Terror on your doorstep

"Israel is home. We can’t abandon our friends who aren’t as portable as we are, and we knew this was a crazy place when we made aliya."

Members of Zaka Rescue and Recovery team at the scene of terror attack in Armon Hanatziv, Jerusalem (photo credit: REUTERS)
Members of Zaka Rescue and Recovery team at the scene of terror attack in Armon Hanatziv, Jerusalem
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It’s hard to get any work done when you’re hearing sirens and helicopters overhead, checking the news every 10 minutes and updating Facebook every five seconds.
There were two terrorist attacks in Jerusalem Tuesday morning – one near our own neighborhood of Arnona.
We live on the “frontier” – in the southeast corner of Jerusalem, just on “this” side of the Green Line. From our windows, we can see the hill near Ramat Rahel where the Israeli and Jordanian positions faced each other during the Six Day War. We walk and run up there almost daily. My wife’s chatted with Aziz, a shepherd from Sur Bahir who grazes his flocks in the Ramat Rahel olive fields and remembers the fighting.
Jews don’t go to Sur Bahir much, but Arabs from there visit our neighborhood to shop and go to the post office. We often see women in hijabs taking driving lessons on our street.
Earlier this week I was in Liechtenstein, a small, beautiful and extraordinarily peaceful country in the central European Alps, nestled between Switzerland and Austria. It’s so peaceful it disbanded its army in 1868; there’s been only one murder in the last 15 years.
When I “checked in” on Facebook from the Frankfurt airport en route to Jerusalem, friends wished me a “safe journey” home. I wasn’t worried about the journey – but I was worried about what I was coming home to.
It sure wasn’t Liechtenstein.
The Tuesday morning paper told of the previous day’s four terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, which wounded five people. One of those severely wounded was a 13-year-old boy, out riding his bike.
Our 14-year-old daughter usually rides her bike or walks to school. This morning we drove her.
I’d hardly finished my coffee when the sirens started.
About a mile from our home, in East Talpiot, two terrorists using knives and guns tried to hijack a No. 78 bus and kidnap the passengers. Two Israelis were killed and many were wounded.
We know people who live on that street. We know people who ride that bus. The father of a friend of a friend was one of the people wounded.
Our middle daughter usually takes the bus to and from school. From now on we’ll drive her.
The more closely the violence comes to touching us, the more we think about getting out of town – at least for a while.
Everyone in our family has two passports – one Israeli, one American. My wife and I can earn a living from anywhere with an Internet connection. We don’t have to stay here.
This morning my wife asked, “When would it be bad enough that we’d leave?” Our oldest daughter, who’s doing her National Service, said, “Leave? If it got as bad as Syria, OK – but not before.” (She has a scooter – she can drive herself.) I side with our daughter. Israel is home. We can’t abandon our friends who aren’t as mobile as we are, and we knew this was a crazy place when we made aliya.
We lived here for a year during the start of the second intifada. In fact, we had box seats for the opening shots: We were up on the Mount of Olives, being extras in a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie, when the fighting broke out on the Temple Mount. They had to suspend the filming of the violent action movie because of the sounds of real gunfire.
One of the reasons we came here was so that we could help, in whatever small way, the process of bringing peace to this place and creating a utopia for the Jewish people in the Middle East.
I work with Rabbis for Human Rights, our kids are active in Kids for Peace and other interfaith groups, my wife marched in support of the interfaith Hand in Hand Jerusalem school that was attacked apparently by Jewish arsonists.
It’s not much, we know. But if we left we’d be doing even less.
Despite the stress, I remain hopeful. I still believe the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, want the same thing: two nations living securely side by side.
“Though he may tarry, I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah.” I believe the same thing about peace – but I’m not holding my breath waiting for either. Especially not as long as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are in charge; neither seems serious about making peace.
In the meantime, something resembling normal life goes on. We can even laugh about the absurdity of the situation – about the umbrellas, nunchucks and selfie sticks that have taken the place of Iron Dome in this very personal war on terror.