It’s embarrassing to burst into tears in the middle of a business meeting. That’s what happened to me last year when a friend from our community was killed by an Arab terrorist, down the road from our home.
This time it was in the Diaspora Museum, where I spoke this week of Jewish tenacity and our persistent nature in the face of adversity. And then I choked down the tears, thinking of my neighbor Keren, mourning her 20-year-old son Erez killed on Sunday, run over by an Arab terrorist plowing a truck into a group of soldiers touring Jerusalem.
Another ridiculous, sad, unbearable, unfathomable loss.
The kid was here on Shabbat, doing the usual things sons and soldiers do when on leave – sleep, learn, spend time with his family and friends. And on Sundays, we all set off for our week, with the usual ritual of making sure everyone has a safe way to get where they’re going (terrorism-on-the-mind: tough to live with, but you do). This worried mother asks them to call in when they arrive safely – I am thankful that they put up with me. Erez z’l, of blessed memory, never got to make that call home to his mom.
Sunday was the tenth of Tevet on the Jewish calendar, a day marking a traumatic event in Jewish history about 2500 (!) years ago. The Babylonians lay seige to the Jewish city of Jerusalem and its Temple, and we still mourn with prayer and fasting. (And they have the gall to tell us Jerusalem isn’t holy to the Jews.) At sundown we had just broken the fast with dinner when the news hit. Four young soldiers were killed in the terror attack earlier… three girls and one boy… it’s our neighbor… and so on. On almost-automatic, we checked in on all the kids, and I put myself together enough to walk up the block and present myself for whatever needed to be done.
Have you ever held the hand of a mom who had just been told her oldest son was murdered in the most terrible kind of hateful act? Have you sat numbly by, mumbling about how we will be your strength, you can fall down, we will be there to pick you up. Yes, the kids are in the other room with their friends. No, I don’t know if you must identify him – and no, I cant describe the next thought she shared because of its graphic content, but there you have it. Thoughts of a mom losing her dear son to pure evil.
Anger? Not in that house, not then. Sheer sorrow of the most basic kind. How must the family of the terrorist feel? They lost someone too. But yet, in news reports, after being rounded up and questioned, the dead terrorist’s sister was released after commending her brother ‘the martyred shahid’ for his grand act. Have we lost our moral compass completely and unabashedly?
Erez was an American citizen. HIs mom is an American citizen. His grandmother, who made aliyah from the US in 1968, is an American citizen. Here’s a ridiculous fact: The United States embassy is not the official representative for those of us living just twenty minutes south of Jerusalem, because it’s over the ‘green line’. The Ambassador ‘can’t’ visit. (Note: He did get ‘consular permission’ to visit the home of kidnapped youth Gilad Shaer two years ago. Why not now?) It is the consulate who provides services, in theory. They sent someone to Erez’ funeral, but the Consul General is not planning to visit the house of mourning during this week of shiva – he’ll send a representative. Really?
This is absurd, and insulting, to Americans everywhere, and I am ashamed for the United States, its State Department and all those who perpetuate this prejudicial treatment of Jewish American-Israelis. There are two more days of ‘shiva’, I challenge the Embassy to act swiftly and respond to the family’s simple question of when the Ambassador – official representative of the American government, Erez’ government too – is paying his condolences.
Then the skies seemed to talk to all of us in Gush Etzion, and Jerusalem. The clouds this week took over the view in an awesome, imposing display. Our attention was drawn to the heavens. Each long day this week, I was reminded of the power of God over all of us. And then, at the dark hour of despair and questions, this breathtaking display felt like a response from above. Who could ignore a direct appeal – Was it an offer of comfort? An apology?
Have a good, inspired rest of the week, and may your loved ones be kept safe.