May 19, 2024
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Perspectives of Two Teens: Israel Under Attack

A note from Oren: Usually this column is just my thoughts, but when it came to the current situation in Israel with all of the constant terror attacks, I decided that it was important to get another voice in the picture—the voice of someone from Israel, who is actually living through the terror right now.

I met Mollye Oze at the BIMA Arts Program at Brandeis University; she’s been living in Jerusalem for over eight years now. (Coincidentally, she’s also an avid writer/budding novelist like myself.) I asked her if she would be interested in collaborating with me on an article about the situation, and she was more than willing to lend a hand.

Below are our thoughts—I’ve structured this so that it alternates between my voice and hers, so you can see both the contrasts and the connections between our perspectives.

Oren: I’ve rarely ever been afraid to go out and about throughout New Jersey and New York City. Yes, I avoid walking alone in sketchier areas, but overall I’ve usually felt safe and not in danger of being attacked. Reading about how once-safe places in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and elsewhere in Israel have now been scarred by an attack, I’ve realized how much I’ve taken that security for granted. I don’t need to walk around making sure to look behind my back every few minutes. I can take buses and trains without fearing something will happen. I’m so fortunate… and it makes me feel even worse about what’s going on in Israel right now.

Mollye: When people outside of Israel hear about the current wave of terror in Israel, I find that there are two main responses. One, they get scared and can’t believe anyone actually lives the way we do. Two, they say, “Israelis are used to this by now,” or “This happens all the time there.”

Oren: What can I do when it feels like I can’t do anything?

I’ve tried to stay up-to-date with the current situation in Israel (current as I write this—hopefully by the time you read this it’ll all be over). My Facebook feed is filled with alerts of new stabbings and attacks, videos with graphic content warnings, and messages of support to the Holy Land from friends around the world. I haven’t posted yet—I will, I want to, but it feels a bit empty to do so. I live so far away from where it’s all happening; it doesn’t feel like I can actually do anything tangible to help. I can’t just hop on a plane, fly over, and volunteer in an Israeli hospital or take down terrorists or something. I’m stuck here in the USA while my heart is five thousand miles away.

Mollye: First of all—it does not happen all the time, and no one is used to not being able to take the bus or having to look over your shoulder when you walk down the street and watch out for knives. You can argue that there is always something in Israel, whether it is a war or an attack, but there has not been so many civilian attacks in a very long time. It started last year, when the three boys were murdered by Hamas. That is when the incitement for terror really began. There has been a terror wave last year, right after the 2014 war “Protective Edge”—although not to the extent of this one—but things have been quiet for a very long time since, yet it never truly ended. This time, even minors are participating in the attacks; some are even as young as thirteen. Jerusalem is all sold out of pepper spray.

Oren: Particularly after this past summer, the constant terror in Israel right now terrifies me. I attended a summer program at Brandeis University that had a nice amount of international participants, including a large contingent from Israel. Some of my closest friends during my summer there are Israeli—so I have a ton of friends living through the terror right now. (Not to mention that I already had family and a friend or two there before the program!) So beyond just supporting Israel, I have a bigger emotional stake than ever in the situation in Israel. I’m praying every moment I can that my friends will stay safe and happy…

Mollye: However, that is not the whole story. The truth is, we are sad, we are scared, we are worried about our loved ones, ourselves and the ones we do not even know, but we are not scared enough to stop living. The rule in Israel—which everybody knows—is to keep living your life. You don’t take the bus? There is a huge traffic jam because everyone is driving to school. On the one hand you keep your phone with you at all times to get updates on the latest attack, but at the same time no one is avoiding the places where people have been hurt.

Oren: This afternoon, my entire school walked over to Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on the Upper East Side, where Rabbi Haskel Lookstein addressed the entire Ramaz community about the events. He first said that there are four things we can do to help: to stay aware of what’s going on, to keep everyone in our prayers, to call our friends in Israel if we can, and to give charity to causes that will help support Israel. Then he added in a fifth idea: If we can, we should visit Israel soon, and not change any prior plans to visit if we had them.

I’m already doing the first two things, and plan on doing the next two. (The time difference makes the idea to call difficult but I’m going to try!) I won’t be able to do the fifth… but I’m going to add in a sixth idea: to hope. To hope that things will improve. To hope that life will return to normal. It’s not something tangible, but when it seems hard to do anything tangible to help the situation in Israel from America, I think it’s important to at least keep hope, intangible as it may be, alive.

Mollye: There are two ways to get through it: One is to talk about it and remember we are all one united nation, and we are all here for each other. The other is to ignore the constant updates, and continue with your daily routine while searching for ways to laugh at how ridiculous and surreal the situation is. While they show serious self-defense videos on the news, there are also plenty of skits and parodies going around online.

If anyone thinks that we are shutting down, that is false. We are as strong as ever, determined to keep going. It is the only way we know to defeat terrorism, the only way they will certainly fail. Yes, the situation is horrible, but we want everyone to know that we are still going.

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

Mollye Oze, 16, is a junior at the Tehila Evelina school and lives in the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem; she made aliyah eight years ago. She enjoys reading YA books, writing her own novels and listening to K-Pop music.

By Oren Oppenheim with Mollye Oze

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