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Fighting terrorism means fighting fear

On her way to the hospital she finally figured out why the chicken crossed the road

I didn’t know how I was going to get to work this morning. Major streets were closed, others were clotted, and the eerie sound of police helicopters portended evil.

A man had boarded a bus and stabbed 12 people. Not just any bus, our bus. The bus that carries my daughter home for Shabbat in her IDF uniform. The bus that carries me to H&M, when there is nothing for despair but a mohair sweater. The bus that carries my husband to the music store, when there is nothing for the blues but a steel Dobro or a vintage, mother-of-toilet-seat Fender.

The ambulances had already carried many of the wounded to the hospital where I work, and though I was anxious to arrive, I was not relishing the sights and sounds that awaited me.

The elevator doors opening and shutting to reveal only a glimpse of anxious families waiting in the trauma center.

Waze directed me down a snaking route of leafy side streets in residential neighborhoods. The bumper sticker on the back of the van which ran interference for me read, “Betach b’H—-,” trust in The Name, in G-d.

Good advice, I thought, but hard for me to take. Most of my family had been there and done that, before the world ended and my parents survived the Holocaust.

I looked at the cars stalled in the opposite lane. The long, weary faces somehow managed to express caring, the all-we-have-is-each-other look of families in intensive care waiting rooms. I wrote a post last week ago about fighting vs. fleeing terror. Now, it dawned on me for the umpteenth time how much easier it is to fight from here, from home, from Israel.

For civilians, fighting terrorism means fighting fear. It’s that simple and that hard.

How much easier it is to fight fear, when you see that the people – yes, the Jews – to your Left and to your Right, are fighting with you and for you – certainly not every day, but whenever it matters.

I finally made it onto Aluf Sadeh, a major thoroughfare leading straight to Tel Hashomer, when I saw “it” again, a chicken…crossing the road. For the first time today, I laughed.

I posted this on Facebook during the war last summer: “Many of you know that Brad [my husband] and I fell in love in a henhouse. We still boast about the laying talents of our 12,000 birds. Today we were caught out in a siren when we suddenly saw our totem, a real chicken, in the city. We both reflexively ran toward the chicken and got down. Life imitates [Jean M. Auel’s] The Clan of the Cave Bear.”

A chicken, like my Uncle Abe and Auntie Ida used to raise on their five ranches in Petaluma, California. I still don’t know how and whether Abe and Ida were really related to me. But I know that they were partisans in World War II, that they married in a Polish forest, and that when I first met them, I believed that my yearly birthday cake wish for grandparents had finally been granted.

Chickens: the yellow, peeping chicks that my Uncle Abe put in my pockets when I was six; thousands of birds on Kibbutz Gezer cooing my name and that of my future husband, in the cocktail-party effect that every chicken farmer knows; and the rooster that guided us toward the safest spot on Yehuda Hayamit Street before Iron Dome took out yet another missile.

We’ve all heard the story about the man in a flood who ignores his neighbor’s offer of a life-preserver, a rescue worker’s invitation to climb into a dinghy, and a helicopter dropping him a line. He stays put, saying that his faith is strong and that G-d will save him. When he meets his Maker, he asks why G-d failed to save him, only to hear, “But I sent you a life preserver, a dinghy, and a helicopter.”

G-d sends me chickens.

Betach b’H—-,” however the message comes to you; refuah shlema (a complete recovery) to the 12 wounded; comfort and strength to their/our loved ones.

About the Author
Varda Spiegel was Nurse-Director of the Bedouin Mobile Unit of the Negev, later serving as Maternal-Child Health Director for the Ministry of Health Jerusalem District. I am a grandmother, mother, and beachbum.