Questions after Har Nof
By Ilan Bloch:
Eleven years ago, I made Aliyah to Jerusalem – at the tail end of the Second Intifada. I can count the number of terror attacks in the city which occurred during my first year or two of Aliyah on one hand.
I recently attended the International Exposure to Rock and Indie opening night at Jerusalem’s Yellow Submarine. It was a strange experience. On the one hand, it was only a day after the heinous terror attack in the Har Nof shule which claimed five lives. On the other, as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Culture Department spokesperson at the event made clear – Jerusalemites are actually really glad when international visitors and tourists don’t cancel their plans because of terrible incidents such as this one.
As a Jerusalemite, I was happy to be at a musical showcase with performers from three continents in one of Jerusalem’s top night spots. But I was also terribly troubled, and my mind was racing with questions.
Could I enjoy myself during a night out in Jerusalem after what happened the morning before?
Is it really enough just to acknowledge the tragedy and then move on with the night as planned?
If I had changed my plans would I “be letting terror win?”
Is it sometimes appropriate to change plans in the face of mourning? If the answer is so clear on a personal level, why is it not on a national level?
Why hadn’t I felt this way in relation to the previous terror attacks? Did this one hit home because as much as I don’t see my reasons for being in Israel as relating to Jewish power and self-rule, there was something so Diasporic/Exilic about Jews dying al Kiddush hashem (as martyrs), butchered in the middle of tefilah?
I find myself disturbed by the proposal of placing guards outside synagogues during services partly because one of the reasons I came here was to leave such a security predicament behind.
I didn’t “escape” from Australia, yet the idea of Israel as a “safe haven” was/is so ingrained in me from my Zionist upbringing that it is difficult not to be shocked by the fact that this particular attack took place in Jerusalem under Israeli rule. (Of course, we shouldn’t lose perspective; the security forces who put a stop to the nefarious act were Israelis and they were defending Jews, not sponsoring the murder like in Tsarist Russia.)
I wonder if Jerusalemites who left the city for places like Modiin, or people born and raised in Tel Aviv, have these thoughts? If they don’t, does that allow them to find more meaning in their lives because they don’t need to deal with all of this, or does the ideological self-reflection which perhaps takes place more easily and richly in Jerusalem bring meaning to its residents? Or does constant reflection forbid Jerusalemites from finding meaning on a more basic level?
And then I wonder, even though I am not at all scared in regard to my personal security, as a tour guide, who wants more tourists to come to Israel –including to Jerusalem – should I even be writing this post? Does talking about it facilitate necessary processing, for Jerusalemites, Israelis, Diaspora Jews and others? Or by discussing it continuously do we not only pay due honour to the victims’ memory but also enhance the evil perpetrators’ aim of terrorising?
Ilan Bloch is the Director of Teaching Israel and a licensed Israeli tour guide.