Tag Archives: Terrorism

No, Actually, I Am Not Okay.

Dear Josep,

I swear I was in the middle of writing a post about the terrorist attack yesterday–the murder of Daphna Meir in her home in Otniel, south of Hebron–and how it shattered my sense of security, when a text from our town council told us that we were in lockdown.

Soon the news came through that someone had been injured in a stabbing attack within Tekoa and the terrorist had been shot.

The first thing you do is check with the preschools and schools where your kids are that everyone there is okay. After establishing that, the news slowly started to come through: pregnant woman. Seriously injured. Near the industrial zone. Holy crap, I think. That’s like a 2 minute walk from my house. I can practically see it from my kitchen window. Right next to my kid’s school. The terrorist was shot near the horse farm. Holy crap. That’s right next to my other sons’ preschool. One of them is home sick today… but the other. Did he hear the gunshot?

The next thing you do is start to panic about all the pregnant women you know who might have been there. My downstairs neighbor is in her 30s, pregnant, and works at the second-hand clothing store at the industrial zone sometimes. The woman who teaches my bridal counselor course fits those criteria too.

Text messages. E-mails. Facebook. A lot of nail biting. Refreshing news websites. Trembling hands.

A Whatsapp message: please pray for Michal bat Esther. A link to a special site that allows people to collectively read Psalms for a cause. And that horrible sense of relief that settles over you when you realize that it isn’t someone who is close to you. Horrible, because it shouldn’t matter. I read a chapter for her.

And then, as more details emerge, it becomes clear that I do know her. Michal Froman, daughter-in-law of the late Rabbi Menachem Froman, the famous and controversial rabbi of Tekoa who was a peace activist. I attended a few of her yoga classes. I did translation jobs for her husband. I see her around every now and then and we exchange hellos.

Talk about a shattered sense of security.

Later reports changed the status of Michal’s injury from “serious” to “moderate.” She underwent successful surgery and is stable, and so is her fetus. Thank God. Another, bigger sigh of relief. She’s going to be okay.

This is all on the backdrop of yesterday’s incident, that I mentioned at the top of the post. Daphna Meir, 38, mother of six (two of whom were foster children), fought off a terrorist who broke into her home and stabbed her. He ran away without harming anyone else, but Daphna died of her wounds. The army is still hunting for the terrorist.

I made the mistake of reading a more detailed account of what happened in the incident. I will spare you the details of what I read. No parent should ever have to hear these things. It’s horrible and heartbreaking and it made me nauseated and weak and short of breath.

It’s not that these incidents are “worse” than what’s been going on for the past few months. They did strike particularly close to home, and this terrorist-breaking-into-your-house-and-murdering-you-in-front-of-your-children thing is truly a whole different level of nightmare. But you know… with these things happening so often, you can’t really feel how awful it is all the time. So you block it out. You numb yourself.

I was 15 during the worst of the second intifada. I remember a period when the word “pigua” (“terror attack”) would sweep my school in an urgent whisper. The first question you asked was, “Where?” And then, “How many killed?” If it was more than five, you clutched your chest and reached for your book of Psalms. If it was less than five, you shook your head and clucked your tongue. If it was “none, only injuries”–you shrugged and went on with your day. It’s awful, but it’s the only way to keep going. You have to step back and look at the situation with cold objectivity. It’s the only way to be okay.

But sometimes, something will happen that will snap the situation back into grim focus. It’ll be something that hits particularly close to home–either someone you know, or somewhere close to where you were, or some situation that is chillingly familiar. And you feel everything. Anger. Fear. Disgust. Desperation. You realize that there are people out there, people who live just over there on the next hill, who want you and your children dead simply because you are Jews daring to live in your historic homeland. And you realize that some of those people are willing to hunt you down and stab you for that reason and that reason alone.

And you are not okay. You are not okay at all.

