It’s Friday night and I'm heading to my rabbi’s home in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv.
The streets are empty, and I have a knot in my stomach. The latest attacks have hit close to home, literally and figuratively.
The past four months have been full of every emotion and feeling that you would expect from an olah chadashah (a recent immigrant to Israel)—excitement, gratitude, happiness, hope, anticipation, uncertainty, anxiety, occasional homesickness, but mostly a deep sense of belonging and overwhelming love for the people and the land. But for the first time, as I walk the empty streets at night—fear.
I usually brag about my near-inability to feel fear (which, I know, is not so smart—or safe, for that matter). On the night of Tisha B’Av, when I walked for an hour and a half from the Kotel to my apartment, it was really enjoyable and quiet and safe, as far as I was concerned.
So what is it this time that makes me triple-check with the guard outside my apartment door what time he is going to be there until to let me in, lest I wait a minute or two outside by myself?
Whatever it is, it is eating me up inside. I keep checking left and right for a moving shadow, trying to keep away from the pavement in case someone jumps out, but also away from the street in case a murderous driver sees me and accelerates towards me. As I try to keep calm, a nigun (chassidic melody) pops in my head and I start singing,
אמר ה' ליעקב אל תירא עבדי יעקב
Said G‑d to Jacob, “Don’t fear, my servant Jacob.”
And slowly but surely, the words have a soothing effect on me and I continue,
אמר ה' ליעקב
יא טאטע יא, יא פאטער יא
אל תירא עבדי יעקב
ניין טאטע ניין, ניין פאטער ניין
מיר האבן דאך פאר קיינעם קיין מורא נישט, נאר פאר דיר אליין
Said G‑d to Jacob:
Yes, Father, yes.
"Don’t fear, my servant Jacob."
No, Father, no.
We have nothing to fear, except for You alone.
The empty streets are working to my advantage at this point, as there’s no one around for me to be embarrassed of my less-than-perfect pitch, and I regain that feeling of security that had left me for a brief moment.
“The Knives Intifada” is what they’re calling it, I hear. And don’t get me wrong, the danger is real. I’ve gone to pay my respect to the family of Aharon Benita, the 22-year-old man who was stabbed to death last week in the Old City, and the pain is real. The attack on the bus in Armon Hanatziv in which two men were killed happened minutes away from where I live and learn, on the bus line that I take nearly every day to and from the city, and it shook me to the core.
Of course, we need to be alert and employ all of our resources—whether they are a rolling pin, a selfie stick or an umbrella. And thank G‑d for our outstanding and selfless soldiers and police officers, as well as first responders who confront, day in and day out, the situations from which others run away. May G‑d bless each and every one of them.
But who is this enemy? Israeli Arab civilians living among us, our neighbors, the person sitting next to me on the bus, a 13-year-old boy in the street? And what could the “severe measures” that the government is threatening to take against potential terrorists—who clearly don’t care if they live or not to begin with—be? There is no army to counter-attack, no organization to hold responsible or suffer consequences, and no identifiable enemy whatsoever.
Someone once taught me, “When there seems to be no solution, it is already solved”—after we have done everything in our power and there’s nothing else we can do about it, the ball is on G‑d’s side of the court.
When there seems to be no logical, political or military solution, there’s only one way out: to rely on G‑d Almighty, to pray, believe and have trust in Him. How lucky are we to have a G‑d who runs this world, a G‑d who cares and protects and hears our prayers! How desperate and scared and hopeless we would feel if we were alone in this fight against complete, nonsensical violence, if not for our trust in Him!
So maybe I lost sight of that trust for a moment on Friday night and I felt fear. And maybe by remembering the nigun I restored that faith and trust. And maybe, just maybe, the way to extinguish the threat of the enemy that lives amongst us is by extinguishing the enemies inside of us, enemies that go by the name of doubt and fear.
Let’s hold our heads high with pride and trust in G‑d.
וראו כל עמי הארץ כי שם ה נקרא עליך ויראו ממך
And all the peoples of the land will see that the name of G‑d is called upon you, and they will fear you.
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.