Visiting Jerusalem gives me great pleasure that is not shared by many others. Having grown up in Jerusalem during the Second Intifada, I remember a city of sirens, cafes blowing up, killing the teenagers inside, blown up buses and constant fear of what will happen next. Few things gave me as much joy as coming back to visit a different Jerusalem, filled with playing children whose ignorance was bliss, buzzing with tourists who saw only joy and filled with a calm that can heal the soul. This past week, that Jerusalem was shattered.
A generation of children who didn’t know what a bomb in their midst might look like, a generation of kids who never heard that dreadful sound of an explosion and a generation of kids who never heard the harrowing sounds of multiple ambulances now do. Another generation is scared with the scars of an intifada in Jerusalem.
My heart bleeds with the Shechopek family, who lost their son Aryeh in this deadly attack. Born to a Jewish family that left Edmonton, Canada, for Israel, living just two streets away from where I grew up in Har Nof, traveling to his high school right outside Jerusalem, Aryeh’s youth and mine do not look very different. My heart broke looking at pictures of Aryeh’s funeral in Har Nof, seeing many faces from my childhood who were there at the funerals of the Second Intifada. Terror has returned to the heart of Jerusalem.
Memories of our generation of intifada children who were never recognized for what they had been through in their childhood and have, in many cases, scattered all over the world suddenly come back. Memories of the Schijveschuurder and Roth families from the Sbarro bombing, Dr. David and his daughter Nava Appelbaum who were killed on the night before her wedding, victims of the bus bombings, teens who stayed teens forever when they went to spend time with friends on a Saturday night in downtown Jerusalem. Some survived, and others did not.
Every one of the victims had their life cut short because of someone’s importance and failure to provide the security that residents of the city needed. Every one of those victims had friends, family, classmates, and neighbors who somehow went on with life, leaving a piece of who they are back in those dark times of the intifada.
Don't let this happen again
As we look at the rising tide of Palestinian violence this time around, my message as one of those children of the second intifada to the people of Jerusalem is simple: do not lose another generation. Do not take a “this too shall pass” message from any politician, security official, or police. Do not accept shallow solutions. Demand overarching solutions that will uproot the decay that allowed this horrendous act of terror. Do not accept any patches.
If it means installing a surveillance net of cameras in every corner of the city so the terrorist can be found more easily, the way Turkey was able to easily find the Istanbul bomber last week, so be it. If it means political support for heavier retaliations against those who initiated this attack, so be it. I am not a security expert, so all I can say is: demand overarching systemic changes, not just a local patch.
To the adults in Jerusalem, I say, your children’s world has been shattered. Do not underestimate what that means for them and the future of your city. As for us, children of the second intifada, we will always live in the shadow of those sirens, ambulances, and explosions. All we can do is fight to ensure a future generation blessed with Zechariah’s prophecy: “Old men and women shall yet sit in the streets of Jerusalem... and the streets of the city shall be filled, with boys and girls playing in its streets.”
The writer is a New York-based rabbi, writer, teacher and TEDx speaker. He is an eleventh-generation rabbi, the president of EITAN-The American Israeli Jewish Network and a member of the Rabbinical Council of America’s executive committee.