I held my convulsing daughter, I spoke soothing words, and I told her she was safe, but I knew that I couldn’t imagine the terror she was suffering and the fear she felt.
The world was shaken last week at the horrific news of Ayala Shapira, an 11 year old Israeli girl riding in her car with her father was the victim of a terror attack. Two Arab teenagers threw firebombs at the Shapira’s car. Ayala suffered severe burns over 75% of her body. She is in a serious but stable condition in an Israeli hospital. It is difficult for most of us to fathom an 11 year old girl, so innocent and pure, suffering through so much pain. We wish there weren’t monsters like those teenagers and their teachers who incite them to act, but we know they’re out there.
Attacks on children, like attacks in a synagogue on peaceful worshipers, are shocking. They cause us to question everything we hold dear. Believers wonder how God could let such horrific things happen, humanists question the inherent kindness of man. News editors, while never wishing for these events to happen, treasure these attacks for their shock value. The average consumer of current events tries to read as much as possible, as if the details could ever explain the terror.
As more of these events happen, we become numb to them. A suicide bombing in Iraq? They barely register. American bombers killed 38 civilians in a run against ISIS this weekend? Most news outlets didn’t even report it. Here in Israel it’s even worse. Attempted and successful terrorist attacks have become so frequent that only the most heinous draw our attention. Most, and I mean the overwhelming majority of, terrorist attacks aren’t reported by domestic or international press.
I never really considered this until last night when my daughter became our family’s first victim of a terrorist attack. On her return trip from a class weekend, my 11 year old daughter and her classmates were attacked by rock throwing Arabs. As the stones pelted her bus and its windows, my daughter and her friends cried, held each other and prayed. Thank God they came back safe, but they were shaken up. A school psychologist ran sessions today, and the school informed the parents.
As a father my top priority is to ensure the safety of my children. Everytime we cross the street, I warn my children to look both ways, when we get into the car I tell them to buckle up, and I make sure they wear their coats when it’s cold out. The utter sense of paralysis a parent feels when a stranger attacks their children is indescribable. My simultaneous rage and helplessness coursed through me, and I felt ready to explode.
Someone out there targeted my 11 year old daughter. They saw a school bus driving down the highway, they picked up rocks, saw my beautiful and innocent daughter smiling and laughing with her friends and made a decision to hurt her and her friends. Someone out there in a dark place wanted to hurt my daughter, and there was nothing I could do to stop them.
I also felt shocked. Admittedly, I am a news junkie. What I found shocking about my daughter’s attack was that this incident wasn’t reported – anywhere. I understood though, after all, the attack itself wasn’t shocking; Arabs throw rocks at buses with Jewish passengers everyday. Noone got hurt, the bus was bullet proof, and there wasn’t anything new to the story. Of course the only reason I paid attention or even knew of the attack was because the victims were my daughter and her classmates. This was the first terrorist attack aimed at our family.
How sad and pathetic of a world do we live in that terror attacks have become acceptable? And by living in such a world, by not protesting when these attacks happen, have we not become complicit in making them acceptable? We can’t lay the blame on news editors, most of their decisions are mere reactions to the public’s interests. By accepting small acts of terror we lose our conviction to stopping it. Instead of stopping the rock throwers we only aim for the suicide bombers. As this line of reasoning becomes more ingrained, we become a society living in an regular fear. A fearful society can’t fathom peace, and has no aspirations or hope for it.
We need to raise our sensitivity levels, and recognize that every act of terror, no matter how frequent, no matter how small its effect, is a devastating blow to humanity. It is only with a heightened sensitivity to terror that we’ll begin to stop it. Most importantly it is only when we feel secure, when we have nothing to fear, that we will begin to have hope for peace.