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Israel: Where Fear and Faith Collide

Israel: Where Fear and Faith Collide

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Photo: Flash90/Miriam Alster
Photo: Flash90/Miriam Alster

Ever since I can remember, I have been a fearful person. I can also be laid back, adventurous, even a bit daring. But once my fears are triggered, my fight-or-flight systems are a-go, and it takes tremendous resolve for me to contain them.

When I began to have children, I knew it was important for me not to pass my fears on. I remember, as a child, feeling imprisoned by them. I resolved that I would do whatever it took not to have them experience such inner battles.

When we moved to Israel, I pledged to myself that this mission would continue. That despite my own uneasiness, I would not let my worries impact my children’s development.

As it turned out, this became a real battleground for me, and at no time more then the present, with daily, hourly, even minute-by-minute reports of stabbings and other attacks. This violence has created widespread anxiety and panic among even the habitually bravest and serenest people I know.

Even before the current crisis, there was always the general challenge of being a fearful person living in modern Israel.

First, there was the reality on the ground. I lived in my beloved homeland, but it was a homeland surrounded by enemies, surrounded by unknowns, surrounded by surprises.

Second, there was the reality of my offspring. Born to me were children of tremendous independence. Often fearless, with a great humanitarian spirit, my children were not going to be the ones on the sidelines. From an early age I understood that they were proactive and involved, and that was going to be “trouble” for me and my fears . . .

My nemesis reared its nasty self whenever my children went by themselves to a friend, to the makolet (convenience store), to the local library..

It surfaced when I turned around and couldn’t find them, when they were an hour late and they didn’t have cellphones, when they went on supervised tiyulim (field trips) to places outside of my comfort zone.

My youngest tests me in the same way as her elder siblings, with her determination, drive and independence.

The older ones continue to challenge my fears in different ways. Now, as they have become more committed, as their sense of self matures, their independence and humanitarian inclinations are taking different forms.

Gone are my fears of the lemonade stands, local charity collections, solitary treks to the center of town.

Now they want to be out in the newly dangerous streets to protest, to show solidarity for their people, to initiate, to demonstrate, to participate . . . to live their faith. Today they are going to the Kotel to support those who live amongst its ancient alleyways.

They will pray. They will recite Psalms. They will pass out treats they prepared for our cherished soldiers and officers. After, they will participate in a rally at the Knesset, where their voice will be heard at the nerve center of power. All of this will be unsupervised. They will be traveling on public transportation. And my fear and faith will once again be at a crossroads.

So, where is the faith in all of this? Am I internalizing it, cultivating it, nurturing it? Am I living my truth, or is fear undermining it? I ask myself this a lot.

Israel is G‑d’s turf. Here, you are under the watchful eye of Providence. Whatever you need to work on as a person usually finds its way into your life. For me, the faith-fear interface is one of those gifts. Every time I feel I have made progress at this seam, I realize I have a long way to go. The progress is real. But so is the “long way to go.”

Once I remember learning about the sacrifice of Isaac. The question was posed how Abraham could have carried out such a request. One idea was that Abraham’s faith was in his bones. That, I think, is the goal. That our faith should be such a part of us that it can pierce even the calcified parts.

Until I get there, I will have to tame my parasympathetic tendencies. I will call my children up multiple times. I may have sweaty palms. I may think catastrophic thoughts, but I will probably let them go. I will do this for me and for them.

Why?

Because my faith is my counter to my fear. Because I want my children to be who they’re supposed to be. Because I won’t let the other side win in me. Because I am in G‑d’s country.

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

Karen Wolfers-Rapaport is a psychotherapist specializing in Narrative Therapy. She holds a BA from UCLA, and an MA in Counseling Psychology from Boston College. She received her training from Tufts University. In addition to her therapeutic work and freelance writing, Karen works with families from Israel’s Prime Minister’s office and Ministry of Defense, teaching them English in preparation for their diplomatic posts abroad. A proud mother, she is blessed to live in Israel.
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Yehudit October 21, 2015

I love this and can so relate. While I don't live there, I do have a son in yeshiva there. Your words comforted and strengthened me. May your faith grow, and your fears always be unwarranted! Reply

Karen Wolfers Rapaport Israel October 19, 2015

Reply to Malka Amen. Protecting yourself with the likes of pepper spray and saying Psalms/Tehillim are not mutually exclusive, absolutely....Thank you for your valuable comments. Reply

Karen Wolfers Rapaport Israel October 19, 2015

reply to Bat-Sheva Cohen Beautifully said sentiments...Keep Safe! Reply

Karen Wolfers Rapaport Israel October 19, 2015

reply to Macrocompassion Protecting yourself in the ways you mention and nurturing your faith are not mutually exclusive. They can be done simultaneously and they should be. Thanks for the valuable comments and keep safe.... Reply

malka October 19, 2015

It's hard to balance. We want to be cautious. Yet we still want to live and do what we need to do. That's why it's good to take something like pepper spray with you. And keep saying Tehillim for protection. May the Geula come soon and peacefully Reply

Bat-sheva Cohen Israel October 16, 2015

You are raising strong and proud children who will contribute to humaity!! Penetrating and very moving thoughts!!

Letting our kids travel freely in our homeland, be active and strong at this time is the best and healthiest thing we can do in these circumstances-- Best for them, our nation, and the world! Reply

Macrocompassion Petach Tikva, Israel October 15, 2015

Attitude to Fear It is insufficient to have faith in G-d without having some of it in ourselves too! We cannot be certain when terror will strike, but in addition to our prayers for its halting, we should prepare ourselves to fight back when it does arrive.

Be aware of the people near you and carry some kind of stick, and or protective clothing, and if possible get some military knowledge about self-defense. Then when we offer prayers for our safety we will have shown that we too have done our part. And when our doubts and fears in G-d's incomplete protection are felt, we will have made up the difference and can go forth with greater confidence. Reply

Anonymous October 15, 2015

thank you. you speak for me and for so many of us. G-d bless. Robin Reply

Karen Wolfers Rapaport Israel October 15, 2015

reply to anonymous Important to share our struggles! Thank you for the kind words. Reply

Karen Wolfers Rapaport Israel October 15, 2015

reply to K. Amen. Thank you for your kind words. Reply

K. Toronto October 14, 2015

Thank you A wonderful article!!

..."our faith should be such a part of us that it can even pierce the calcified parts"....
beautiful!!

Fully reminded me of Psalm 51; very moving.
May God Bless you and keep you and all Israel now & forever Reply

Anonymous 90035 October 14, 2015

So beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing ur personal struggle it
Really helped me come to a deeper understanding of how to approach my inner struggle! Reply