Like most people, I remember exactly where I was when I first heard about the September 11th attacks. It was one of my first days of fourth grade. I had a hard time understanding why someone would purposely ram a plane into a building. I was so sure that it was an accident – it just didn’t make sense to me otherwise. I didn’t understand why the terrorist would put himself in a situation where he, too, would die, and I didn’t understand how he could use a plane as a weapon.
Terrorists use bombs. They use guns. They use knives and rocks and missiles.
But now that I’m older, I understand that terrorists can also use planes and tractors and bulldozers. And cars.
What makes these kinds of terror attacks so horrifying is that they are done through mundane, regular objects people use every day. I drive to work, I drive home. I use my car to run errands, to go visit friends. I see hundreds of cars every day.
Young Israeli children are trained to be alert and suspicious of abandoned packages. But how can we train them to be afraid of passing cars?
There’s no suspicious black bag or muted ticking. In the past two weeks there have been three terrorist attacks carried out through cars. In a sick act of violence, these terrorists ram their cars into throngs of people. They hit mothers, babies, soldiers, waiting for a bus or to cross the street. They use their cars as weapons.
What defense is there against cars? We can’t hide in our homes and pray they don’t decide to drive (or fly) into our buildings. It is easy to feel helpless, paralyzed by fear.
I have no answer for this, though I hope that our trust in God helps all of my brothers and sisters in Israel to continue with their daily lives, and I pray that there should be no more of this sickening terror in our Holy Land or the world.
I do have one suggestion about this car-terror that I think might be worth sharing. And it is something we can all do – whether you live in Israel or not.
I’m fortunate to have parents who bought me a car before I started college, and I tried to remember the power I had with that car to give people rides. I tried to offer anyone in need a lift to school or work or appointments because I enjoy driving and spending time with other people, and they really appreciate the favor. In fact you can fulfill the mitzvah of hosting guests through offering people rides in your car.
There is an enormous responsibility and power in operating a car. When I got my learner’s permit, my grandfather (a retired driving instructor) reminded me that operating a car is like operating a two-ton killing machine. He meant that as a warning to adhere to speed limits, pay attention to the road, and be a mindful driver. What power those words hold now.
The car has potential to be used for so much good and at the same time for so much evil. It’s all in the choices we make.
We decide what to do with everything we have – our possessions, our talents, our actions, our words. We can choose to spend money on extravagances or to donate it to tzedakah. A few extra minutes can be used to reach out to a friend or relative, or to watch TV. Our words can be used to build someone up or tear someone down.
These terrorists are choosing to use their cars and give up their lives to murder and instill fear.
As a spiritual response, let’s decide to go out of our way to use our cars for kindness. Offer rides, help cancer patients who need to go the hospital, contact the local old aged home and see if they can use your services.
The terrorists are using their cars for death. Let’s make sure we are using ours for life.