One spirited 12-year-old against a world of terror

The shifting perspectives of those touched by terrorism, and the compassion that brings comfort to its victims

I’ll choose Jerusalem, thought the boy, knowing that’s what his father wanted. If I choose a Bar Mitzvah here at home, he’ll throw me the best party a kid could wish for. But he’s clearly banking on a trip to Israel—I can tell.

Please choose Israel, thought the Boy’s father, proverbial fingers crossed behind his back. He fought the urge to tousle his son’s dark, unruly hair. I want to show you our exquisite heritage, the land of our Forefathers, which we might one day call home. Don’t push, though. Don’t be obvious. This has to be his choice.

This dress is flawless, thought the girl, spreading the pink denim at the foot of her bed. She knew it would complement her endless red braids perfectly. I can’t wait for everyone to get here. I’m so glad I chose a Bat Mitzvah here at home. So glad I chose Israel.

Why did I choose Israel? thought the boy, just a week into his three-week trip. It’s so quiet and empty here, like the people are hiding. Are they—afraid? Why does this place of all places matter so much to my father?

No more, thought the terrorist, fiddling with his guitar case. Aren’t we important, too? I’ll show them how much we matter. I’ll take them right to Allah. Let the countdown begin.

Five days and counting, thought the girl. I can’t believe Pappy’s urging the cousins to come despite all that stuff on the news. This is going to be the best Bat Mitzvah ever!

Long live the intifada! thought the terrorist, before releasing his thumb from the dead-man’s switch—and then the flash in the crowded pizzeria, the fast pain, the bodies shattering through Plexiglas.

That could have been us, thought the boy, as he huddled with his family. I can’t believe we just crossed that street a half-hour ago, right in front of that Sbarro… An endless loop on the news—devastation, dread, and death. Why would anyone want to hurt us?

We have to do something, thought the girl. We have to help these people! So much blood… How do I get Pappy to stop crying?

We gotta get out of here, thought the boy. I can’t help these people. I can’t stop this insanity. We need to go home to Miami. I don’t want to see all this pain anymore. I’m just a kid—I’m just … me.

I’ll tell my cousins to cancel their flights, thought the girl. Yes, I’ll tell them to return their gifts. They can send me money so I can help the survivor get better. Will they ever be better? Their families have been destroyed. Maybe if… maybe if I become their family. For life.

I’ll move on with my life, thought the boy, back home now. I won’t think about Israel, not ever again. I’ll worry about hitting on girls, about gas money, grades.

I’ll cut off these stupid braids, thought the girl. No need for long hair. No time for parties. We’ve got work to do.

She’s right, we should start a charity, thought her pappy. She’s opened my eyes. We need to watch out for each other. We’ll call this organization what it is: The One Family Fund.

I’m old enough now to make a difference, thought the boy, who had begun remembering that street corner, despite his promise to forget. I’ll join the IDF. I’ll protect the people I care about. I can make up for abandoning them when I was just a boy. I will.

I’m so proud of my son, thought his father. He’s a man now. But … couldn’t he find a safer way to contribute? He wants to protect our people, but who will protect him? God. Watch over him for me.

God is great, thought the militant, as he hid underground in Gaza, preparing a stack of mortars. I’ll show them. I’ll show those who oppose us the wrath of Allah.

Am I hurt? thought the boy, blinking through gunpowder. There are crawling men, covered in blood again. A mess of crimson and bone where once was his arm. Did a mortar hit me directly? God be damned.

I can’t stand it, thought her pappy, as he drove to Soroka, where wounded soldiers were trying to come to terms with their sacrifice. I can’t stand that there’s still a need for One Family. Will we ever learn? Will terror ever become our shameful past?

What does he want from me? thought the boy, as a man stood smiling at the foot of his hospital bed. This hurt – they call it “phantom pain,” but it’s no ghost; it’s way too real – is gonna tear me apart, and this guy’s just standing there, grinning. Can’t he see something’s wrong with me, what they did to me?

This boy looks like hell, thought her pappy, passing him a Gameboy and the cartridge that came with it. Not a war game. Not a game for shooting or bombing. I hope he understands that I’m here for him. He doesn’t know me, but I sure know him. I’m his family. We’re – all of us – One.

This must be a joke, thought the boy, eyeing the title on the game cartridge. He chuckled and grimaced at the same time—it hurt to laugh. “Nintendo DS,” it read. “Left Brain / Right Brain. Use both hands. Train both sides.”

What’s so funny? thought the boy’s father. Who cares. It’s good to see my son smile again. It’s good to know my boy still can.

I can’t believe she did all that, thought the boy, after he discovered what she accomplished, one 12-year-old girl. Starting One Family to serve those bereaved, those maimed, those suffering post-traumatic stress; one spirited redhead against a world of terror. It’s going to be OK, the boy finally realized. There’s no such thing as too young, or too small, or too insignificant. I choose to matter, and so I do. 

The One Family Fund now has four assistance centers, 37 uniquely expert staff members, and 731 volunteers across Israel. Will you join them?

Please join us, thought the girl, and the boy thought, too.

About the Author
Izzy Ezagui, a decorated squad commander in the Israel Defense Forces, is the only soldier in the world who lost an arm in combat and returned to the battlefield. Izzy delivers inspirational talks across the United States and internationally. He's appeared on the Huffington Post, Al Jazeera America, and Fox News. The Algemeiner chose Izzy as one of 100 people positively influencing Jewish life. He has worked with amputee organization, schools, universities, hedge funds, and corporate events for companies such as Nike and Apple
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