What’s in a Word?

by Andrea Simantov December 29, 2015



Once upon a time we screamed a word and no one listened. The word was “terror” and the more it was bandied about, the less it stunned those it was meant to awaken from a communal stupor.  Indeed, many grew numb with boredom while others became mildly/greatly annoyed by our pushy, Israeli insistence that someone, anyone, take notice of our plight.

In those lazy early days of this recurrent period of siege, the West split hairs by trying to determine whether the culprit was called Islam, radical Islam, ISIS, Hamas, all-Arabs, some-Arabs, not-bad-people-only-those-who-behave-badly type people. While we might have liked to weigh in on some of the discussions, time flits away when stemming blood flow from open wounds and calling for emergency medical help while performing CPR.  In our Israeli world of “normal,” elementary-school children are routinely taught to tie a tourniquet and leave the knife in place.

In frustration, I try to explain to dear ones that driving to Bet El for Shabbos is dicey, only to be asked, “Why, did something happen?” Or, hearing such reaction from those who saw videos of the wedding celebration of Sarah Techiya Litman and Ariel Beigle as, “That doesn’t look like a wedding. It looks like a job fair.”  With two-parts arrogance and one cup of naiveté, I think to myself, “Are we truly the same nation?  Did we really stand shoulder-to-shoulder at the foot of Mount Sinai and receive the same Torah?”

This sense of isolation felt akin to despair when a former high-school classmate wrote on my Facebook page the by-now anemic bracha, “Stay safe, Andrea.” Unfairly, I wanted to lash out to this kind sentiment with: “What does that mean?”

Was my neighbor Richard shot and stabbed on the neighborhood bus because he forgot the “remain vigilant” warning? If I don’t remember every utterance of “stay safe,” “be careful” and “watch yourself,” in case of the worst, G-d-forbid, will I be accused of complicity in my own demise? When I responded to my “stay safe” classmate that I felt frightened for America because, unlike Israel, I suspect that the government underestimates the magnitude of this external threat, she answered me snappily, “Don’t worry about us. After 9/11, this government knows exactly what to do.”

Really?  Care to share? 

This morning, my heart breaks for America, the beloved place of my birth, my friendships, my precious family. I ache for those in America who toss a glance at blood-drenched Israel and, like the recalcitrant son of Passover fame, ask, “What does this have to do with me?”

Because whether by happenstance, human design or divine intervention, the generous and loving warnings that were once lobbed across the Atlantic toward the land of our forefathers must today boomerang into your own orbit as you awaken to an unprecedented scourge of terror upon your doorsteps. Christmas parties. Community centers. Cinemas. Classrooms. Israelis are not immune but, sadly and to our collective detriment, we see evil lurking under every rock.

So the next time your local paper devotes an inch or two to the Israeli citizens who are cut down as they purchase a container of milk, bring food to a homeless shelter or sit down at their Sabbath tables, please don’t turn the page because it has nothing to do with you. Stop. Look. Recognize.

It’s called Terror. And we are you. 


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