The East Jerusalem synagogue attack broke my heart. Now, Israelis must remember our diversity is our strength
Israelis have just experienced the worst Shabbat we’ve seen in many years. A Palestinian terrorist shot and killed seven people and injured a dozen others as they left their synagogue in Jerusalem’s Neve Yaakov neighborhood after Friday night prayers.
Horrible memories materialized in an instant as the magical silence that reigns over a Shabbat night in Jerusalem was filled with sirens and suffering.
The timing of the attack was particularly painful, as it happened on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Seventy-eight years to the day after the liberation of the Auschwitz extermination camp by the allied forces in 1945, Jews are still being murdered in cold blood, even in our own homeland.
Israeli authorities say they believe the terrorist, a 21-year-old resident of East Jerusalem who was killed by security forces after the attack, acted as a lone wolf. Lone wolf attacks are almost impossible to prevent, as even the best intelligence often can’t foresee them.
In Israel and around the world we are hurt by these losses, and confused by what they mean. The attack in Neve Yaakov followed a Thursday raid in the city of Jenin that killed nine — the deadliest raid in the occupied West bank in years. We wonder: Are we yet again entering a cycle of terror, prolonged by retaliations on both sides? Will this ever end?
While we recover from our collective pain, there’s no room for rushing to conclusions, and less for speculating about what Israel’s government should or should not do in response. That will come later.
But as we digest what happened, wherever we are in the world, and whatever our views on this conflict are, let’s not forget some fundamental truths.
First, nothing — absolutely nothing — justifies this horrendous attack on innocent civilians. Not the occupation, and not a right-wing government. Everyone, without exception, should condemn this.
Second, we should not direct frustration or anger towards the Palestinian people as a whole. We must remember that many of them are likely very frightened right now, especially when they hear some of the loud and extremist voices already seeking revenge.
Third, we must be honest with ourselves: we must cohabit this land. Israel, as a robust democracy, must continue to protect its minorities, including Palestinian citizens of Israel. Some of the first responders in this attack — as has been the case in the past attacks — were likely Palestinian paramedics and doctors, showing professionalism, compassion and devotion. That’s a testament to our strength as a diverse country, something we should always protect.
Fourth, we must never lose our hope for peace. We must, and will, find a peaceful and durable solution with all of our neighbors. We must always remember that peace is in our best interest — not a compromise to be resisted.
Fifth, and finally, 78 years ago today, we had to rely on others to rescue us. Today the Jewish people have a country to be proud of, despite its imperfections. And it is never a bad moment to remember, and to tell everyone out loud that we are here to stay. And as is evident by now, while every attack of this sort hurts us deeply, it also makes us stronger.
We shall overcome this one, too.