When I was growing up in Baltimore, I learned which neighborhoods were safe and which neighborhoods were dangerous. Which places I could go to, and which places I should carefully avoid.
And since I moved to Israel 24 years ago, I’ve been doing the same thing.
When I heard that 2 Israeli police officers had been shot to death and, later, there was rioting in and surrounding the Old City, I shook my head with concern and decided to nix the outing I had been planning to daven this week at the Kotel. When I heard that 3 members of the Solomon family celebrating the Shalom Zachar of a newborn baby boy, were murdered by an Arab terrorist around the corner from my daughter’s high school in Neve Tsuf, I got more scared and started keeping our doors and windows locked at all times.
Looking out for Number One, just like when I was growing up.
But my kids and kids around Israel have been responding differently to the recent tragedies here…
Yesterday, my bat mitzvah girl’s summer camp cancelled their planned outing to the Jerusalem Forest and took all the girls to the Kotel instead.
Another daughter’s youth group decided to move the location of the scavenger hunt they had planned from downtown Jerusalem to the Old City.
And it’s not just my kids.
Yesterday, several high school girls approached me and my daughter when we were in a store and handed us a slip of paper they had prepared with a psalm, urging us to read it for the safety and security of Am Yisrael.
Then this morning at the light-rail station, some elementary school girls handed me a toffee attached to a note that read, “The Race to a Million Blessings: Say a blessing over this toffee for the elevation of the souls of the Solomon family victims HY”D.”
Seeing how my kids and their peers are reacting to current events has made me realize that when I get scared, I do what I did when I was growing up. I look out for Number One. I stay away from the Old City, I lock my doors, I nervously check out the Arab passengers standing beside me on the light rail (that man’s too old to pull out a knife, that woman’s with her baby, so there’s no way she’s about to start stabbing people with a pair of scissors.)
And these Israeli kids, in their own way, are also looking out of Number One. But their Number One, I’m realizing, is different than mine. For them, their Number One is Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael. The Jewish people and the Land of Israel. And praying for Hashem’s protection and mercy upon them.
A year and a half ago there was a terror attack next to the Old City’s Jaffa Gate, and the young father of a large family was brutally murdered while walking home from work. That Friday night, my then 15-year-old daughter informed me after candle-lighting that she and her friends were going to daven at a minyan next to Jaffa Gate that night.
And I told her: “You can’t go to Jaffa Gate! There was just a terror attack there yesterday!”
“Eema,” she responded slowly, as if speaking to someone who didn’t fully understand her language, “of course I know there was a terror attack there. That’s why we’re going there!”
I recently heard a French-born father of 11 Israeli children speaking about what it’s like moving to Israel. And this what he said:
“Moving to Israel is like climbing a very high mountain. You are climbing and climbing, you are breathing hard and sweating from the steep climb. And then you achieve the impossible–you reach the top. And when you get there, you sit down to catch your breath, and you turn around and find your children sitting there, at the peak.
‘How did you possibly make the climb up here? It was so steep and high and difficult!’ you ask them.
And your children answer you, ‘We didn’t have to climb at all. We were born here.’”