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Why I Am Not Afraid

Why I Am Not Afraid

Terrorists want our fear as much as our blood. Whatever happens, they sure won't get my fear.

by

"Are you sure you want to do that?"

I turn and look at my Israeli coworker, puzzled. She is concerned and caring, her eyebrows are furrowed with slight worry -- as if she's not sure I understand.

"What?" I ask, "Go to the shuk?"

She nods.

Arrrrrrrrrghh. Not her too.

Over the past two weeks, more than 200 Israelis have managed to survive an attack but with injuries of varying degree. Some are still in the hospital fighting for their lives; others are recovering from shock; others are facing life without an arm or leg or both, injuries that will vastly affect them every day of the rest of their lives. All of them will carry on their bodies the physical scars the terrorists are trying to inflict on an entire nation.

And that is why I refuse to be scared.

My concerned colleague is expressing a certain reality that we face: There are people -- a lot of them -- who are quite good at killing and maiming Jews who live in Israel. And they like to find places -- like the shuk's open-air market -- that are crowded with civilians. More blood for their bang, in essence.

Israeli security forces and plain Israelis produce miracle after miracle and stop attackers in their tracks through elaborate intelligence operations or simply snatching wires out of a bomb about to explode. But even if they thwart 90 percent of the would-be killers, it only takes one bomber to slip through.

This is what we live with.

But we also live with this knowledge: The actual deaths and maimings are merely a means to end.

Yes, the streets in Nablus and Ramallah predictably fill with dancing after each attack, and today, Hizbullah's leader, Sheik Nasrallah, called for the "rivers of blood" to continue. (Ironic, isn't it, that "hizbullah" means "party of God." God must find that really irritating.)

But I don't think they rejoice over spilling our blood nearly as much as they rejoice over the fear they put in our hearts.

With terrorism, the killing is secondary. They want us to feel fear.

Do they want us dead? Yes, undoubtedly, but they know they're not going to kill all 5 million of us. But by slaughtering a few hundred and mutilating a few thousand more (in the space of a year or two), they can traumatize an entire nation. That's why it's called "terrorism." The killing is secondary: They want us to feel fear.

They want us afraid to go to a coffeehouse, afraid to go to the mall. They want us afraid to take a walk by the beach, or to get a slice of pizza. They want to make us prisoners in our own home. (And by "home," I mean not just our houses or apartments, but Israel: our Home.)

They want our American relatives and friends afraid to come visit.

My roommate is getting married in a few months. In addition to picking out her wedding dress and the menu, she now has to consider which wedding hall has the best security. After all, they've been targeting bat mitzvahs and bachelorette parties. Do we recognize the world we live in?

The people who do this clearly misunderstand something about the Jewish people. Yes, they are traumatizing us. We feel deeply, profoundly the deaths and the maiming of our brothers and sisters. At times, I find myself feeling guilty for laughing at a friend's joke. What can possibly make me chuckle two days after five teenagers were gunned down while listening to a Torah lecture (last Thursday night, in Atzmona)?

But weeping and mourning does not make me fearful; it does not make me want to leave my home. If anything, it makes me more resolute than ever. I loathe Israel's semi-socialist infrastructure, knotted with bureaucracy and waste, and the economy is in shambles. (The terrorists did much of that, too, by knocking out the tourism industry and much of the hitech investment.) Plus, I am a proud American -- proud to come from the nation I believe to be the most free, the most efficient, and perhaps the most just country in the world. But Israel is my country.

Every time a bomb goes off, I feel more and more the pride and privilege of being here.

Every time a bomb goes off, I feel more and more the pride and privilege of being here.

I used to work in Jerusalem's Old City: My "commute" included walking alongside those famous walls through the Jaffa Gate. And, many mornings, the commute moved me to tears.

"What on earth did I do right to deserve this?" I would marvel silently to myself. For 100 generations, Jews have longed for Zion and yearned to glimpse Jerusalem. Some of the greatest Jews who ever lived only dreamed of the privilege of being buried in the Land of Israel! And me? I get to live here.

And live I will.

