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A Granddaughter of Holocaust Survivors Writes from Jerusalem

A Granddaughter of Holocaust Survivors Writes from Jerusalem

Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

I awoke yesterday thinking that I had my entire day planned, thinking that I knew what I was doing and when. As usual, I was wrong. As my mother always tells me in Yiddish, Mentch tracht und Gott lacht (“Man plans and G‑d laughs”).

First, at 7 AM, I was thrown off by one child with a fever (he needed to go back to bed). Then, at 8:05, my 9:00 client (whom I scheduled for exactly 9:00 because that is when my baby takes his first nap) texted me: “Elana, I don’t know if I can make it—there’s been a car bomb explosion outside of my city. The roads are blocked. I’m not sure if I can catch a bus to Jerusalem . . .”

The only answer I could possibly think of was “Don’t worry about it, just please be careful.” Be careful. That’s what everyone is saying to everyone they know these days—“Be careful!” Careful? How can you be careful when you have crazy people running after you with knives? Careful? How can one be careful? We’re not talking about being careful not to fall down stairs or not to cross a street without looking both ways. We’re not talking about being careful not to climb up a tree, or even not to walk down a dark alleyway. We’re talking about simply walking outside on the street in broad daylight, and how can anyone be careful of that? But these were the words that came to mind. What else could I say?

I turned on the news to hear what’s going on. Do I want to know what’s going on? Do I have to know what’s going on? Do I even understand what’s going on? I listened. More stabbings, more attacks, more injuries.

My client couldn’t catch a bus, but found someone to give her a ride to Jerusalem. She arrived only 40 minutes late. She was shaken up, nervous. I told her that her morning—the car bomb, arriving late to an appointment, not having any control whatsoever—it’s actually all part of the process of the treatment (she’s coming to me for bodywork to strengthen her body to become pregnant).

All these events, everything that is happening. What is it for? The pain is actually part of the process. “Wake up!” the terrorists tell us. “You have NO control.” No, it’s not the terrorists. It’s G‑d telling us, “YOU have NO control, but I, I do . . .”

On the Shabbat of Sukkot, I went to the Kotel with my seven-year-old daughter and baby. We prayed and returned home an hour before two fathers lost their young lives there. When I heard after Shabbat what happened, how close we were, how close we are, I couldn’t believe it . . .

I haven’t gone back to the Kotel. But is this the solution? To live in fear? Should we let our older children walk alone for the five minutes it takes them to get to school? What is safe? What is not safe? What’s normal? What’s not?

Last week, I went to the home of Rebbetzin Chana Henkin, the founder of the Nishmat Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, and my former teacher, as she sat shivah (the seven-day mourning period) for her son and daughter-in-law who were brutally murdered in front of their four children by Palestinian terrorists. As I walked to the shivah, my thoughts went back to 16 years ago when I sat in the Rebbetzin’s class. I remembered her smile, which greeted me every single time she taught or spoke to me, and I thought to myself, “They took her son from her; did they also take her smile away?” The home was crowded, and I could barely find space to walk inside. I saw her sitting on a low chair with her husband. Her husband was sobbing, her eyes were crying with tears, but the smile of strength, the smile of love for the Jewish people, for Torah, for Israel, for life—remarkably, the smile was still there.

What do we do? Yes, we are living in fear. Everyone is more nervous then they have been for a long time. Everyone is more scared. But we have to keep living and doing and smiling, for what good is this type of fear?

I took my feverish son to the doctor today. We walked by the shuk, which is usually so full and packed with people. Today it was empty. People are afraid to come. We waited for our turn at the doctor, and everyone else waiting around me was listening to or reading the news on their smartphones. Silence. Everyone was listening, reading. Another attack. How can it be?

We walked home. I locked the door. I waited nervously for my eldest to arrive home.

I started to write. I stopped to see another client. We began the session, and we heard sirens and sirens and sirens. My heart beat rapidly. My whole body tensed with fear. Yes, our worst fears. There had been another attack.

What can we do? Is any place really safe? Is this time really different from any other? How many times have we suffered with such fears in the past? Over and over and over again.

