Hostages held inside Sydney cafe, December 15.
(photo credit: screenshot)
Night has fallen upon the streets of Sydney, and a quiet unease has filled the air. Fourteen hours ago, people were going about their business in the popular Lindt café in the heart of Sydney, drinking their flat whites, their espressos, their hot chocolates – when terror entered their doors.
Suddenly, a city that was bustling with energy under a beautiful warm summer’s day, turned cold as it ground to a screeching halt. At first, reports came in through social media. Then the websites featured breaking news and finally the television networks caught up.
Something was happening. Something bad.
As I write these words late in the evening, the lights in the Lindt café have been turned off, leaving it in darkness. And now we find ourselves in the dark. We do not know much about what is happening. All we know is that a man entered a café in downtown Sydney armed with a weapon of some kind – and suddenly the sliding doors that opened and shut as they welcomed new guests and farewelled others swiftly shut – locking it off from the outside world.
It wasn’t long before we saw two members of the café staff pressed against the window, forced to hold a flag with white Islamic writing against a black background – and a chill ran through our veins. The banner read: "There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah." Could we be seeing the horrors of what we’ve witnessed on faraway shores visit our land?
We do not know the motivations of the hostage taker, or what his goals are. And in this lack of knowledge and awareness lies the real terror.
Because terror does not always come with the screaming of a car’s engine. It does not always come with the deafening roar of a jet liner. It does not always come with the helpless screams of the innocent.
It comes in the quietness of not knowing. It comes in the silent fear that filters through us. It comes in the expression of pain and distress we see flashed across our television screens. It comes in the uneasiness of the security blanket we thought we had, being ripped away.
And if the goal of terror is to strike fear, we cannot deny that it has succeeded. Today, across Australia, the Jewish community has gone into lockdown
. Jewish schools have closed early, sending their children home as a precautionary measure, and there have been added security measures across the country. It has affected us all.
As I go to bed tonight, my thoughts, like other Australians and other people around the world, will be with the hostages and their families. We can only hope that we wake up to better news.
But despite that heightened fear many of us feel, it does not mean we have to succumb to it.
Tomorrow night I will be attending a lighting of the menorah on the beachfront, celebrating Hanukka – the festival of light. A bit of light is exactly what we need.
Justin Amler is a South African born, Melbourne based writer who has lived in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia and is currently working in the Information Technology industry. He is an avid contributor to discussions on Israel, writing frequently to local newspapers. He has a keen interest in politics and creative writing.