I don’t like sadness. I don’t think that anyone likes it. But if there has ever been anything that could solidify that dislike of sadness I hold, it would be tonight.
Let me set the scene: a terrorist had just rammed his car into civilians and then open fired at them in Alon Shvut, in the West Bank. I follow world news, and especially Israeli news, pretty well, so I found out about this attack almost instantly. Of course it angered me and I said a prayer for all the victims, as I have had to do all too often lately. But about an hour later, as I entered the lobby of the building my gap year program lives in, I found a few of my friends crying. Not just a tear or two, but the worst kind of crying imaginable. People had gathered around them to comfort them, as any good friends would do, so I pulled one over to the side to find out what had happened.
Ezra Schwartz, the 18-year-old American who had been killed for no reason other than being Jewish, being peace loving, being human, was one of their friends. I quickly grabbed my phone to check social media once more only to find that in fact, I had many mutual friends with Ezra. We came from similar communities, and had participated in similar groups and programs in high school, and were even brought to Israel for similar gap year programs.
At that moment, I felt sick. I still feel sick. Not under the weather sick, but a heart pounding, stomach-in-my-throat, head spinning, blood boiling sick. An angry sick, a scared sick, a lost sick. The most disgusting, gut-wrenching type of sick.
Terrorist attacks are always horrible, and they’ve hit closer to home lately since they’re not happening only blocks away from me, but this is a new kind of close. This is not a close I ever thought I’d know and always hoped I wouldn’t have to.
This has made me feel a lot of things. I’m scared because this could have been me. I’m sad because my friends are crying around me and I don’t know how to help them. I’m angry because all I want to see is peace, coexistence, and quiet days, but there are people who will not rest until they can guarantee that those days will not come.
I’m all of those negative things, but the one negative thing that I am not is I am not giving up. I will not give up on living my normal life, loving Israel and Judaism. I will not give up on my goal of achieving peace, even if it takes one conversation between Israeli and Palestinian at a time. I will not give up enjoying life, as my friends told me Ezra did.
I will make sure that in all the good I do, there is a bit of Ezra in it, a bit of Parisian in it, a bit of all of humanity in it. From now on, #JeSuisParis, #JeSuisEzra, #JeSuisPaix, and #JeSuisHumain will all ring true with every breath I take, every status I post, and every dream of peace I have.
Tonight has taught me one of the most important lessons I could learn: we are all victims of terror. Every single human being who knows someone killed or who knows someone whose friend was killed or who wants peace or who just want it all to stop are victims. Every single one of them.
But it doesn’t need to be that way.
If we speak up, speak out, against this, then we can stop it. So like I say every time I have to write a status or article or ranting comment like this, get out there and do that. Speak out on your campus, speak out in your community, speak out to your social network, speak out to anyone that will listen, and most importantly, speak out to those not willing to listen. Peace is possible. It might not be easy, but it can happen. It has to happen.