Residents of Jerusalem’s Har Nof neighborhood, the scene of Tuesday’s horrific terrorist attack, woke up Wednesday morning to the grim reality that the brutal slaying of four rabbis in the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue was no nightmare.
But the mood in Har Nof, a predominantly haredi neighborhood, was one of sadness and mourning, not of anger and revenge. Residents and worshipers at the synagogue were almost fatalistic in their views on the attack perpetrated just 24 hours earlier.
Men returned to pray in the synagogue, which was cleaned and repaired, and parents took their young children to school passing by the scene of the attack.
Haim, who lives one street away from the synagogue and studies there every day, said the threat of terrorism now feels closer and more real; although he acknowledged that all of Jerusalem’s residents have been suffering from a lack of security for several months.
“This reality isn’t new, but when such an incident happens so close to you, and to people you know, it creates a different feeling,” he said outside the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue.
“But we are people of faith here. We know that if such a thing is decreed against us, God forbid, then it doesn’t matter where you are. You could be in New York, it doesn’t matter,” said Haim, describing how one of the terrorists ran past a friend of his, leaving him unharmed, as he shot at the police officers who arrived at the scene.
“We are not a vengeful people; we are not a culture of blood for blood. We are faithful Jews – our answer to such events is to strengthen our faith and our religious practice,” continued Haim. “We are not like our Muslim cousins for whom revenge is something natural and if someone is killed then they need to kill someone else in return. We believe that God guides this world and it is He who will avenge us.”
Yisroel, who lives across the street from synagogue and regularly prays there, said he knew the four Jewish victims of the attack and described them all as very special people.
He said it is hard to express the sadness and loss the community feels, noting that he studies with one of the sons of Rabbi Moshe Twersky, who was one of the four worshipers killed.
“There’s no anger here; it’s not the way we feel. We believe that we don’t understand everything, and we believe everything that happens is from God. Who can we be angry at? It’s hard to blame people,” said Yisroel.
Tzahi, another resident and frequent worshiper at Kehilat Bnei Yisrael, said it is hard to come to terms with what happened, but said that people are nevertheless continuing with their lives.
“Unfortunately, what happened was not in our control – it was decreed from above – but we’re continuing to pray, continuing to live, despite the wishes of our enemies,” he said as he left the synagogue after the morning prayer service on Wednesday.
He said that it is frightening to think about how the two terrorists were able to carry about their attack in such a normal, residential area – but that the only answer is to carry on with life.
“They want us to be scared, they want us to be shocked, they want us to leave, they don’t want us here – but we will endure and live on here. We will continue to practice our faith, to pray. This is our answer,” Tzahi said.
“As Jews we believe in coexistence,” he added. “Man was created in the image of God – we do not go wild or murder. We have to protect the lives of every man. Our enemies regrettably have chosen only the kind of thing we saw here yesterday.”