But eventually the funerals end and the injured come home from the hospital and things start to become routine again. And there is still bad stuff on the news, but slowly you start to breathe a little easier, and you stop checking over your shoulder every time you walk outside your door. And you are okay again. For the time being.

People keep asking me if I’m okay. I feel a need to answer “Yes.” Technically I am. As Eitan wryly jokes, I have all the right holes in all the right places. My family and I are safe… as safe as we could be under the circumstances, at least. And there’s a part of me that wants to show how defiant and strong we are. Sure, I’m okay. I’m fine. Screw the terrorists, they won’t break me.

But no, actually. I am not okay right now.

I’ll be okay.

But not right now.



P.S. If any of you are wondering how on earth one responds to a post such as this, I posted this guide for your convenience a couple months ago. You’re welcome. 😛

How to Support a Loved One Affected by Terror

Dear Josep,

You may have noticed that I have a strange impulse to reach out to you, in particular, when something especially horrible or scary happens in Israel. I did this even during a period where we were hardly in touch at all. It was when 5 members of the Fogel family–including a baby–were stabbed to death in their home by terrorists. You hadn’t heard about this incident, and seemed to be bewildered and alarmed to receive this desperate e-mail from me completely out of the blue.

I think the reason I have this impulse is that you are the one person in my life who is outside the “echo chambers” of the Israeli communities and the Jewish Diaspora communities I interact with on a regular basis. We all talk about it and try to support each other, but especially when it seems like the rest of the world is ignoring it at best or being actively hostile towards us at worst, getting support from outside those circles has so much value.

You are the only person I know who wouldn’t have heard of the Fogel murders.

You’re also the only person I know who probably didn’t hear about the terror attack on Thursday evening.

The one that killed an 18-year-old American Jewish volunteer, a Palestinian bystander, and a beloved Israeli schoolteacher, at that same junction where the three teens were kidnapped and a woman from my community was killed last year.

The one occurred a 20-minute drive from here.

It’s not that this is new. There have been terror attacks, every day or every couple of days, for the last two months. Two people were stabbed to death in Tel Aviv coming out of a synagogue earlier that day, and there have been three stabbing attacks since (one last night in Kiryat Gat and two this morning in Samaria–and the security forces have foiled several more attempts). [ETA: Ugh, and as soon as I posted this I discovered that a young woman was critically wounded in another stabbing attack very close to where the attack on Thursday occurred.] [ETA2: She died from her wounds. 🙁 ]

But when it happens so close to home, on a road I have driven many times, it’s very hard to maintain the rationalizations and denial that keep us going about our business as usual. And especially in juxtaposition with the Paris attacks, which everyone seemed to care about so much, and countries all over the world flew the French flag and lit up their buildings in red, white and blue… the silence and indifference were deafening and made me feel more alone than ever.

I have wondered sometimes what it must be like to be at the receiving end of this impulse I have to contact you in those moments. I picture you sitting there in the hospital that one time a year and a half ago, dealing with your own stuff, suddenly getting a message from me that reads something like “I just had to grab my kids from their beds and take cover from a rocket barrage.” Or being in between flights to God knows where, drowning in paperwork, glancing at your phone to see a note from me informing you that someone in my community was stabbed to death by a terrorist a few hours ago. Like, what do you even say?!

"Oh no. A message from Daniella. Somebody get me some wine."
“Oh no. A message from Daniella. Somebody bring me a glass of wine.”

So… this is a post about what you can say. I think a lot of people, especially within those circles of Diaspora Jews who care a lot about Israel and have friends and family here, find themselves at a loss in situations like these. Other people with friends in Paris may have experienced this last week, too. Unfortunately, I anticipate that it will not be the last time Europeans find themselves afraid to leave their homes. So this how to respond–and how not to respond–when a friend affected by terror tells you what he or she is going through.


