Wednesday, January 23, 2002

The True Judge

Today has been a very bad day. At around midnight last night, Kikar Tzion, an open square in the middle of Ben Yehudah mall in Jerusalem, was blown up by a pair of suicide bombers. After paramedics arrived, a car bomb exploded and killed more. The car bomb was apparently timed to go off after the first two explosions to kill as many paramedics as possible. Overnight, another road attack killed one more person, and then, twelve hours after the Jerusalem attack, a bus bomb in Haifa blew up, killing about 15 more people. The numbers are still coming in, but the total seems to be around 25 people in one day.

I was in Jerusalem last night, having spent Shabbat there. I had tried to get a hold of some friends who live in the city to get together and catch up. We usually meet up in Kikar Tzion, but I couldn't get a hold of them, so I decided to hop on the bus to Be'er Sheva and come home instead. I would like to say, "Thank G-d I couldn't get a hold of any of my friends." It leaves a hole in my mental defensive wall to see a place so familiar blown up. Yes, I would like to thank G-d for not killing me, but how can I? If I were to ask another Jew to do something for me which is forbidden for me to do such as driving on Shabbat, eating non-kosher food, or killing someone, it is exactly the same as if I had done it myself. How is dying any different? If G-d decided to kill somebody in my place, am I supposed to say thank you? No. I think that I have a better understanding of why, when we hear that somebody has died, we say the blessing "Baruch atah hashem, elokainu melech haolam, dayan emet", or "Blessed is Hashem, ruler of the universe, the true judge." We don't know all of the facts, we don't have access to all of the information, and it's not our place to judge why such things happen. There may be a plan, but we aren't privy to the details, so the best we can hope to do is just cope and keep going.
And the world does keep turning, however much we hate that fact. We immediately start repairing the damage to our defensive walls. "Well," I tell myself, "I have class on Sunday morning in Be'er Sheva, so even if I had been able to get a hold of my friends, I would have left before midnight because the last bus is at 11:00, so I wouldn't have been at Kikar Tzion for the bombing." Then, earlier today, the bus bomb in Haifa went off. "Well, let's remember, more than 450 people have been killed in road accidents in Israel this year, while only about 150 have been killed in terrorist attacks, and even the terrorist attacks have been mostly individuals driving cars who were ambushed, not busses, right? So it's still safer to ride the bus than drive a car, right?" But somehow, riding the six through downtown Jerusalem and looking at the blown out and charred remains of the facade of Sbarro's Italian Resturaunt, the numbers don't quite seem to add up.

But, numbers or no numbers, the world keeps turning none the less. The networks show the scene of the destroyed bus in Haifa, seats and bus parts strewn all over the street, little bags with human body parts blowing in the wind. And then they return us to our regularly scheduled programming. Stories of people filter through. A friend of mine from ulpan had her best friend, age 20, engaged to be married, blown up. The secretary at work, whose daughter is the same girl in my ulpan, tells me one of her roommate's friends is in the hospital fighting for his life. People who knew I was in Jerusalem last night call me to make sure I'm still ok. The names start going by on the television and I look to see if any of the last names sound familiar, but none do. I don't say thank G-d, I say "hadayan haemet," the true judge.

The politicians come on television. Peres pretends to be angry and says it's all Arafat's fault, but then calls on the government not to take action. The right wingers come on and say, yet again, that we have to go in and take out Arafat. The left wingers say we have to "apply pressure," whatever that means, to get Arafat to live up to signed commitments.

Zinni, the new kid on the block, appointed as Special Mideast Envoy by Bush, gets on television and says how badly he feels that we're all going to die. Bush peels himself away from video fly fishing or whatever it is he's doing in his free time at Camp David in order to make one of the usual bland statements, "Blah blah blah Arafat, blah blah blah cycle of violence, blah blah blah one hundred percent effort." The army will probably go into the Palestinian Autonomous Areas once again for a while. Then, after a few weeks, the diplomats will begin the usual tricks of reversing cause and effect, and say something like "The reason for terrorism is the Israeli Occupation," and the government will succumb to the pressure and withdraw again.
Baruch atah hashem, dayan emet.

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