Yesterday morning, we woke up again to the ominous sound of helicopters circling over Jerusalem. In recent weeks this sound has become familiar, a warning that we should hurry up and check the news. And the news was devastating: four innocent men were shot and hacked to death as they were praying in a shul. A policeman died when he came to their rescue. Many others are still fighting for their lives in Jerusalem’s hospitals.
Yesterday’s attack was particularly gruesome, but it hardly came as a surprise. Since the summer, Jerusalem has become a place of unrest and suspicions. Soldiers patrol my normally peaceful street and I find myself thinking twice before venturing to other neighborhoods.
The responses to this attack are not surprising either. We feel indignant and afraid: How can our government allow this situation to continue? How can a powerful sovereign state tolerate a reality in which citizens can’t safely roam the streets and shuls of the capital?
At this time of anger, fear, and indignation, we must remember that military action is only one of the fronts in the war on terror. Terrorism is effective when it affects morale. Terrorists can’t subject us to their will with better weapons and soldiers. So they try to paralyze us, as individuals and as a society, by disseminating fear. They hope to peel away all the emotions and thoughts that make us human, and reduce us to our most basic instincts, to an animal capable only of fight or flight. If we flee, they win. If we lash out indiscriminately, they score a point, and we lose moral ground.
In this war, citizens also have a duty. Our government and army must locate and stop the perpetrators of terror. But it is down to each and every one of us to foil the terrorists’s attempt to influence our morale and our lives.
It isn’t easy. Like all my friends and neighbors, I am afraid. I am afraid when I walk down the street or sit on a bus, and I am terrified when I say goodbye to my children in the morning. I can’t naively ignore the fact that the young Arab worker I see may actually be contemplating something nefarious, loath as I am to suspect a fellow human being.
But I can choose to remain human, and live, and love, in the face of it all. I can choose to continue my daily life, and hold on to my basic faith in humanity. By doing so, I send a powerful message to the terrorists: You can’t win. You can’t win, because even now, as I cry, I am able to smile at the Arab driver that let me cross the street, and he is able to smile back at me. You can’t beat me, because even now I don’t hate all Arabs, nor feel apathetic to their plights. My heart is deep and full of emotions, and something as crude and ugly as a bloodied ax doesn’t stand a chance against it.
Your axes can kill and destroy, but terror must affect our souls in order to succeed. And I have no intention of allowing people like you to influence my soul. You can’t twist my love into hatred. In the face of your assault, I remain loving and compassionate. I remain human. And I live my life.
My fellow Jerusalemites, let’s not give the terrorists the satisfaction of altering us. As we hope for a swift and effective operation against the perpetrators and supporters of terror, let us stand firm in our own internal fronts.
Today, my heart is full of pain, love, fear, and anger. But I smile at the Arab driver through my tears, and he smiles at me, and I win.