I grew up hearing the maxim that one does not negotiate with terrorists. It's like giving in to a spoiled child -- it only teaches them to want more. Of course, I don't hold any political power and, truth be told, I don't know what decisions I would make if I did. But I know that I feel a tremendous sense of power by refusing to allow them to control my life, by refusing to allow them to scare me away from living my life.

Today, I got an e-mail from a friend saying that he is organizing a "sit-in" of sorts -- a large group of people are going to go sit in coffee houses in the nearly abandoned restaurant districts.

In the war of terror, the cafes are the front lines.

This is the pioneering spirit re-imagined for the new millennium. Where brave souls once drained swamps and cleared fields, we now sit in cafes. And in the war of terror, that's the front lines.

Those who seek to turn our bodies into tributaries for Sheik Nasrallah's rivers of blood know us better than we sometimes know ourselves. They couldn't care less about the arbitrary distinctions and schisms to which we pay so much heed. The boys they shot during a Torah lecture were going to school in a "settlement." The mothers they blew up next to a Jerusalem synagogue were ultra-Orthodox. The people in the chic cafe were paragons of the secular left. Russian immigrants outside the Dolphinarium, Ethiopian border police, Americans ex-pats; Sephardi grandmothers. To them, we are all the same: Jews.

I realize this is nothing new.

The Haggadah tells us: In every age, they have risen against us to annihilate us. But in every generation God saved us from their hands.

"Do you really want to go to the shuk?" she asks me.

I think of a passage from Psalms: "O God, fight my adversaries, battle those who do battle with me. Take hold of shield and armor and rise up in my defense. And draw the spear, and bar the way before my pursuers; say to my soul, 'I am your salvation.'"

In the meantime, I'm going to the shuk.

 

Published: March 23, 2002


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Visitor Comments: 52

(51) Rhoda Levin, June 11, 2002 12:00 AM

"WHY I AM NOT AFRAID."

I PRAY GOD BLESSES YOU AND OUR PRECIOUS LAND OF ISRAEL. OUR PEOPLE HAVE HAD MORE THAN THEIR SHARE OF HATE AND TERRORISM.GIVE US PEACE.

(50) Jesselyn Morrison, May 3, 2002 12:00 AM

Long live brave Liba and her words of inspiration!

I wish I could go to the shuk with her and stand with all the others like her who are willing to pay the price of faith in Israel's Maker and Protector. His angels are always near.

(49) Ray Saperstein, April 23, 2002 12:00 AM

In the meantime, I'm going to Israel

As an American Jew, I have written checks from the safety of my home. It's not enough. I'm going on a Volunteers for Israel trip in a few weeks. JOIN ME!!! For more information, go to www.sar-el.org or www.jafi.org.il/daily/vol.asp.
Ray Saperstein, Baltimore, MD

(48) SHIMON R, April 18, 2002 12:00 AM

GREAT ARTICLE

PLEASE CONTINUE TO BE ONE OFF THE FEW NORMAL VOICES IN THE PRESS

(47) Gloria Smith, April 10, 2002 12:00 AM

An American in Israel

Hello, I was in Israel Mar. 18th to Mar.28 it was life changing. I felt no fear in the country or from the people. Traveling from Tel Aviv, Ceserea,Haifa,Golan Heights,Megiddo,Tiberias,Jerusalem,Masada,Dead Sea, and various other places, I never looked behind my shoulder. I have been in N.Y. city ,Chicago,L.A.and other major cities and walked very carefully and on guard. Speaking to the youth I was amazed by how very matter a fact and realistic there answer when I offered the remark "There is no fear here." and their answer," You live life or you live in the house" Bravo well said. When a people have destiny and hope for a country that they know is a God given right naturally courage, confidence, vision, and focus comes. This moral can overcome any obstacle and brings testimony to their fellow man. This so much impressed me, of course I am spreading the word, that I srael is alive and have freedom from in their hearts. I brought back a good report back to the United States and 40 others. I will be sharing with all classes at the middle school(ages 12 through 16) I hope this will make an impact they will never forget and maybe this generation can make a difference in the future for Israel. We pray Peace of Jerusalem, prosperity and enlargement be your continual blessing. Please dont faint. " Not by might nor by power but by My Spirit saith the Lord"
Gloria Smith, Prescott, Arizona USA

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