“Ima, should I take a weapon with me?” My son asks before going out to play.
“Pigua,” a word even my 7 year old understands. “Dkira bbeit shemesh,” I hear reported over the radio of the security guard at my daughter’s preschool. I drive through emptier Jerusalem streets and see emptier buses drive by. I take my car in for servicing and while the Arab mechanic works on my car, I place myself near a barrel of spare parts thinking I can use them as a weapon if necessary. This is my new reality. Tensions are high, people jump at loud noises and think every ambulance siren signifies another attack.
Yet we are not a people easily traumatized. After every attack, people rush to the scene to sing Hatikva and dance. They hang signs that say “ami yisrael chai.” A kollel even took to the streets after an attack in the old city. We overcompensate for our fear with strength and tenacity. We reaffirm our resolve that this is our home and we will not be scared away.
So now we weigh decisions and routes and think twice before driving on certain roads. I drive my kids to and from school when I can. My runner friends run with pepper spray, but they continue to run. We try our best to live and enjoy and not let the fear paralyze us, while at the same time being cautious. We allow ourselves to feel the extremes of human emotion and experience. We embrace these extremes.
Over chol hamoed Sukkot, I took my kids to the beach and while there, enjoying a truly perfect beach day, a woman came over to us and explained that her son was suffering from “helem krav” or battlefield trauma. Someone advised her to go to the sea and cast her burdens on G-d. She asked us, religious people, for guidance as what to say. My friend directed her to the tashlich prayer. This experience struck me as a microcosm of our reality. On a holiday with a commandment to be happy, we are reminded of heartbreak. On a picturesque beach day, a reminder of a not so picturesque reality. Yet we continue to splash in the waves and build those glorious sand castles. It is this balance of the extremes and the celebration of our capacity to vacillate between such extremes that makes living here so challenging and beautiful at the same time.
May we, as a nation, continue to heal and celebrate together and find a way to truly cast our burden on HaShem to make way for pure collective happiness and peace.