Two years ago, my family and I, on a sightseeing tour to Washington, DC, were having lunch at the US Capitol when a gunman burst in to the cafeteria.
To this day, I don’t know how he got through security but, as pandemonium broke out, he managed to fire at one of the Capitol police officers before he was subdued.
Amid plates and cups flying and people in a panic going every which way, I lost sight of my wife and son. I knew instinctively my wife would be fine, she’s that kind of person. However, I froze because I couldn’t find my special needs son. Though 19, his thought processes and vocabulary are more like a seven-year-old’s. I knew he’d be panicked, confused, and desperately seeking me. I found him just a few yards away and held him tightly as we were ushered into a safe area.
In the two years since then, I’ve made two close Jewish friends who have further educated me about Israel. As a Christian, I’ve always supported and admired Israel, but through my friendship with them they’ve deepened my understanding of Israel’s triumphs and travails.
It’s Israel I’ve been thinking about lately — maybe because of the violent rioters on the Gaza border and the intensifying situation with Iran — as I continue to reflect on my experience at the US Capitol. I don’t want to exaggerate the significance of a brief, unsettling few minutes that ended well, but I do feel that I now have deeper and more compassionate insight into the struggles and anxieties that Israeli parents feel. And their bravery.
We, as Americans, must never lose sight of the fact that because of the uncertain environment in which Israel lives, brave parents put their children on the front lines every single day. I can only imagine what it must be like for families with kids, who during outbreaks of terrorist attacks, worry constantly about their children and protecting them.
Sadly, we in America, more and more, because of the violent shootings in our own schools, are starting to experience our own national anxiety. Nonetheless, today, as I write this blog, I find myself thinking about Israel, perhaps because I’m aware Israel just celebrated its 70th birthday. That means, for seven decades and more, Israel has had to live with these security challenges.
The US and Israel are two countries joined by common values and who face common enemies, and I remain in awe of the bravery and commitment of the Israeli people. Their cause is just; their country and its achievements are to be envied; and their determination not to be intimidated by terrorists is a role model for every democratic society.
Reflecting further on my own son’s confusion that unsettling day two years ago and his frenzied panic, I also find myself thinking these thoughts: What about Israeli kids? How do they feel about the threats of rockets, terror tunnels and other attempts by terrorists to do them harm? What goes through their heads? Do they live in constant fear?
I’m told in some cases, once the terrorists launch a rocket, kids sometimes have no more than 15 seconds to get to safety. We in America, especially those who criticize Israel’s methods of defending itself as too harsh, probably can’t even imagine what parents must feel.
Whenever I think about Israel, which is often because I frequently discuss this remarkable country with my two close Jewish friends, I am reminded of that terrifying day at the US Capitol. My interconnected thoughts make me realize how precious life is and how someone can take it away so quickly.
I don’t want to overstate what happened to me, but what happened at the Capitol has helped me better understand what Israeli parents go through. It really scared the hell out of me.