Walking Fine Lines

As a relatively new Israeli, I know I constantly walk fine lines:

The line between being slightly to the left on civil rights issues and slightly to the right on security issues.

The line between wanting Peace with our neighbors and often finding it hard to believe those same neighbors honestly want Peace;

The line between wanting my daughters to take walking for granted, anywhere and everywhere they want, and wanting them to be vigilant when walking because here nothing, not even the most basic actions, can be taken for granted.

This morning, before anything of consequence happened in Jerusalem, I was walking to school with my daughter, Amalya, with just a little more vigilance than usual. Crossing Efrata Street, two young men got out of a car and hauled large pick axes and sharp hoes onto their shoulders. I slowed down, and I made Amalya slow down too. I don’t know why but dangerous gardening objects, ones easily turned into weapons, caught my eye. I chose to slow down. I chose a little more vigilance over “taken for granted.”

The fine lines I walk go on and on:

The one between the pride I feel living in the Jewish State, on the one hand, and the frustration I feel as a Jew with the politicization of Judaism here on the other.

The fine line dividing between the exhilaration of living here and the sadness that often accompanies that choice. Living in Israel is to be part of the most exciting experiment in Jewish sovereignty in over two thousand years. It is also to be part of the painful maturation process from toddler to child of a relatively young country with all the trips, falls and mistakes that accompany such a journey.

Today, in Jerusalem, people were walking fine lines in the city, as they do everyday, waiting for the Light Rail in the area called “The Seam,” the line where Me’ah She’arim, the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood, meets East Jerusalem and its Arab population. They were waiting for the train, walking to and from the station, going about their own business. Walking and talking, smiling and laughing, breathing and sighing, they were involved in the most basic, mundane activities. In the blink of an eye, the “normal” was stolen from them and “taken for granted” changed forever. A terrorist intentionally drove his car onto the sidewalk, taking aim at groups of people. He murdered one person (as of this writing) and severely injured others before he himself was shot and killed by a border patrol officer. How can “normal” and “taken for granted” ever be the same?

These kinds of terrorist attacks bring me to walk other fine lines:

The one that divides between wanting vengeance and the one that reminds me redress for such actions rests in the hands of God, not in those of people;

The line between anger and hope; and

The one that divides between wanting to close the border, build a higher fence, and just live in quiet and the desire to achieve a Peace where there is active, positive interaction between Israeli Jews and Arabs.

Making sure I walk on the right side of these lines is perhaps most important of all. Being on the wrong side leads to the beating and burning to death of an Arab teen. It leads to building a fence that expropriates property not just for security reasons but sometimes for other, less seemly reasons. It leads to de-humanizing the “other.”


Sadly, it leads to embracing the ways of the terrorists, exactly what we find most abhorrent, and to the loss of our integrity, values, tradition and humanity.

Walking fine lines is NOT easy. It is exhausting. Over the long-term, it results in physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion. It is part of the blessing and challenge of living here.

Regardless of the toll, living here demands walking fine lines for our own safety and sanity. We do it to avoid giving up the right to normalcy, to the mundane, to the “taken for granted.” We do it to avoid giving in to the terrorists and giving up our integrity and values. We do it to preserve our own physical safety when walking down the street and, simultaneously, we do it to be sure we always walk on the right side of the values and integrity line.

For now, all I can promise is this:

Tomorrow morning, Amalya and I will walk to school as we always do, smiling and laughing (as we usually do), and with just a drop more vigilance about walking on the right side of the all the fine lines mentioned above than we did this morning.

Finally, I will pray for comfort for the family of the person killed in today’s terrorist attack and for the speedy recovery of those injured during the attack. And I will pray for the Peace of Jerusalem, my home.

I invite you to join me.

About the Author
Loren is a new Israeli Citizen and a rabbi. He lives with his wife and their two daughters in the Talpiyot neighborhood of Jerusalem. Their son attends college in the US. Loren was the director of several Jewish overnight camps including serving as the founding director of Camp Ramah Darom and Camp Yofi: Family Camp for Jewish Families with Children with Autism.
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