July 18, 2024
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July 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Israel has always been close to my heart, but the news from my favorite country has been far too bleak lately. News of stabbings and terrorism and deaths seems to keep flooding in, and with all of the Israel feeds I follow online, they seem to be a constant storm. Operation Protective Edge is over, but no one is out of the woods just yet.

One attack that really struck me was the car crashing into the light-rail station. When I visited Israel for the first time back in May, we rode the light rail in Jerusalem once. I thought it was fifty times cooler than the countless buses and subways and cars I usually ride back in America. (I know New Jersey has a light rail, but it doesn’t go into an area that’s convenient for me.) It was fast, sleek, modern, and enjoyable. I thought it was a great idea for getting around the bustling city of Jerusalem. And then, all of a sudden, with the attack, it became a target for terrorism. Suddenly I found myself thinking about it in a whole new way. The people there, like myself, were just trying to get from place to place. And then all of a sudden, all hell broke loose for them. It breaks my heart how one of the victims was less than a year old.

The attack in Har Nof also struck me. I have relatives who live very close to where the attack happened and a friend in yeshiva in the neighborhood. It’s impossible for me not to think the horrible “what if” questions…What if they had been at that shul? What if, God forbid, it had been them? These are terrible questions to think about, but again, they’re impossible to avoid…

The day that Rabbi Moshe Twersky, z’l, passed away just a few weeks ago, my Talmud teacher handed out a packet to our class with a few different Gemaras from the one we had been learning. Instead of learning Bava Kama like we usually did, we would be learning about rabbis from our history who died for a cause, including Rabbi Akiva. It was not an easy Gemara to learn–not because it was difficult, but because it was both graphic and sad. The story of how the Romans killed Rabbi Akiva has some uplifting moments, such as when Rabbi Akiva joyfully recites the Shema in his last moments, but the details of his death could make anyone with a heart weep. But the stories felt appropriate to learn on that sad day; it was our way, in a sense, of acknowledging and mourning what had happened; something of a coping mechanism.

Is there a reason for the renewed bout of terror? Operation Protective Edge is certainly a factor; even though it’s been a few months, the scars it left will take a long time to heal. But one “possible factor” that’s been discussed that I really don’t understand is the whole Temple Mount controversy. During my trip to Israel, I saw the walkway leading to the Temple Mount and at first thought it was just some passageway to a yeshiva. When I found out what it was, I had no desire to enter it. The Temple Mount is a holy place, and it feels disrespectful for me to want to enter it when we’re still in exile and haven’t reached the level yet to merit getting it back. I understand there are Jews who go up there to see it, and I respect that, even though I think it’s a very precarious idea. (A friend of mine, for instance, once did a “border walk” with a rabbi where she and her family walked the perimeter of the Temple Mount without stepping foot on the holier areas.)

But why is it all of a sudden causing controversy? Why is there suddenly this idea that Israel is going to seize the site for itself? I’ve dealt with people who try to rile others up over something random (for instance, when people in my grade bring up an issue with a teacher not because they really have a problem, but because they don’t like the teacher). I feel like that’s what’s happening here–people are choosing to get riled up over this issue because they want to be riled up, not because of anything that specifically happened with this issue. (I did hear about the IDF closing an Arab holy location for a day, but should that really seem connected to the Temple Mount…? It’s as if people are crafting a conspiracy theory.)

Like I did this past summer during the Bring Back Our Boys campaign, and then again during Operation Protective Edge, I keep thinking about what I can do. When another terror attack could happen any moment, what can I do to help stop them, in my own way? I’ve given tzedakah. I’ve prayed. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like there’s much more I can do. A fundraiser, like I ran this summer with some friends? Perhaps. I haven’t had a ton of time to do anything major, given the stress and workload of junior year. But Israel has remained firmly in my thoughts.

I’m praying that the terrorism paralyzing the country will be brought to a stop soon. I’m hoping that this article will soon seem really outdated and unnecessary, and that everything will return to normal. But until then, I’m going to keep praying. And hopefully I’ll figure out something I can do. Because this terror needs to end.

Oren Oppenheim, age 17, is a junior at Ramaz Upper School in Manhattan and lives in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. He spends his free time writing and reading, and hopes to become a published novelist. You can email him at [email protected] and see his photography at facebook.com/orenphotography.

By Oren Oppenheim

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