I sit here today, in silence, and in confusion, with the same recurring thought: It could be me; it could be any of us.
I am 20 years old; my thoughts should be on the 4 papers I have to write, or the 700 pages that I have to read each week. In all honesty, my thoughts should be about the celebration I had planned with friends, or with the possibility of catching up and grabbing a beer with an old mentor.
Instead, my thoughts are about fear, about hatred, about violence, and about murder. Instead of happiness and celebration, all I can focus on is the stabbings in Tel Aviv, the rockets fired into the South of Israel, the Paris massacre, and most prominently, an 18 year old from my hometown who was murdered in cold blood by a Palestinian terrorist while in traffic.
Ezra Schwartz was an inspiration to his friends, his peers, and his community. Attending Maimonides Jewish Day School and continuing in his Jewish experience in high school, Ezra was a part of a youth movement that changed my life. Ezra went on the same trip across the country that I did, just one year apart. Ezra went to Israel, our mutual home, and the land where I will once again land this December. Ezra volunteered, ultimately giving his life to provide for and support the soldiers who risk their lives every day to protect the Jewish people and the land of Israel. Ezra was killed while seeking only to put a smile on the face of my friends, those brave young men and women who risk life and limb for who they love.
Ezra was more than just a single young man whose light was extinguished too early, he represents us all. He represents my friends and family running for fear when Hamas fires rockets into Israel. He stands for the values of Tikkun Olam and making the world a better place. He actively lived his life in the manner that we all should seek. And he was 2 years younger than I am.
Today, my hometown and the Jewish community worldwide was shattered. But there is an opportunity for us all to continue the mission that Ezra began; we have the chance to inspire others to do within the world. We have the ability to do what those who seek to harm us fear the most: to spread love.
As I look at my Facebook newsfeed, I see heartbreaking posts of friends and loved ones who were some of Ezra’s best friends; I see calls to action, calling upon us all to bring light to the lack of coverage; but most importantly, I see people who have never before been engaged in the conversation, standing up and calling out injustice, hate, terror, and violence.
Before it is too late, take a moment, and remind yourself, it could be me. Take a moment, stand up and say it won’t be you. Take a moment, make a change, and make the memory of Ezra Schwartz and all others lost in recent attacks, a blessing.