Yael's corner: Our answer to darkness and fear

Our answer to darkness is light; our antidote for fear is joy.

A view of al-Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A view of al-Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
My husband and I were standing in the kitchen cooking a meal together when the difficult things I’ve wanted to say for months finally came out.
“Honey, living here in Israel, do you ever think about a worst-case scenario?” I could barely say the words. It felt terrifying to give voice to the thoughts that had been going through my head since this past summer’s war, which left us, and nearly the entire country, running to bomb shelters, trying to escape the rockets being fired into our towns. I intentionally avoided the details of my nightmares – the thought that my family could be locked in our bomb shelter with nowhere to run, with terrorists surrounding our home.
“Of course I worry about the unspeakable,” answered my husband.
As always, he was completely in tune with what I meant, but couldn’t find the words to properly respond. He stood silently, put down the carrot he was about to eat, and avoided eye contact.
“When the war broke out and it was clear that our enemy was getting stronger, I can’t say I never thought about the worst happening. I know that we’ll always win. I know God is with us. But looking at the remorseless terrorists, the ravaging beasts that surround us... it’s simply petrifying.”
We stood in silence.
We were thinking of recent video clips released by Islamic State and other terrorist organizations on Israel’s borders, videos so horrible and shocking that they were impossible to forget. Beheadings. Mass murders. Women and children being taken as slaves. And ringing in my ears were quotes from Israel’s many enemies, pledging to do the same to us.
Truth be told, these days, the terrifying threats are not only against Israel; they are against any person who desires to live in a free and democratic world. Yet for the Jewish people, these threats take on a different meaning. Because, along with the real danger that Israel and the Jewish people face today, there are the soul-based memories from our recent past, when these atrocities happened to our ancestors.
Standing in the kitchen with my husband and facing the difficult thoughts that had been brewing in my mind for months, I realized that it was not only visions of modern terrorism and threats which troubled me. Being a Jewish woman born just two generations after the Holocaust, and having a grandfather who miraculously survived the war in Germany, I have begun to wonder if my thoughts are legitimate worries for my family’s future, or fears inherited from my family’s past.
For me, the Book of Lamentations (Eicha) which we read on Tisha Be’av is not just a story, but rather a reminder of what happened to my people; Jerusalem left devastated, women and children taken as slaves, starvation the likes of which we cannot imagine. I have come to believe that this atrocity, along with the Holocaust, Inquisitions and other persecutions the Jews have suffered throughout history have all been ingrained in the spiritual DNA of every Jew. That is why in this modern age, we don’t dwell on what could happen, because we already know – we use terrorist threats as a call for action.
What type of action? To spread kindness in the world by performing good deeds.
To ensure that every single Jew knows that he or she has a homeland waiting to him or her in.
To develop lifesaving and progressive technology.
To focus on family values, social justice and faith.
Despite my fears which sometimes creep in, here in Israel, where we live from war to war and dodge terrorist attacks even during times of relative peace, I spend my days inspired. I have witnessed the fact that terrorism clearly does not break the Jewish people. Rather, terrorism boldly reminds us that we must appreciate the happy moments in life, and do everything in our power to foster brotherhood among fellow peace and freedom seekers.
I have lived in Israel through one intifada and three wars. My grandfather is a Holocaust survivor. I have seen enough to know that in this day and age, living a life of fear is legitimate and understandable. Yet the people of Israel refuse to give in; we refuse to live a life dominated by terrible visions from the past and the possible horrors of the future.
Our answer to darkness is light; our antidote for fear is joy.
Yael Eckstein is senior vice president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.