In What World?

For the first time in my life I am scared. Not nervous, not anxious, but scared for my safety.

Not for something I did, but for the person I am, in the place that I live.

Because someone else can stand up and decide to become my judge, jury and executioner.

Because someone else can decide that my life is no longer worth living.

And no one seems to care.

It has been an intense couple of months in Israel, and the tension is palpable. When it seems like the attacks are calming down, it just means we are waiting for the terrorists to get in their positions. There is no quiet. It is just time in between attacks. And it’s only getting worse.

We are very careful in most situations not to blame the victim, whether its rape, racism, bullying etc. Obviously nothing they did merited what happened to them. So why is it not the same when someone is killed in Israel in a terrorist attack? The same article that reports the attack will report the Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers. In what world do we grieve the attacker with the attacked? Oh, that’s right, in this world.

In this world, a young man on a gap year program can be shot down while sitting in traffic and the New York Times will write a story that includes the number of Palestinian casualties in the last few months. Every word they write will be analyzed by over a million people who read that paper every day, and they will see words like “settlement” and “hitched a ride,” all placed there to make you question what happened, to throw a little shade on the attack, and to make you wonder who was right in the situation.

For some people, and it is horrifying to me that people like this even exist, the fact that one of the causalities of the attack lived in a settlement makes him deserve what happened to him. It makes me sick to even put those words together, but I know that there are people out there who believe it. That the boy killed should not have been in a country where attacks are taking place. That the three boys kidnapped and killed last year should not have hitched a ride. That anything we do could possibly justify being killed in cold blood. Nothing an innocent person does could ever make them deserve something bad happening to them. Nothing we do here makes us deserve what is happening to us.

So as I sit here and cry for the five people killed yesterday, especially Ezra Schwartz, who I did not know, but now feel a strong connection to nonetheless. I wonder what would happen if I, God forbid, were killed in an attack. What would the New York Times write about me? Would they throw some vague words in there to make it seem like I was doing something wrong? Would people somewhere in the world say, ‘oh that’s tragic, but that’s what happens when you live in Israel’?

Even if the world doesn’t seem to care what happens to us, I care. I care about every person that has been killed, and I care about the families left behind. I mourn for them and I cry for them. They are like me, and they could have been me. There is no difference between us, and it takes a tragedy that feels so close to home to remind us that what is happening here is brutal. It is not just some person being killed, it is one of us. I am Jewish. I am an American and I am an Israeli. I have been in cars, buses, traffic, bus stops, and shuls. These are all places that people have been killed. There is no difference between when they sat in traffic and when I did. There is no reason I am alive and they are not.

But I am alive, and I will constantly try to live a life that respects their values.

Despite being scared, I am angry.  I am angry that people in the world justify these deaths. That the President of the United States condemned the terror attacks in Paris but has yet to say anything about the 778 attacks that have happened in Israel since September. It reminds us that the only people looking out for the Jewish people, is the Jewish people. We cannot rely on anyone else to care about what happens to us, so we care for our own. We will go and dance at the wedding that has been postponed because the kallah is sitting shiva for her father and brother. We will celebrate with them as we have been mourning with them. We will continue to deal with this terrorist situation the same way we deal with everything: together.

About the Author
Avital Silver moved to Givat Shmuel from Teaneck, NJ, and is studying at Bar Ilan University. Living the dream... sort of. Future is unclear, but the prospects look good: psychologist? entrepreneur? short order cook? underwater basket weaver? If anyone has any better ideas, feel free to send them her way.