  • express your relief that they are safe and indicate that you are glad to hear from them.
  • …ask how they are doing. (And if you can manage it–do this again from time to time on your own initiative. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you have no idea how much of a difference it makes to get even a really brief e-mail, message or phone call just checking in on us.)
  • …let them know they are in your thoughts and prayers.
  • follow their lead. Remember how I mentioned that in the Jewish practice of comforting mourners, visitors may only speak to the mourners if the mourners address them first? People deal with tragedy and crisis in many different ways. Some people may want to talk about their experiences. Some people may want to vent their anger. Some people may not want to talk about it at all. The idea is to give the person the space to share what they want, and then show them that they are being heard.
  • …ask, “What do you need from me right now?” This is one of the most important questions you can ask in any relationship, under any circumstances–including with yourself. (I have learned to ask myself this from time to time.) Sometimes your loved one won’t know what they need and won’t be able to tell you, but the fact that you asked means that you care, and that is enough. Sometimes they will need something that you can’t give. In that case, you can always say, “I wish I could.” It’s the thought that counts.
  • express solidarity, in whatever way you can. I’m not sure you will ever understand how much it meant to me when you posted something in solidarity with or in defense of Israel on social media. Someone I know in Paris asked her friends to light a candle for France after the attacks. Organizing or attending rallies and vigils, collecting donations in support of the victims and their families, and writing articles and op-eds about the situation are all strong expressions of support. Best of all? Come visit. The hospitality industry in Paris is suffering a lot right now because people are afraid to visit Paris. As you know, my husband Eitan is a tour guide and the tourism industry here is the first to suffer during wars, intifadas, and “terror waves.” Nothing expresses solidarity like showing up in person and supporting our local businesses.


  • ignore the situation. Say something. Even if you have no idea what to say. (If that’s the case, “I don’t know what to say” works just fine.) When putting this post together I asked around for other people’s experiences, and “Silence” topped the list of unhelpful or hurtful responses.
  • offer solutions, especially the “Why don’t you move to [someplace I perceive as being safer]?” variety. It’s not nearly that simple, and especially for people who chose to live here for ideological reasons, that kind of questioning can feel threatening and delegitimizing. When we are scared, hurt, and grieving is the worst time to raise these voices of doubt.
  • imply that it’s their fault for living where they do. Israelis get this all the time. People don’t realize that this is exactly like telling a woman who was raped that it was her fault for being in a rough neighborhood. It’s called “victim-blaming.” Don’t do it.
  • point out that people on the “other side” are suffering too. I recently had a conversation where I shared my sense of fear and isolation, and someone thought it would be helpful to point out that the Palestinians are afraid too. Sorry, but more people suffering does not make me feel better. Especially when paired with the previous item, which this person did (inadvertently, I hope) by stating her view that Israel bears partial responsibility for the violence. Which brings me to the next item: don’t…
  • make a political statement criticizing their government and/or society for creating the conditions that allowed this incident to happen. There is a time and a place for those discussions. A personal conversation with someone who is afraid to leave his home because he might get stabbed or shot by a terrorist? Not the time and place. A conversation with someone who just witnessed an attack, was injured in one, or lost someone in one? Absolutely, 100%, not the time and place. (Unless he, himself, initiates that discussion. See “follow their lead” above.)
  • offer platitudes or rationalizations, like “It’s going to be okay” (you don’t actually know that, do you?) or “Statistically, you’re much more likely to die in a car accident” (statistics don’t help when you fall on the wrong side of them). Be willing to be present with your loved one in his or her fear, grief, or anger, without dismissing it or trying to make it go away.


Obviously, I am sharing from my own experience (and the experiences of my friends), so people may feel differently about the things I’ve listed above. At the end of the day, the main point is: be kind; be present; and listen.

Praying as always for better news soon.



