Wednesday, September 26, 2018

What do you do when your beliefs and living where you do places your child in mortal danger? Some people would change their beliefs or move. Others would not, aware in some dim recesses of the mind that others think they are shirking their parental duty and risking the lives of their children. But what if it’s about your principles: about living in Eretz HaKodesh, the Holy Land?
We were proud of our 18-year-old son when he went out and got his first real job without any clout or help from us. But we were surprised to hear he’d gotten a job as a busboy at Greg, a café at Canion Harim, the mall at the Gush Etzion Junction. We’d expected he’d get a job locally, in our town of Efrat, or perhaps something in Jerusalem.
The issue was immediately apparent: how would he get to and from work? Especially when he stayed to close up, late at night? Would his job prove to be a liability, with my husband always driving him there and back, on call for this exclusive purpose?
Because while we feel safe enough at home, the Gush Etzion Junction is a known hotspot for terror. It’s not far from where the three boys were kidnapped and murdered, and Dalia Lemkus stabbed to death. It’s where Ezra Schwartz and my children’s beloved teacher Rabbi Yaakov Don were killed. And it’s where Ari Fuld was murdered only a week ago.

Ari Fuld (HY"D) collided with this glass door during the attack that took his life and it shattered on impact. 
There have been other incidents. Stabbings and ramming attacks. And I always know when one is happening, because I can hear the sirens of the multiple ambulances and security vehicles speeding toward the scene. I can hear them in my living room. It’s a trick, something about the way the sound carries. And yet, we live that close, though we might as well be very far away: close enough to hear, far enough away to feel safe from harm.
I have never bought into the idea that the only place Jews are safe is in Eretz Yisrael. On the one hand, I know that statistically, even the Gush Etzion Junction is safer than a New York street corner. But that is cold comfort. The fact is, terror does strike at the Junction and has. On numerous occasions. I’d be a fool to pretend otherwise.
Makeshift memorial to Ari Fuld (HY"D) on the spot of the terror attack that took his life.

But I have always believed that Jews should live in every part of Eretz Yisrael. Use it or lose it. This personal precept was, in fact, something I shared with Ari Fuld, something I mentioned to a colleague who asked me for a personal anecdote about Ari for an article she was writing:

There was a pro-Israel bloggers meet-up last year. It was in "East" Jerusalem and anyway, I don't drive, so I asked if I could get a ride with Ari.
He took a route to Jerusalem that I hadn't taken since maybe the 1st intifada, a road considered "dangerous." 
I was surprised and pleased. We talked about that, how important it is to travel in parts of Israel that are even dangerous. We had a meeting of minds on the subject. 
I don't have too many friends who get that. So I knew he was the real deal.
I remember some years ago, the same son who took the job at Greg, was invited by a neighbor to take a day trip during the Sukkot festival to see a part of Israel that was off the beaten track. My husband initially said no: it was too dangerous. But when Dov told me about it, he was surprised to hear, after ascertaining that the father who was driving would be armed, that I thought my son should go. My true, deep feeling is that if we don’t own the roads of our land, don’t use them, they will become even more dangerous, so dangerous that it will be as if they no longer belong to us. They will become exclusively Arab. 
Makeshift memorial in the shape of a Star of David at the site of Ari Fuld's murder (HY"D)
A hand-lettered sign memorializing Ari Fuld (HY"D) at the site of the murder by the people of Maale Michmash. It says, in part, "The eternal nation is not afraid of the long road ahead."
It is a mitzvah, a commandment, to travel in and see Israel. You get a brownie point for every four cubits you walk within the land. To me, this article of faith is not a myth but a fact. I believe it more deeply than I believe just about anything at all.

The sign on the Gush Etzion Junction felafel shop quoting its propietor.
And now I am being put to the test. Will I tell my son to quit his job, urge him to do so, when all his life I have demonstrated that I believe in traveling to parts of Israel that are even “a little dangerous” as I related in my anecdote about Ari Fuld?
So far, Dov has given our son rides where needed, and a co-worker has been generous enough to give him rides home late at night. My son knows that if he doesn’t have a ride, he can call home and my hardworking husband will get out of bed, get dressed, and go pick him up. I hope my son doesn’t hesitate to do so, worried about awakening his father.
Dov told him that if he becomes nervous, if it becomes too much, he can look for other work, and left it at that. The values with which we raised our son are now being put to the test. At 18, he’s a man. It’s now up to him to assume the mantle. Or not.
Next year he goes into the IDF where he takes with him everything we’ve poured into him to defend our people and our land. I could think of this as a delicate precipice where he leaves the shelter of youth to risk everything for others. Or I could think of it as a continuation of how we’ve always raised him: that security and safety are ephemeral. That what is true and right is our heritage: our God-given right to the land.

(Thanks, Leora Hyman and Dov Epstein for photos)


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