The modern age has enhanced another dichotomy between living your life and living in the world. I can’t be totally aware of the news and be totally mindful of my surroundings. I can choose to be informed or I can prefer a narrower consciousness of my actions and environment. The polarity between global awareness and self-awareness leads to a messy dance between two important values. Both emotional, intense, and true… how can I choose between my studies and my society? How can the contrast between the news and the reality that reflects in my vision feel so clashing? I take a breath and try to lock out current events from my mind. I need to be in my world right now. I need to get through this class and go to my friend’s wedding.
I’m sitting in the middle row, translating legal terms and attempting to catch the explanations of contractual law. Twelve miles away from me, in Tel Aviv, a Palestinian man murders two Jewish men on their way to pray in the synagogue. The killer, Mahmoud, was employed by a Tel Aviv restaurant and now hears the pride of his community in his act of honor. I force my attention back to my professor. Wait, one of the victims was a rabbi. I close my eyes and pray that this is all not happening. I try to zoom my awareness back to my classroom. My heavy heart doesn’t allow my internal processing to focus. I look over at other students, witnessing half the class distracted by their phones, checking the news. Then I hear about the 18-year-old gap-year student from Sharon, MA that was murdered while delivering snacks to soldiers, on the way with his friends to visit the park made in the memory of the three Israeli teens kidnapped and killed last summer. The battle between my realm of senses and the realm of news is over. I’m always overwhelmed that the best are killed. It’s always people that are living to the fullest that be get their lives cut short. The students are standing and I catch on that the class is over. I run to get ready for the wedding.
The joy of weddings is the ultimate joy. It’s the love between two; but even more so, the love of their community and the love for the future. It’s close connections celebrating the promise for the future. The anticipation for the moment for when they are married, that’s the tingles and smiles. The hugs and blessings, the singing and dancing, our attention is on the couple. But then we hear that another victim was identified as Rabbi Yaakov Don, a father of four and teacher of thousands. He lived so honestly, inspiring others to appreciate the challenges of living in Israel and become part of the solution. The wedding chuppah is starting. Joking, smiling, laughing, crying. My senses are returning to the moment here. They are a beautiful couple, glowing in excitement. He sings to her as she walks down the isle. The people of Israel are continuing to live fervently.
The stories I hear about Ezra Schwartz z”l, the 18-year-old yeshiva student, describe him as a caring, inspiring and silly. He was a wonderful camp counselor, relating to shy campers and helping them conquer their fears. He improved the world by being himself, by believing in his role in the world. He was passionate about Israel and excited to be here for a year. Delivering food packages to soldiers was just one example of how he thought about others and turned it into actions.
I’m dancing at the wedding with a full heart. The pain outside of this hall is still part of me but my senses are my therapy. My joy is the answer I have to the heartache of terrorism. Every terror attack plays a mean game of “why do bad things happen to good people?” and I hate that it’s always the best of my nation that doesn’t get enough time to finish their role. I guess its just what Jews are doing in their lives. There is no way that terrorists are only going after just the people doing acts of kindness. It is probably random. Which means that a random sample survey is proving that there’s a lot more goodness than what I initially expect.
Just like dancing at a wedding, our roles aren’t just in the smiles, but welcoming the couple to their marriage. The nation of Israel is in a marriage together, with our land. We dance and sing and cry, sometimes all at the same time. Friday I wake up to the news that Jonathan Pollard is finally released. Saturday, four Israelis are stabbed in Kiryat Gat. Saturday night, walking to the Western Wall, I join an enormous group of gap-year students singing in a circle and sharing stories about Ezra. Our marriage, whether in front of my eyes or on the screen of my phone, is part of my existence. I read on the news that Mahmoud Abbas admits that he rejected an Israeli offer for a Palestinian state of 99.55 of the West Bank. I exhale the frustration of two nations with so much in common but no way to communicate past our differences.
Then 21-year-old Hadar Buchris on her way to studying stabbed to death at a bus stop and 20-year Ziv Mizrahi at a gas station. I shut my eyes and allow myself a minute before getting back to my writing assignment. I allow myself this and then tear myself away from emotions to continue the tasks for the day. Last night I had another friend’s wedding. Tonight is Sara and Ariel’s wedding. Her father and brother were killed by terrorists two weeks ago. Regardless of events that will unfold today, I will be there dancing along with thousands of others. I hear that my family friends have made it to Israel and I smile, knowing that coming to Israel exactly at this moment is the perfect thing to do. Visiting Israel is dancing at our national wedding. They are rearranging the dichotomy for the interest of honesty, bringing their environment to their national environment, just like Ezra did. They are taking ownership of the contrast and transforming it into joy.