I was sitting with Rabbi Barry Marcus in Central Shul on Wednesday afternoon when our phones began to go mad and we found out that under 2 miles away a terrorist attack had been carried out. I notified those who knew I was in town that I was completely safe and recalled the last time I had been that close to a terrorist attack.
That was over 20 years ago when I was a student at Darche Noam Yeshiva in Jerusalem – I awoke to the explosion of the number 18 bus in Jaffa Street, which took the lives of 26 innocent men, women and children. It was the days before Facebook or smartphones – so I simply went to the Yeshiva phones and told my family that I was safe. There were another three suicide bombings in Jerusalem while I was in Yeshiva – which each time left me shaken. When I left in 1998, after I got married to carry on my learning in the States, I prayed that the worst was over and peace and security would reign
How wrong I was.
From 2000 – 2006 there were 144 suicide attacks across Israel murdering 617 innocents. No country should have to endure this carnage and Israel decided to try and stem the attacks and loss of life by constructing a security barrier. It was finally finished in 2006. Of course, the International Court of Justice found the barrier to be a violation of international law, and the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that condemned the barrier by a vote of 150-6 with 10 abstentions.
However, to Israelis that didn’t matter. Since the construction of the barrier, from 2007 till today there have only been 4 suicide attacks where 4 innocents lost their lives in 11 years. Still four too many but not the hundreds that were being killed annually until the barrier was constructed.
Of course, terror does not give up and over the last 18 months Israel has had to endure a new wave of terror. Since 13 September 2015, 47 people have been killed in terrorist attacks and 686 people injured. There have been 171 stabbing attacks and 110 attempted stabbings; 141 shootings; 55 vehicular ramming attacks; and one bus bombing.
What happened in London, Berlin, Brussells, Paris etc are all part of the same hatred, the same evil, and from the same source. The western world is now dealing with something that Israel has had to deal with for over 20 years. What is sad is that many do not equate Israel’s struggles against radical Islam with the West’s battles.
We complete Shemot this Shabbat, and with it the construction of the Mishkan – Hashem’s portable home in the desert. The commandment to build the mishkan came in Terumah where we were commanded to ‘Asu li Mikdash, v shechanti b tocham’ ‘Build for me a Mikdash and I shall dwell within it’. Of course, that is not the literal translation because that does not make sense. Literally it means – ‘build me a Mikdash (singular) and I shall dwell in them (plural). What are them? There is only one Mishkan, one eventual Bet Ha Mikdash.
The answer given is beautiful and relates back to our current predicament. We are told that each of us needs to create within ourselves a Mikdash. An ability for God to dwell within all of us – that is the need for the plural. We are all striving to be miniature Mikdashes, sanctifying the world with our deeds and actions. This ideal is the complete opposite of the barbarous terrorists worldwide who over the last 15 years have caused the deaths of over 20,000 people of all faiths and none.
Israel continues to demonstrate to the world how it takes the idea of miniature Mikdash seriously by the remarkable work it does around the world to make the world a better place. We all know about the medical advances and the emergency relief it gives to countries across the globe as well as the technological creations that help millions. This week I learned of another area.
Israel is now also transforming lives across rural African villages with innovations in water, solar and agriculture. Innovation: Africa is a non-profit organization founded in 2008 which has installed Israeli innovations in over 130 villages reaching over one million people in 7 African countries. If you want to see what a Kiddush Hashem is you much watch this:
So we mourn the loss of life this week in London, we pay tribute to the heroes of our police force and we unite against hatred and evil. However we must also realise that as David HaMelech tells us we must not only ‘ sur mei Ra ‘– ‘turn away from evil’ but also ‘asei tov’ ‘Do good’. Israel as a country has a history of fighting evil but it also has a history of doing incredible good, which should inspire us all individually to keep striving to be a vessel where God would be honoured to dwell.