Israel can be a very complicated place to live.
My first time living here, I was young and starry eyed, barely an ounce of anger. I was excited to be part of the magic. I felt safe and secure, like I’d finally found my true home.
And barely a year or so later, the Second Intifada began, and my life would forever be changed.
Terrorist attacks became a way of life. Many were deadly and the stories dominated the headlines, others were non-lethal, and even though they may have left scores of people with permanent physical and mental scars, we collectively moved on very quickly. We sighed and breathed easier because no one had died.
And life felt like never-ending stress.
You had to be cold as ice to not have walked away a completely different person.
My Army Journal
Over twenty years ago I was keeping a journal. I remember sitting in my room in the army, jotting down thoughts the day after one of my neighbors had been shot and killed during his drive home.
I was consumed with anger.
I pointed a lot of fingers, none as accusingly as the one pointed at the previous Prime Minister, Yitzchak Rabin. It was his “peace” initiatives that enabled and emboldened the enemy, and in my young mind, led directly to the funeral I was about to attend that day.
At the funeral, I saw something I’d never seen before. In fits of anger, some of my neighbors hurled stones at passing Arab vehicles. The opposite was commonplace. But this was quite new to me.
I was bothered, perhaps even disgusted at these random acts of unnecessary violence.
And to this day, I find myself rather perplexed.
Yet Another Terrorist Attack
I will say this right off the bat. You might be upset by some of the things I say in this article. That is, obviously, your right. But please understand that I’m confused. I don’t have a strong stand here. I’m a work in progress, trying to get a better understanding of current events in my country.
You can choose to have intense and strong opinions on this topic. And I might get there someday. But for now, I’m trying to piece together the scores of thoughts and emotions swimming around in my mind.
Recently there was another vicious terrorist attack. A couple of young men were removed from this world way before their time, leaving friends and family to mourn the losses forever. Marriages would never happen. Children would never be born. And a nation once again shakes its head, wondering if this violence and bloodshed will ever come to an end.
Sadly, the attack wasn’t unique.
Terrorism is an expected part of the lives of those of us living in Israel. None of us like it, but all of us have become, to some extent, desensitized to how truly horrific it is to live like this. Anyone, at any moment, can be taken out.
And that’s just how it is.
But what happened next was not common.
The Anger Bubbled Over
Many people living in the area descended upon the village that housed the attack’s perpetrators, and unleashed their fury upon the residents. By the time the smoke cleared, tons of homes were destroyed. Cars were decimated. And one resident died.
Why did they do this? Their anger (inevitably?) bubbled over, and their frustration at a government that cannot solve our security problems became too much. So they took matters into their own hands.
They felt afraid and unprotected. The government had opportunities over the course of the last several decades to improve the country’s security problems, and when they failed, the regular Joe on the street picked up whatever they could and fought back on their own.
This is certainly one way to look at things. One perspective of the “revenge” that was taken.
But I’m not sure if I believe it’s genuine. I think people were angry. Infuriated. And they behaved like wild animals, without any real goals except getting the fury out of their system.
And yet, I’m not sure if I blame them still.
These weren’t my family members who perished. These weren’t my friends or neighbors taken from the world prematurely. I can’t relate to or judge the level of anger, frustration, and absolute disappointment these people must be feeling. Even if I disagree, and wouldn’t have behaved the same if I were in their shoes, it’s tough to judge anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation.
I can logically explain away their behavior. And I certainly feel the frustration with the security situation in the country.
I lived in Israel through seven years of a murderous, revolting Intifada. I remember Ehud Barak’s empty threats that just poured fuel all over the fiery situation, and the countless empty buildings destroyed that discouraged nothing.
And my fellow countrymen died, one after the other, and all we felt we could do was remain strong, waiting for the next awful news clip or terrifying phone call.
We hoped and prayed our government would figure out how to calm things down. And together with our military, we could crush the problem once and for all.
But salvation never came. And the pain and misery dragged on.
And I am not oppose to vigilantism. I think it has its time and place. Sometimes the wrongdoings are so great, and the official channels are so inefficient, that the regular guy on the street is required to step up.
But It’s Just Wrong
But I nevertheless know what these people did is wrong. And I would hope I would never do the same, nor encourage my own children to behave this way.
Perhaps it’s because there’s a difference between bringing perpetrators to justice vs mostly random acts of violence. Perhaps I still retain a shred of confidence that our beloved military is consistently doing its best and will ultimately conquer the evil in its path.
But I think it’s more than that, and I don’t know yet how to put my feelings into words.
All I know is this: There must be a better way.
How do we find balance?
There has to be a way for people to release highly justified anger. And there very obviously needs to be a way for people to feel safe in their homes and when going from place to place. But this cannot push people into lowering their moral standards or stooping to the level of the enemy they so greatly despise. There needs to be a better way.
How can we find hope and peace in a situation so bleak and filled to the brim with complications?There needs to be a way for people to feel safe in their homes and when going from place to place. But this cannot push people into lowering their moral standards or stooping to the level of the enemy. Click To Tweet