As a dual citizen of Canada and Israel, having been fortunate enough to fondly consider both places ‘home’, I often find myself comparing. Try as I might, I simply cannot help comparing. Though I grew up in an environment that sought to highlight similarities, the polar differences in culture, education, language, not to mention weather, often led me to conclude that the gaps are unbridgeable. At moments that required the comforts of home along the journey, often the conclusion was that one just had to choose.
And then, watching the worrisome news about my home, Canada from the distance of my home, Israel, it occurred to me that my two worlds are in fact bound together and not far away at all. Witnessing the unfolding mayhem and palpable fear from afar elucidated that there is no room for misunderstanding or misperception. For the attacks in Quebec and in Ottawa, though separated by time, culture and geography from the mowing down of innocent civilians waiting at the light rail train station, injuring 8 and murdering a 3 month old baby in Jerusalem, appear disconnected, they are in fact intimately related. While the perpetrators of these heinous acts are bound together by a covenant of shared deep contempt and virulent hate for all that we cherish as Western, free and democratic societies, there is a hopeful message in the comprehension that we too are bound together by a covenant of those very shared core values.
The global village in which we live no longer affords us the romantic illusion that we are ‘worlds apart’. The physical ocean between us no longer means that some places are simply safer than others. If that was not enough, yesterday’s events bridged my two worlds. The reassuring and understandable assumption that “it cannot happen here, to me, today” was shattered yesterday for many of us that held on to irrelevant notions of ‘the good old days’.
It seems that we live at a time in which moral ambiguity and political correctness have ironically numbed the ability to differentiate right from wrong. Canadian soldier, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, killed after being fatally shot at National War Memorial in Ottawa by a masked gunman has made that abundantly clear. The shooting and injuring of a guard inside the Canadian Parliament’s Centre Block made has that abundantly clear. The very real threat to the entire Canadian Government, including its Prime Minister Stephen Harper, has made that abundantly clear. The chaos that the entire capitol city of Ottawa was in for hours has made that abundantly clear. The panic and fear that ensued, within 48 hours of two soldiers being deliberately run down in Quebec by another attacker inspired by radical Islam, have made that abundantly clear.
I am sometimes accused of being naïve and proudly attribute that naiveté to the Canadian in me. Today, ISIS issued statements urging jihadists to attack Canadians threatening that ‘you will not feel secure in your bedrooms’. That naïve Canadian in me shuddered to the sound of the message which resonated loud and clear. It challenged my comfortably compartmentalized comparison between my two homes. It effaced presumed dissimilarities and bluntly suggested distinct resemblances. It weighed heavily in its pessimism while cautiously illuminating a path of hope.
The message is abundantly loud and clear. Whether we like it or not, we are ALL in this together. As times demand clarity, by ALL I mean Jews, Christians, Moslems, left, right or center, women, men, children of any and every ethnic, color and race, who share the deep commitment to freedom and democracy. Cherishing these values never before required that we come together in such a united and clear voice leaving no room for the confusion that is so grotesquely twisted into the recruitment of yet another fundamentalist radical that seeks to destroy all that these values stand for.
I cherish the rights and freedoms upheld in the Canadian constitution. The melting pot of Canada has allowed peoples of vastly different backgrounds to all proudly feel Canadian. Canadian tradition inculcated in me the significance of balancing between competing rights and freedoms. The Israeli in me often misses that nuanced, balanced reality less easily attainable in the Middle East. I miss the melting pot that renders clarifying words unnecessary. I miss diversity that is so palpable one need not explain it. I miss the multiculturalism so deeply engrained that it is no longer noticed.
The cautiously optimistic promise lies in the possibility that my two homes are in fact very close to one another. The path to overcoming the challenges that we face as free and democratic societies world over, though dimly lit if we confront them alone, can become clearly illuminated if we realize that we are fighting the same battle. Both of my homes are vibrant democracies. Both of my homes have afforded me the freedom to seek knowledge. Both of my homes have encouraged me to form my own opinion and challenge the status quo even if unpopular.
It is time that ALL of us inform ourselves, openly engage in discussion, disagree respectfully, and honestly accept that there are many with whom we cannot disagree respectfully. As agreeable and accepting as we may be, we must make it abundantly clear that THAT is not acceptable. Targeting symbols of peace and memorials in our capital cities is not acceptable. Targeting innocent civilians in order to instill fear in our capital cities is not acceptable. Whitewashing these actions or justifying them in any way is not acceptable. Standing idly by and doing nothing about it is not acceptable. If we realize that we are ALL in this together, we can hopefully overcome the challenges ahead. If we realize that we are ALL in this together, the sum will without a doubt be larger than its parts.