SATURDAY NIGHT, MARCH 2, 2002 -- Tonight you could hear the bomb from our living room. It was not the first after Shabbos bomb we've heard. Counting and determining the whereabouts of our children, fiddling with the radio dial as if connected to the command post, these are not unfamiliar activities.
But it had always been so far away, the slaughter of Jews.
It stayed there, printed between the hard-covers of history in secondhand bookstores and in all those musty tales of our pitiful and tragic existence, which stirred me as much as those of starving Chinese children coveting my untouched plate of string beans. Far, far away.
The Holocaust remained obscure to me. Yes, there were those who brought both my parent's last names into the ovens, but they were from that remote unknown. I shunned those books, recoiled from peeking between the slats of the train to catch a glimpse of Babi Yar, or experiencing the whiff of burning corpses or viewing the march of living bones.
I, who never read a mystery novel, watched a horror movie, or rode a roller coaster. I, of the big self-protectors, what am I doing here and now?
No matter what, you think it can never happen to you. Not even to someone you love, because that would constitute it happening to you.
"In every generation they rise up against us to destroy us," the Passover Haggaddah reads each year. I could relate the going out of Egypt, even the work of slavery before, as the prelude to Sinai, necessary to be where we are, who we are, the repository of the Laws. Duly understood, properly registered, humbly accepted. But the claim, "in every generation?" Naw. Let's not be overly dramatic.
This year's shrieks of sirens have reached my ears.
But serendipitously throughout the years I have been glancing back over my shoulder. While not wholeheartedly accepting sure danger dogged me, subtle doubts floated within my sense of security. A gingerly walk on eggshells, yet I kept dancing. Even here, living in the Holiest of cities, Jerusalem, one continues to dance, all be it, to the beat of a different Drummer. But this year's shrieks of sirens have reached my ears. And if this night's smoke filled sky, which I watched from the roof of my Old City home, and the thought of crying parents and children hadn't reached my brain, then surely Daniel Pearl shattered any remaining flimsy illusion I might have tightly held.
When the veils are opened for all to see, to see all, it is impossible to turn back, to close the steal doors of denial and delusion. The existence of Daniel Pearl, and his demise, is the consummate threat to the psyche. The thought of Daniel Pearl is such a threat because he was... not a threat.
Daniel Pearl was from the elite of the elite. A journalist of a renowned Journal, an icon in Western civilization. What was he but an example of above and beyond mortals, those who held the magic of elevating others via print, camera, and microfilm. Above, beyond, the objective observer at a safe distance. But he was grabbed from that distance, hurled into the center, into the very vortex.
The irony of his professional demands of disconnected objectivity and innocent nonbiased.... flashes red flashes red flashes red, the warning of danger imminent... the generation is now! If they got him, who is NOT next?
As they slit his throat, over and over in the instant replay of my inner mind's camera, I feel the hot, sharp edge of mortality nudging me off my balance beam, while the slick of blood makes my footing a little less secure.
No matter how much or often I want to disguise myself as a simple humanoid, an American-Israeli, a woman, a mother, "I" am revealed under the skin as the Jewish soul I am. They knew it with Daniel's last words. When the bomber lit up Jerusalem tonight with his deathblow, he knew it.
There will be those, here and abroad, who will refuse to give up a last grasp on the silky veils distorting and warping a clear, unencumbered vision of truth. Those who will refuse to see that there are no politics here. No issues of territorial land acquisition, or oppression of an occupied people. Raw and simply, this is the ultimate case of Evil's unquenchable thirst to wipe out its opposite..."good."
What I was anxiously looking over my shoulder for, scouting out for all those many years, is upon us, in all its horror, taint and foulness. There is a word for it, though unrecognizable to most of the world: "Amalek." The essence of evil.
Evil explodes in crowded streets of innocent men, women, and children, peacefully coming home from Shabbos prayers.
I have noticed many psychologies follow the notion that if a person is disturbed by another's character trait, that person probably has that very same offending quality. The theory is that a person is unable to distinguish what one is not. In a recent Haftorah, Jews where told of their obligation to remember the evil of the Amalek nation and erase it from the earth.
I believe that God had to command us to remember, to put it in our consciousness, this Evil, because it is so diametrically opposed to our Jewish nature. We cannot recognize what we are not. And "evil" we are not. Therefore, God, Himself, has to educate us to identify it, instruct us to find it, and erase it from the earth.
Evil slits throats with no more remorse than common butchers in a shop of already dead meat. Evil explodes in crowded streets of innocent men, women, and children, peacefully coming home from Shabbos prayers. Evil is musty tales of our tragic past.
Evil is now, here, in this, my generation.
Yeshara Gold is a free lance journalists, author, and Director of KIDS FOR KIDS, a youth organization for the recovery of young victims of terrorism. For more information concerning K4K and the plight of the Israeli children in this current war, go to: www.kidsforkids.net
Addendum: Where's My Baby? Where's My Arm?
by Harvey Tannenbaum
Chana had just heard the havdala ceremony from the rejoicing fathers and uncles of her newphew, the bar mitzvah boy. The family was in Jerusalem for the Sabbath to join with their relatives for the simcha, joyous event. The women and children were gathered outside the guest house in the Beis Yisrael section of Mea Shearim. In the Toldos Aharon area, the Chassidic communal tisch was still going strong, even though it was one hour after the end of the Sabbath in Jerusalem.
Suddenly the explosion around the strollers and kids playing jump rope lit up the street. Chana had just walked over to kiss her 70 year old mother with a shavua tov, "good week," kiss. As they embraced, the bomb went off near where the children were playing on this street closed to vehicular traffic on the Sabbath.
Chana screamed as she heard and saw the orange ball of fire grow near the kids. This was the result of the suicidal bomber setting off his bomb. Chana raced over to the area only 40 feet from where she had just embraced her mother to find the children.
The car that was parked there, began to catch fire while it blew up from the flames of the bomb. Chana was thrown to the floor as her clothing was on fire. The children around her were crying in the darkness, "Eema!" (Mommy). There, screams in Yiddish and in Hebrew by the mostly under 10 year olds who had been playing outside while their older brothers were singing with their fathers inside the hall, filled with zemiros, liturgical songs of seudas shlishi. Chana rolled around until she was able to douse the flames on her Sabbath suit.
Chana felt blood coming from her shoulder and realized that her hand was severed at the elbow. "Where's my arm, where's my arm?" Miriam Esther, her 2 year old, had fallen asleep in the stroller about 15minutes before the bomb in Meah Shearim. Miriam Esther and Chana were now separated as the Eema, mother, cried in pain without half of her hand as she listened to the screams of her 2 year old who was burning in her stroller.
Chana woke up at Shaarei Zedek Hospital a few hours ago. She has talked to the nurses to find out about Miriam Esther. The tear on her husband's clothing of his kaftan (Sabbath garb) as he stood near her bedside confirmed that Miriam Esther had burned to death.
The toddler was named after a great grandparent of Chana's whom had burned to death in Auschwitz in 1943. The baby Miriam Esther would be buried in the early hours of Jerusalem's Sunday in Har Menuchos cemetary. The bar mitzvah celebration of their relatives has now been extended to hospital visits, shiva mourning houses, and long months of rehab for the victims.
There are over 25 children under the age of 13 who are in critical and moderate condition from their post havdala terror experiences. There are 9 funerals in the next few hours which are being planned here.
As the Arabs danced all night in Ramallah and in Gaza for these Jewish kids who are burning throughout their bodies, the Arabs have now completed their heinous murders of Jews here.
There is no difference between a "settler," "soldier," "secular," or "Chassidic Jew." The target is the JEW.