War vs Terrorism

War vs Terrorism: The Devil I Know

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Since the beginning of the war, Jerusalem and the surrounding areas have had a handful of deadly terrorist attacks.

The events of October 7th have forever changed many of our outlooks on terrorism. I lived in Israel during the second Intifada. The tension for so many years was painful, something I never wanted to experience again. But I felt it gave me tools for life. It hardened me. If you could wake up every day and live your life knowing full well that you or the people in your life can be taken from you at any moment, what can’t you handle?

But I was wrong. So very wrong.

There is nothing that could prepare you for October 7th. Nothing at all.

War, the Unfathomable


There’s nothing that could prepare you for numbers like this. Almost every day of the Intifada, I felt like I was checking the news to make sure my loved ones were safe. And the moment I was satisfied that my life hadn’t absolutely been overturned, I’d move on with my day. Two names here. Five names there. It was an awful but manageable pain.

But there I was trying to carefully rummage through hundreds of names. With my heart rate increasing by the second. Scrolling and scrolling through a seemingly never-ending list. It was far more than I could handle.

Is this something anyone out there could handle?

Terrorism, the Devil I Know


That all being said, I noticed something after some recent attacks. There was a stabbing in Jerusalem in which a young American girl was murdered, a shooting on the road that I go to work, and most recently a shooting near the entrance to my city that resulted in the death of four innocent people.

And even though the net result of these incidents was nothing in comparison to that of October 7th, in some ways they impact me more. I’m not certain why, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot. And today I wanted to explore a few reasons why it might be the case.

First, terrorism is the devil I know. This is my first war. It’s far beyond my comprehension. I’ve never been in a war, I’ve never wandered through a war zone, and as much as I try to understand, it’s a world unfathomable to me.

Terrorism is something that impacted my life constantly for five years. Every day I panicked about what would happen next. It became such a part of my life, it was almost commonplace. I stopped feeling the emotions you’re supposed to feel. Fear. Sadness. Anger. It just was. You pay rent and eat falafel and you occasionally hear an explosion.

But the impact on my life was palpable. The tension. I don’t even think I understood how drastically it affected me until I was far from it for a several years.

Terrorism is Everywhere


So when I hear of horrific things happening a stone’s throw from my home, I feel my body tense up. I feel slightly nauseous.

I know in theory that war is hell and I don’t want it in this world. But for me war is a subject for movies. Relatively small acts of terrorism are something I know all too well. And the impact each one has on me is so very painful.

Second, the war feels isolated. Terrorism is everywhere.

Yes, I’m aware the war is a short drive away. And that rockets have poured into mainland Israel forcing many of us into bomb shelters. And, of course, our friends and family are in this “isolated” place. And at any moment the war could spill over into the West Bank or other countries could get involved.

But on a day-to-day basis, if you live in Jerusalem, it feels like the war is simply somewhere else. It feels like the war is happening off on someone else’s land, unable to escape and cause us any harm. It’s a very false sense of security, but it nevertheless does add a level of comfort, for lack of a better word.

But no such “relaxation” exists with terrorism. It’s everywhere at all times. No place or situation is safe. You can be at a hotel or a bus stop or in a synagogue, and out of nowhere, chaos is unleashed, uprooting the prior false sense of security.

The Unfolding Differences


Third, as a consumer of media, the results of terrorism unfolds differently. The tragedies of war are things revealed completely when I wake up in the morning. Four soldiers died. Three soldiers. Two soldiers. Together with the announcement is their name, where they’re from, and some information about where they served in the army.

And it’s very obviously painful. Brutally so. It’s miserable and awful.

But terrorism unfolds differently.

It’s a slower process. It begins with reports that something horrendous happened. At first the reports aren’t even that bad. We hear about “light” injuries and “potential” casualties. And as the time progresses, we get more and more information. We find out how bad the attack really was.

And then we start finding out that some people succumbed to their wounds. And the number starts increasing.

And you’re checking the news constantly, because the names of the victims have not yet been released. And your heart rate is progressively increasing. The lack of knowledge is slamming you with anxiety.

Until you can finally get the relief of knowing the names of the victims. Or more urgently, the names not listed. And the process takes hours, with your mental and emotional involvement from start to finish.

Two Evils Plaguing My Emotions Differently


So ultimately I’m standing in the midst of two evils that plague my emotions. One is clearly worse than the other. It’s bigger. It’s more constant. It’s changing the face of the universe every second.

And the other is this relatively small devil that has plagued my psyche for two decades.

War is a hell my brain has simply not had an adequate amount of exposure to or time to understand. I know it’s hurting me. And changing me. I just don’t know exactly how or how much.

But terrorism has seeped into my soul.

I’m not the same starry-eyed idealist who went to live in Israel in 1997. That guy is long gone.

And when I see the dreaded word “attack” on the news, my whole body shakes. I feel ill. And my mind is consumed with dread.

It’s a feeling I’m all too familiar with.

And one I desperately wish to stop feeling.

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