Dear Friend of The Fellowship,
On September 11, 2001, I was in Chicago. Fear was in the air, and rumours of other possible attacks on targets in large American cities abounded. As The Fellowship called a quick meeting before sending home our employees on that day, I recall telling the staff that Americans could now understand why Israelis, who live daily with the possibility of attacks, carry cell phones with them at all times (such a thing was far less common in 2001 than it is today): They never know when they may need to call a friend or relative to ask, "Are you alright?"
With the current wave of terror in Israel, that practice of calling a loved one to ask that simplest, most human of questions has multiplied exponentially. Members of our Jerusalem staff have taken to calling each other after work just to make sure they have made it home safely. There are other changes that have upended our daily life as well. A staff member with one of our partner organizations, who lives in Jerusalem, said she no longer allows her daughter to wear flip-flops, because they might prevent her from running away in the event of an attack.
But even amid the chaos, Israelis remain defiant. That defiance can take many forms. It’s shown in the words of my friend Nir Barkat, the mayor of Jerusalem, when he wrote in the Times of Israel, “Jerusalem is sending a loud and clear message to all the people of Israel: Do not let the murderers get what they want.” It’s shown in the actions of the Israel Defense Forces and Israel’s Border Police who, risking their own lives, have foiled numerous terror attacks. And it is shown, too, in acts of kindness like the Border Police officer who gave up his meal to a needy mother and her child, saying, “Your heart cannot be closed to the mother who sits on the floor with her baby and can’t get through another day. So I gave up my hot meal for the day in order to give it to them.”
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of England, recently wrote of the recent wave of terror: “The fear is real and the pain is deep, and yet that faith that carried our ancestors will carry us as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death into the light of the promised future that still awaits us, when an anguished people will finally know peace, the last of all our blessings, but still the greatest, speedily in our days.”
Indeed, we remain hopeful when faced with those who would make us hopeless, defiant when faced with those who would destroy our resolve, compassionate when faced with those who seek only to sow fear, destruction, and death. Rabbi Sacks is right: It is our faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, a faith which has endured for millennia through untold episodes of persecution and oppression that will see us through.
The psalmist wrote, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations” (Psalm 90:1). This is as true today as it was the day it was written. Even as we pray for victims of terror, for the safety of our fighting men and women, and for all Israelis, let us never forget this fundamental truth, which is the bedrock of our faith. And let us pray, too, that “an anguished people will finally know peace, the last of all our blessings, but still the greatest, speedily in our days.”
With prayers for unity and shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
President and Founder, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews® of Canada