Before I went to bed last night I noticed a single blip in my Facebook feed about a terrorist attack in Israel. The brief description was awful, unbelievable.
“Did you hear anything about a terrorist attack in Israel today?” I asked my almost-asleep husband.
“Hmm? No, nothing,” he replied, drifting off. I glanced down at my screen, but couldn’t bring myself to click on the link. I hoped it was a rumor, hearsay, a fantastical misunderstanding. I shut off my light and fell asleep.
In the morning, I quickly learned the truth: terrorists stormed a synagogue in Jerusalem using knives, axes and guns to viciously slaughter those at prayer. Four died at the scene, another died later of his injuries and several more are horrifically wounded.
Violence seems to be an almost typical state of affairs in Israel, but for some reason this most recent attack left me feeling more sorrowful and dazed than usual. I heard my girls waking up, brushing their teeth. The dog whined from her crate, needing to be let out. Life, my life, marched on. I dragged myself out of bed, made the school lunches, reminded the kids to pack their homework. I waited patiently while the little one changed her outfit twice, finally settling on sparkly jeans and her I Love New York t-shirt. I brushed her silky hair into a ponytail then dropped her off at our synagogue preschool.
Back in the parking lot, safe inside my car, I let the tears go. How do we combat this kind of hatred? How can we ever move towards peace and tolerance when there is so much brutality? Hope drained from my heart. Hatred started seeping in.
An hour later my friend Nicki updated her Facebook status with something both amazing and wrenching: a photo of her son Daniel’s arm wrapped in tefillin as he readied himself for his bar mitzvah at the kotel (Western Wall) in Israel this summer. Below this photo was another of the bloodied, tefillin wrapped arm of one of the synagogue victims. Life and death. Horror and hope.
There is no concrete or satisfactory way to stop the kind of hatred directed at Israel and Jews worldwide. How should we combat it? With more hatred? Destruction? Death? Without question, we must protect ourselves physically with force and fences. But we must also protect our souls – with hope.
Hope is my 12-year-old daughter telling me she is excited for her bat mitzvah because she will finally be able to read Torah whenever she wants or is asked. “Reading Torah is holy mom,” she says. “That’s kinda cool.”
Hope is my friend Jennie’s shimmering voice when she chants shacharit (morning service) at shul during Rosh Hashanah – and hope is realizing that you have so much more in common with another mom than just the ages of your kids.
Hope is my 9-year-old daughter’s 4th grade Day School class acting out a children’s story in Hebrew – and hope is that same child’s excitement when she discovers the magic of Island of the Blue Dolphins.
Hope is Nicki having her son’s bar mitzvah at the kotel this past summer smack dab in the middle of a war – and hope is the lamb burgers we ate last night, smothered in hummus and Turkish salad and stuffed in pita because they remind us of Israel.
Every mitzvah, every blessing, every act of tzedakah; every trip we make to Israel, every step we take towards Jewish life is a step towards hope. Every helping hand offered, every injustice righted, every hungry child fed, that is hope. Every connection we make with each other, every lesson learned, every song we sing, every glimmer of beauty, every “first” is reason to hope.
I will not let hatred hijack my hope. It’s what the haters are counting on and it will not work. When we choose hope, we choose life. It’s what we Jews do – it’s what I will do – and it makes all the difference in the world.