The View of Boston, From Israel

Two Places Now Bound Together as Victims of Terror

Familiar Scenes: The aftermath of terror is something Israelis know well.
Getty Images
Familiar Scenes: The aftermath of terror is something Israelis know well.

By Leonard Fein

Published April 27, 2013, issue of May 03, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Friends from places faraway and near wrote to inquire of my safety in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. It gave me an odd sort of pleasure to inform them that I was, when they wrote, in Jerusalem, where terrorism is, at least for the time being, an issue for the authorities rather than the citizenry to worry about. The pleasure was, however, short-lived: The Boston bombing was too awful for me to linger in satisfaction.

Terrorism at home, an eight minute drive from where I live, three short blocks from my brother’s and sister-in-law’s home. My old friend Danny Mann writes from Washington, “The first thing I do every morning is to check the Post to see if anyone blew up the world the night before. If not, I proceed to breakfast. But the front page can be gruesome nevertheless, as it surely was today. I hope that you, your family, and your friends were not affected physically by the bombs.”

Yes, it could have been worse, much worse. Timothy McVeigh’s truck bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City took 168 lives. But “it could have been worse” is never a consolation. I picked up Yediot Achronot the day after the Marathon bombing and there it was, more than half the cover page devoted to a photograph of the explosion over a headline reading “Terror in Boston.” More photos and a map of the area on pages two, three and four. The bombing resonated in Jerusalem in a very special way, as one might expect. And also in ways one might not expect.

Several years back, the emergency room people at the Massachusetts General Hospital decided that they were not well-prepared for a serious episode, whether or not spawned by terrorism. They invited emergency room folks from Israel who spent a week in Boston training the local staff.

There’s more: The head of the Beth Israel-Deaconess, also, like Mass General, a Harvard teaching hospital, is Dr. Kevin Tabb — a graduate of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, where he trained and practiced medicine; he is a commissioned officer in the Israel Defense Forces and served as a combat physician prior to coming to America.

Surely there are few, if any, cities in America with richer hospital resources. And there are six level one trauma hospitals within three miles of the explosions. Those who refer to Boston as “the hospital capitol of America” know whereof they speak.

They were expecting rain in Boston the day after the bombing, which, it was feared, would wash away the evidence being painstakingly collected. But not the memories of what happened. There were some surgeons running in the Marathon; when they explosions took place, they kept on running, all the way to the nearest hospital, where they knew they’d be needed. plus a large and well-staffed medical tent at the Marathon finish live to help runners in distress. In the meantime, residents of buildings in the area of the explosions were for a time not permitted, even with escorts, to access their apartments, hence were cut off from access to their medications.

As to lessons to be derived from the outrageous tragedy, one lesson was, alas, obvious from the beginning: America is not immune. We learned that on 9/11, and now again. As diligent as are our security people, the country is simply too vast, the opportunities for evil too numerous, to cast an airtight protective net over the land.

This time around, we’re told, there was no telltale chatter that might have forewarned the security forces. (Hence the apparent belief that the perpetrator acted alone.) We do, it seems, listen for such things, privacy be damned. And until now, we haven’t paid attention to the idle backpack abandoned on the street. That, too, will now — one hopes — change.

And what, in heaven’s name, do we tell our children?

Here, too, there are lessons to be learned from the Israeli experience. Children in groups in Israel move about with armed chaperones. (The NRA must know that, and will for sure trumpet it. They should also know that there’s now a serious move in Israel to restrict the weapons allocated to private security personnel.) They do not move about furtively or with fear furrowed on their brows. They are aware of the risks, but not inhibited by them — surely not these days, when incidents of terrorism have all but disappeared (except for nearly daily incidents of settler terrorism against neighboring Palestinians and some rock-throwing by Palestinians).

Much is made — too much, in my view — of the values allegedly shared by Israel and the United States. Now there is this new thing to be shared. Everyone in Israel is aware of it and identifies with it. But then, before we are carried away by the symmetry, there’s this: The Occupation. That is more than a wrinkle in the symmetry; it’s a rupture, and until it is repaired, the existential conditions of the two nations will remain fundamentally different.

Contact Leonard Fein at

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.