Terror: Sometimes it is just easier to be numb

Sometimes it is just easier to be numb.
Thursday November 19th was a grim day for the world, especially for Israel. There were three reported terrorist attacks which claimed the lives of five and left at least seven others wounded. Unfortunately, this has become a routine day for the people of Israel.
But this time it was a little different for me. While I am emotionally affected by every terrorist attack which takes place and try my hardest to identify with the victims and their families, on Thursday I didn’t have to try.
The first of the three attacks which took place was the stabbing in a synagogue, which is located in an office building in the heart of Tel Aviv. Around two hours before the attack I bumped into an old friend on campus who I hadn’t seen in a while. We shot the breeze, caught up, had a few laughs, and both invited each other to some upcoming events. We made plans to see each other again soon. A few hours after the attack took place, on my way home from work, I got the following text messages from that same friend:
“great to c u buddy”
“synagogue was around the corner from me, was planning on praying there :-(”
“quite literally this one hit too close to home”
The second attack was the shooting in the Gush, which claimed the lives of three, including 18 year old Ezra Schwartz Hy”d from Brookline, Massachusetts, who was on his way home from volunteering to bring a smile and some food to hungry soldiers. Someone close to me is studying with Ezra’s girlfriend in a religious study program for Anglos. The head of the Brookline (Maimonides) Jewish day school, which Ezra attended along with several of my cousins, who issued the statement about their community’s mourning is someone I have known since before I can remember. Ezra is from a Massachusetts town named Sharon, which is also home to a few friends of mine and my girlfriend’s father, and only a five minute ride from my cousins’ home in Newton.
The third attack was a stabbing carried out by a woman at a checkpoint at Reichan. Reichan was my base. I lived there for four months during my service and protected our country from that exact same point. The soldier wounded is from my unit.
On Friday night I sat with my close friend who was mourning the loss of Ezra Schwartz while trying to figure out how to deal with that trauma. How do you go on? How do accept that a good friend’s boyfriend was just murdered in cold blood? He was volunteering! Everyone says that he was the life of the party; the one to make everyone smile.
In trying to console her, I explained the importance of living for the victims’ sake and somehow moving on while never ever forgetting. I told her how if the victims’ families are strong enough to move on and once again become positive people, we have an even bigger obligation to do so for their sake. I shared some of my personal experiences, including one of the first terrorist attacks which took place during my year in a similar religious study abroad program in 2007. I explained the pain, sadness and pure madness which took over the essence of my being that night. It had really hit home for the first time. I stressed the importance of letting people in and sharing the grief. She shared. She explained. She let me in.
However, what I noticed afterwards was that I did not feel anything. I felt bad that she was hurting, but that was all I felt right then. My emotions had finally reached their maximum for the week. No more hurt, no more anxiety; just numbness.
Jonathan Pollard was finally freed on Friday the 20th after sitting in prison for 30 years. Upon hearing this news my mind was happy, but the rest of me felt nothing. I have been praying daily for Jonathan’s release for years, so why wasn’t I overjoyed?! At least smiling?
This time I let them win. I let the terrorists take away my happiness. I let them take away my feelings of pain and empathy.
This coming Thursday I hope to beat them. Sarah-Techiya Litman lost her brother and father just over a week ago in a separate terrorist attack outside Jerusalem. They were both shot in cold blood on the way to a pre-wedding celebratory Shabbat only four days before Sarah-Techiya’s scheduled wedding. Instead of singing and dancing at her wedding, she sat on the floor with torn clothes, in mourning. The bride-to-be and her future husband made a decision during the week-long mourning period that the terrorists would not win. They decided to invite literally the entire nation of Israel to their rescheduled wedding this coming Thursday.
I hope to be there – feeling and winning.