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Why I Feel Optimistic Despite the Challenging Times

Why I Feel Optimistic Despite the Challenging Times

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The Hendel family at the Haas Promenade in East Talpiot.
The Hendel family at the Haas Promenade in East Talpiot.

My husband and I, together with our children, made aliyah almost eight years ago and live in the East Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem. We are blessed to be shluchim who direct Chabad of Baka, a warm community comprised of new olim from around the world.

This past month has not been easy, with the constant barrage of terror attacks, two of which took place in our own neighborhood. The No. 78 bus that was brutally attacked by two terrorists—who with a gun and knife killed three innocent people and injured many more—is our bus, the bus we and our children frequently use.

A second terror attack took place right on our block, Rav Chovel Street. We heard gunshots, and a few minutes later, the deafening sound of police and ambulance sirens. We and our pajama-clad neighbors stood on our porches (it was about 8:30 on Shabbat morning) trying to make sense of the dramatic and frightening scene unfolding before our eyes.

A typical street scene in Baka (Wikimedia)
A typical street scene in Baka (Wikimedia)

A terrorist had been eliminated after an attempted stabbing attack, but he and his Arab accomplices seemed to have come with much deadlier intent. They were lurking near a Sephardic shul at the bottom of our block, and someone called the police. When the officer asked one of the suspicious youth for his identification, the teenager from Jabel Mukaber lunged at him with a knife, attempting to stab him. The terrorist was subsequently shot, while his friends managed to escape. We all thanked G‑d for His protection in saving us and others from potential disaster.

Despite the disturbing violence taking place in our neighborhood, streets and buses, I want to share with you why I feel optimistic.

The answer is simple: the kindness and unity of our nation gives me hope.

The Tuesday of the deadly bus attack, a Jewish man from our neighborhood posted a message on the Arnona/Armon Hanatziv Facebook page. He was offering to drive people around the neighborhood to help with carpool or other errands, understanding that many felt traumatized and scared to ride the bus. I was amazed at the unconditional kindness of this man, offering to reach out to complete strangers.

On the Wednesday after the bus attack in Armon Hanatziv, we organized a Friendship Circle pizza party just a few blocks away from the terror site, and the camaraderie seen there warmed my heart. Seminary girls from across Jerusalem came to meet their new friends—children with special needs whom they will visit weekly over the course of the year. The parents of these special children never cease to inspire me with their strength of spirit and positive attitude.

Even as threats of terror hovered in the background, children with special needs and teen volunteers gathered for music and camaraderie.
Even as threats of terror hovered in the background, children with special needs and teen volunteers gathered for music and camaraderie.

In light of the situation, we added the recitation of Tehillim (Psalms) to the program, which included a light dinner and activities for the children. From the garden where the party took place, we could hear a Chabad mitzvah tank riding by, blasting joyful music about Jewish faith.

How proud I feel to be part of this people! A nation that encourages goodness and kindness. A nation that raises children and teenagers to share and give selflessly of themselves. A nation whose parents love and nurture their children, and do everything in their power to protect them and teach them good values.

During these tense weeks, a Mayanot student I taught four years ago found our Chabad of Baka website and donated generously, writing simply: “Hi Dina, It’s your former student from Mayanot. Praying for peace in Eretz Yisrael with Moshiach now.”

I can’t even describe how much hope those two short lines gave me.

Last Monday when I came in to teach at Mayanot, another pleasant surprise awaited us. A letter and picture hung on the bulletin board—a group of smiling women from Lawrence, N.Y., were holding Israeli and American flags. In the letter, they wrote: “We, the women of Congregation Shaaray Tefila Synagogue, Lawrence, Long Island, and our friends and family from throughout the New York area are sending you our heartfelt support. You have inspired us deeply by your determination to continue studying in Israel despite these difficult and challenging times. Today’s luncheon is our way of sending you a hug of encouragement and love.”

Sure enough, a gourmet lunch from an Israeli restaurant was delivered that day, bringing great joy and encouragement to the Mayanot students.

This group of New Yorkers made a big difference for fellow Jews they’ve never met.
This group of New Yorkers made a big difference for fellow Jews they’ve never met.

The love and support pouring into Israel from fellow Jews in the Diaspora is a testament to the unity and uniqueness of our people.

The Friday morning of the “Shabbos Project” (Oct. 23), I saw a video of 2,000 women dancing at a challah-bake event in Brooklyn. N.Y., to the song, Am Yisrael, lo l’fached, Hashem Elokeinu Hashem echad“The nation of Israel, do not fear, Hashem is our G‑d, Hashem is one!”

Their pure faith and joy was infectious, and I spontaneously started to dance with my 16-month-old baby, to her great delight. We both had huge smiles spread across our faces.

The heavy mood I felt after reading the dire news’ headlines just beforehand was magically lifted, as I realized that the Jewish people are a miraculous nation. We always have been, and even when the political and natural situation seems bleak, we know that G‑d can bring salvation in the blink of an eye.

Our own community’s “Shabbos Project Unity Dinner” that Friday night was also a remarkable display of Jewish spirit and faith. Some 150 people, including a lone soldier who found the event on Facebook, braved the Jerusalem streets to be a part of the electrifying atmosphere. We all left that meal uplifted and strengthened.

Certainly, G‑d saw the 1 million Jews who joined the “Shabbos Project” this month. Certainly, He sees the acts of kindness and unity being performed by Jews around the globe.

In the merit of our efforts to unite and to speak positively about one another, may we see miracles and wonders, with true peace and security in our land and the coming of Moshiach.

Nechama Dina Hendel is a mother of six, who teaches at Mayanot and co-directs Chabad of Baka, Jerusalem, with her husband, Rabbi Avraham Hendel.
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