I just mopped the floor, and then one child spilled yogurt everywhere. She watched my reaction. I told her not to worry, and grabbed the mop again. Who cares about spilled yogurt on a freshly cleaned floor when we are hearing sirens, sirens of ambulances and police cars. In life, we need to have priorities and get some perspective.

I tell my children. “No, we cannot have fear. We obviously must be careful, whatever ‘careful’ means, but when we walk on the street, it’s with prayers and psalms on our lips, and without fear.”

Wherever you are, if you are in New York City or London, or Sydney . . . there’s fear. Here I am in Jerusalem and it’s scary. It’s scary to be in your home and to feel afraid. It’s scary to go to school or to the supermarket. But what good is all the fear? What’s the purpose of it?

I’m a granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. I won’t live in fear. I trust in G‑d. I’m focusing on my priorities, and I’m learning from all this to relinquish control. I want to love more and smile more. I want to do more and live more. Please don’t be afraid. But I also ask of you to love more and do more. I also ask of you to pray more, for us, for you, for Israel.

For more news, opinion, inspiration, advice and first-person articles on the October, 2015 Wave of Terror in Israel, visit the special section here.

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Discussion (58)
November 1, 2015
Why Pray for Enemies?
In reply to Anonymous, The Palestinians are not necessary enemies of the Jews and they have their own means of Heavenly communication, which they occasionally show as applying 5 times per day, so they don't need any more help from us in this respect. Why should we pray for our enemies? That is not the Jewish way, in many of the Psalms we ask for their destruction instead!
David Chester
Petacch Tikva, Israel
October 30, 2015
Dear Anonymous,
I am reaching out in support to our dear Israeli brothers and sisters who are living in crises under terror conditions.
I am learning so much from our brave Israeli brothers/sisters for their continued faith under profoundly frightening and tragic circumstances.

Many (including me) our praying for Palestininans and our enemies. As the Rebbe of Blessed Memory says, we wish our enemies to become our friends and we pray for peace.
October 30, 2015
Why doesn'the anyone ever think to also pray for the Palestinians or who ever you think your enemies are?
October 21, 2015
Hi Elana, from Uk I pray for peace for your country. I pray that God will put His divine hedge around Israel & give you protection. May you know that you have His ear in the darkest of night. Shalom.
Gillian James
Ebbw Vale
October 20, 2015
G-d bless you, your family, all of Israel and all of us. I pray for Israel, all the people, every day, and am increasing mitzvah in your merit.

G-d will prevail and bring light, G-d, we ask for it now.
Robin S
October 19, 2015
Ha Shem is always with us all!
While what you are experiencing is paralyzing (& we pray for you & yours). Our parents, Holocaust survivors, who were exempted due to WWI military service, until the very last deportation train from Germany. And yet, miracle of miracles, they escaped, on false papers, bought with the money of Christain neighbors as they had none, (as well as no assets, home, & very little food) to Lisbon & on to America. All of this is to prove that Ha Shem is always with us, mysterious as they can be. Ha Shem always makes the insanity come to an end. Bless you & bless all of yours. Peace will be you. It will come!
Lee & Evelyn
New England, USA
October 18, 2015
thank you elana. i am a gentile, but love the god of abraham, isaac and jacob.( sorry, my capitals do not work) we are praying for you every day, many times.
in your words you do not only encourage your people, but us as well. there are so many different fears. god's words to joshua were ; "do not fear,be not afraid, for the lord your god is with you'' and he is, he has the final say. prov3:4-6.
anna de greeff
October 18, 2015
Praying for you Elana, and for the shalom of Jerusalem, G-d protect and keep you and your family.
October 18, 2015
Hashem should protect all of us no matter where we are. Hashem is in control and we need to be vigilant and prepared to defend ourselves whether with umbrellas, canes, or other self defense knowledge. Not everyone owns or has a gun, but I am relieved to hear that when an attack is happening people are ready to shoot and ask questions later.
October 17, 2015
G-d bless you Elana. Were with you. Praying, all the time. I'll be asking my friends and people I come across to take on a mitzvah for Israel. G-d has not abandoned his people. He's watching and he will intervene in his own way. Praise the Lord.