so that the
dead could be speedily buried back home.
Magen David Adom director Eli
Bin said that when the MDA and IDF rescue teams entered the Burgas Airport
terminal, they were greeted by “thunderous applause.” It might not have been an
Entebbe-style rescue mission but, as a friend put it, “Imagine how they felt.
All of a sudden, amid the trauma and chaos, Israeli army officers and doctors
came and showed they cared.”
“It’s not always pleasant to be Israeli, but
this is a country that knows, within 24 hours, how to bring back all of her
wounded and injured from every place in the world. That makes it a little
easier,” Brig.- Gen. Dr. Itzik Kreiss told a press conference at Ben-Gurion
Airport after accompanying the return of the first flight of
They might not be superheroes, and they might not be able to
stop the world constantly getting back into trouble, but look around and you’ll
see helpers, heroes and human angels. And unlike so many perpetrators of so much
evil, they don’t seek immortal fame.
The writer is editor of The
International Jerusalem Post.