Thoughts on Paris

Dear Josep,

Last year, after the three teens were kidnapped, I began to develop what I call “Havdalah Anxiety.” You see, in today’s world, there is something so freeing about turning off my computer and cellphone before lighting candles and bringing in Shabbat. I know that for the next 25 hours, I will not be subject to a constant barrage of information, most of it distressing, and I will not be part of any global conversation. I will simply be focused on the here and now. I will eat good food, enjoy good company, play with my kids, and/or read a good book. This disconnection from the world is such a blessing.

But then the sun begins to set Saturday evening. We sing the sad songs of Se’udah Shleesheet, the third meal of the Sabbath, and the sky darkens around us. When three stars emerge, we perform the havdalah ceremony, described in the post about Shabbat, to officially declare the Sabbath over and begin the new week.

And then we turn on our cellphones.

Under normal circumstances this is no cause for anxiety. But during those two-and-a-half weeks of the search for the three teens, I found it agonizing. What if they were found over Shabbat? Alive? Dead? What if there is no news at all? All the possibilities began to haunt me from the moment the sun began to set until I finally skimmed my Facebook feed and/or the headlines and got past the disappointment that there had been no developments. After they were found, there was the murder of Mohammad Abu Khdeir, and the riots in Jerusalem, and the escalation in Gaza and eventually the war that took over the summer. And even after the war, there were the terror attacks in Jerusalem, car rammings and stabbings. Turning on my cellphone after Shabbat became inextricably linked with the anxiety about what I might find on the news.

Very unfortunately, that anxiety justified itself once again last night when I turned on my phone. I clicked on my Facebook app, glanced at it for about 5 seconds and blurted, “What the hell happened in Paris?!”

You have to understand; when we plug back in after Shabbat, we have already missed several news cycles, and the headlines are already about the aftermath, the condemnations, the responses. So we have to dig through all that to get to the facts of what happened.

And honestly I don’t really know what to say.

My heart goes out to the people of Paris and I extend my greatest sympathies and prayers. But something about it feels wrong and hypocritical in light of the horrific attacks all over the place (Lebanon, Turkey, Kenya) that somehow the Western world seems to care very little about. Where is all the solidarity for the other victims of Daesh’s death cult–a number growing daily? Not to mention our own situation here in Israel, where we are still facing terror on a daily basis. A father and son were shot dead near Hevron very shortly after the Paris attacks took place, on their way to a celebration preceding their daughter/sister’s wedding. Hardly newsworthy for the international media.

On the other hand, I understand; of course you’re going to care more about an incident that feels closer to you, that effects people who are more like you, in a country that is politically similar to your own. That’s only natural.

When we Israelis encounter these horrific terror attacks in Europe and the USA, we tend to have this erroneous hope that “Maybe now they’ll understand what we’re dealing with.” Erroneous, because that’s never true. The international community’s narrative of the Arab-Israeli conflict is so distorted that no matter what happens here, we will always be seen as the aggressors and never as the victims. So we get angry and frustrated and post snarky memes about the perceived hypocrisy. And I hear it.

I hear the pain of my Muslim friends, too. My Muslim friends who get hate mail and people demanding that they prove their commitment to peace and democratic values. These terror attacks increase suspicion against Muslims, feeding into a cycle of fear, hatred, and polarization. And of course there will be a backlash for the refugees fleeing Syria. One of the terrorists in Paris was a “refugee,” lending more legitimacy to the claim that European countries cannot accept the refugees because they might be involved in terror. On the one hand, the vast, vast majority of them are probably genuine refugees fleeing the horrors of Syria and trying to make a peaceful new life somewhere else. And the free world must do what it can to make that possible for them. On the other hand, it is very hard to tell if there are Daesh supporters being smuggled in among them. And the results of these types of infiltration can be deadly. How could we take that risk? But how could we take the moral risk of turning away all these innocent refugees and letting them die, by fire or by water?

So many contradictions. So much pain and fear. I have no answers. Only prayers.

I know Barcelona is not Paris, but for once, I feel a need to ask you to stay safe. May we hear only good news.