And you know what? In nearly every way it’s been an enormous privilege and blessing, and I’ve watched both of them grow up and mature in beautiful ways that would probably never have happened any other place.
It’s the silver lining that God draws around situations where you need armed guards to go and visit your friends, where you’re constantly hearing about attempted stabbings and stonings, when the fight to be a Jew in Jerusalem in the face of arab terrorism and murder is so real.
Blase about Arabs
Last year, me and my kids were in and out of the old city so much, we all got blasé about the arabs. My daughter told me she and her friend who lives in the Muslim Quarter even threw some snow balls at passing arabs in the Winter. I wasn’t thrilled, but I understood that minimizing the danger is really the only way to stay sane. And the truth also is that all the attempted stabbings and stonings and other things from last year that happened in the old city never resulted in someone actually dying.
The victims nearly always pulled through, usually with some open miracles and minimal lasting damage.
Then we hit yesterday (Saturday).
My oldest is on her phone as soon as Shabbat goes out, so 5 minutes after havdala we knew something bad had happened in the Muslim quarter of the Old City. As the reports of the multiple stabbings came in, I tried to make light of them: ‘They’ll come through OK… No-one usually dies from being stabbed… let’s say some tehillim and break the harsh decree…’
Except this time, the harsh decree was harsh indeed.
An hour before the stabbings, my oldest daughter had been talking to her friend in the Old City – the friend whose dad lost his life a little while later, trying to fend off an Arab terrorist who was stabbing people right outside his front door. Like I said, we got a bit blasé about the arabs, and my oldest in particular had adopted the ‘nothing to be scared of’ attitude you need to hang out in the Old City without risking your mental health.
When the details started to emerge, we were all stunned into silence. My oldest was in floods of tears, shocked at the ‘near miss’ for her, and the tragedy that had just struck her friend’s family. Nehemia Lavi was the husband of my other daughter’s teacher last year. The murder was close to home in so many ways.
Clinging on to God
Inevitably, my kids wanted to know why God had let it happen. I talk a lot to them about how God’s running the world, and about how things happen that we don’t understand, but there’s a good spiritual purpose behind them.
I tried saying those things again yesterday night, but it came out very muted somehow. It’s different when you’re friends with the girl who just lost her dad. It’s different when you can’t stop thinking about how the mum is going to raise her 7 children, the youngest of whom is 1 ½, by herself. It’s different when the blasé bubble bursts, and you suddenly realize the terrible truth that arab terrorists can kill you.
Here in Israel, you get used to so many open miracles that death from bombs, stabbings and rockets always seems so bizarre, somehow. Like something’s gone wrong in the normal order of creation, that God is actually enabling the arabs to hurt us.
God-willing, I’ll write more in another post about the lessons I’m trying to learn from this latest round of arab terror in the Old City. But one thing is clear to me: every day is a present, and God owes us nothing. I guess it’s up to each one of us to use the priceless gift of life in the best possible way, for as long as we have it.