Terrorism and the Jewish state

Daughter Lauren Cohen works out.

Living in the Jewish state for so many years, like all Israelis, we were vulnerable to terrorism. That scourge hit close to home on several occasions. (I define terrorism to mean the deliberate targeting of civilians.)

When we lived on Kibbutz Kfar Giladi close to the Lebanon border, terrorists often fired Katyusha rockets at the nearby town of Kiryat Shemona, and we could hear the rockets as they zoomed over the kibbutz on the way to the town. 

One morning we were awakened at 6 a.m. by “boomim” — in Bonnie’s words — that sounded much more ominous. Three rockets had landed on the grass between the dining hall and our youngest daughter’s children’s house in the middle of the kibbutz —some 150 yards from our apartment. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Neither workers nor patrons were in the dining hall at that early hour, and the children were by that time living with their parents. (I discuss this incident in my book.)

During the First Intifada, we were living in Neve Ya’akov, the northernmost neighborhood in Jerusalem. To get to work at The Jerusalem Post, I took a bus that went through two Arab neighborhoods. One morning, our bus was struck by several large rocks hurled from the sidewalk as the bus rumbled through one of those areas. Windows broke but didn’t shatter as they were coated with a plastic substance. Again, no injuries.

But these attacks didn’t always end happily. The mother of a friend who had recently made aliyah from Eastern Europe was walking down Jaffa Road in downtown Jerusalem. She walked past a used appliance store whose proprietor had put a refrigerator outside to alleviate the crowded conditions in the small shop. As she passed, a time bomb that terrorists had secreted inside the appliance exploded, killing the woman instantly.

The scariest moment for us happened to our oldest daughter after we had left the Jewish state. Lauren, who lives in Israel with her family, related how close it had come to her when she came to my synagogue, Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim in Silver Spring, Md., for Shabbat services some 10 years ago.

Rabbi Reuben Landman, then the shul’s spiritual leader, gave a dvar Torah on feeling beautiful. He saw Lauren sitting next to me and invited her to the bima to say the prayer for Israel.

When she got to the lectern, Lauren said she wanted to say something.

Several years earlier, living in Jerusalem, she had been pregnant with her first child. She ordinarily didn’t put on makeup, but it was late in the pregnancy, and she was very big and feeling unattractive, “unbeautiful” in relation to Rabbi Landman’s talk. So, she took the time to put on some lipstick and eye shadow. 

Lauren had to go the Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus, where she worked and was a student. Earlier, she had checked the schedule and knew when her bus was due. As she approached her stop, the vehicle already was leaving. Her beauty makeover had caused her to miss it by a few seconds.

It also might have saved her life and that of her unborn child. The bus she had just missed was attacked by terrorists as it made its way through those same Arab suburbs located between our apartment, where she and her husband were living at the time, and her destination.

About the Author
Aaron Leibel was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1942, eventually receiving a Ph.D. in political science. In Israel, he lived in Jerusalem and Kibbutz Kfar Giladi. He worked at the Ministry of Health, as an apple farmer, and as a hotel administrator before becoming a journalist. Aaron was a senior writer for Newsview magazine and editor-writer for The Jerusalem Post, and then, after returning to America, he was arts/copy editor and reporter for the Washington Jewish Week newspaper until his retirement in 2014. He continues to write reviews and articles for Washington Jewish Week and reviews for The Jerusalem Post. His memoir, Figs and Alligators: An American Immigrant's Life in Israel in the 1970s and 1980s, is slated to be published by Chickadee Prince Books early in 2021. It is available for preorder in paperback.
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