My son takes horseback riding lessons in Elazar, the town in Gush Etzion right next to ours in Neve Daniel. And the horseback riding area is right at the front of the yishuv, overlooking highway 60 and the beautiful rolling hills beyond. Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting in a quiet nook, reading an article and watching my beautiful son develop confidence when the noises started.
The ambulances flew past, the unmarked cars zoomed by.
No. Please Gd. Not again.
But I didn’t want to look. So, I tried to continue reading my article for a few minutes, and watch the horses prance by.
Zoom….more ambulances…more unmarked cars.
And the pull became too great as I braced myself, and went to the news on my phone. As I read the news I did a mental check, making sure that I knew where all of my children were. And fortunately, today, I did.
Terror. Terror again. Terror at our Tzomet. At the spot that I drive once, twice, three times a day. That my children drive by on their school buses. Shooting at cars standing in line, waiting to get through the intersection – a traffic jam that I sit in almost every afternoon. Typically at this exact hour.
And as the tears began, and the anger welled, I realized that my son’s life was spared today by Bnei Akiva. Because you see, this weekend is the culmination of a month’s worth of activity that the Bnei Akiva kids have been doing. And last night was their “Lila Lavan” where they stay up most of the night practicing their dance for a performance coming Saturday night and painting the walls of their club house to present to us on Shabbat. And because of Lila Lavan, my 9 year old wasn’t stuck in the traffic at the exact moment of the attack that he’s stuck in with his carpool every single Thursday. He didn’t have basketball practice.
And this time, he was spared.
But of course, others were not. A few of our neighbors were behind the cars that were sprayed with bullet fire. They were in the same traffic jam that Ezra Schwartz and Rav Yaakov Don were in. Why were they spared? Why weren’t their cars sprayed with bullets, and yet the cars in front of them were?
These are the questions that haunt us. The ones that we can’t answer.
Besides tears, and screams and moments of desolation, what can we do with ourselves?
Last night, they modified the Lila Lavan a bit, saying tehillim (prayers) and having a quiet song session in the beginning. But then, fortunately, they went on with the festivities. And I found myself sitting at home praying that they wouldn’t take this away from my children. Yes, many of their friends are friends with Rav Yaakov Don’s children, and yes the pain and lack of separation from these tragedies is never ending. But my kids also need — so desperately — to be kids. And to continue on through their tears and their fears BEING kids.
We see this in so many ways here. Last week, Sarah Techiya Litman lost her father, Rabbi Yaakov Litman, and her brother, Netanal, in a terror attack while the family was driving to her fiance’s community for Shabbat. They were to be married three days later, and instead Sarah spent the week sitting shiva. But, in an incredible move, they have rescheduled the wedding for this Thursday, just days after she gets up from the seven day mourning period, and she and her fiancé, Ariel Beigle, have invited the entire country to join in their simcha.
This is who we are.
So I was happy last night to place a sign by the front door that said “Don’t lock out your brothers!” to remind my three Bnei Akiva boys not to lock each other out throughout the night as they came and went with their festivities.
And this morning, I awoke with a mission. I bought bouquets of flowers and dropped them at the home of a friend who witnessed the terrorist attack yesterday; I brought them to the home of a friend battling cancer, and I brought them to my own home to bring a desperately needed ray of sunshine into the house.
And then, at the grocery store, I bought more cookies and drinks to deliver today to the soldiers who are tirelessly trying — trying their best — to keep us safe. My son and I will go to the spot of the attacks in a few minutes to hand out drinks, to offer cookies and to stand strong. To stand strong in the location — yet another location among so many – where we have been attacked for being Jewish and Israeli.
We will mourn (as the funeral for Rabbi Yaakov Don is taking place right now with thousands in attendance), we will cry, and we will try to carry on. We will protect ourselves and use caution. But all the while we will continue living here, in Israel, and getting up from the ashes to create, to do acts of kindness, to love and to build.
Because that’s what we know how to do. And that is how we have continued to be who we are for the thousands of years of our existence.