As I sat in the back seat of my parents' rented car, departing three hours early for a wedding that was 1.5 hours' drive away (my father is ridiculously paranoid about traffic), my emotions were mixed. I was grateful to be well enough to be out of bed, happy to see my parents, glad to be going to a simcha; but also weak and drained from my illness, nervous about the week and a half of school I'd missed, and stressed by the rush from class to meet my parents. My feelings sloshed around messily inside me. And then my phone buzzed, a text message from my friend.
"Terrorists infiltrated yeshivat merkaz harav and have killed at least 7 yeshiva boys. Please say tehillim and please pass the message around….."
My heart stopped. It didn't sink in. "Um, bad news," I stuttered aloud to my parents. "There's been a terrorist attack at a yeshiva in Yerushalayim."
For once my news-conscious father had not been listening to the radio. He turned it on.
"…at least seven killed and dozens wounded in a terrorist attack on a religious seminary in Jerusalem. Sources say the attacker infiltrated the school by dressing up as a student…"
When I heard the anonymous American news anchor say these words in his flat, emotionless American voice, the tears began to spill out of my eyes faster than I could catch them. Even I was surprised by the violence of my reaction. I didn't want to make a scene or alarm my parents, so I tried to cry noiselessly, unobtrusively, in the back seat. My father noticed, and tactfully said nothing.
I love my land, my people; I feel connected; but I am not usually the type who cries so easily for tragedies that I haven't experienced firsthand. So why today?
Lately, I think, I have been far away. While my ideals of unity and connectedness were still intact, the emotions that accompany them had been gradually diminishing. My mind had been full of other ideas, other emotions. Important ideas, important emotions, yes, but my head and my heart can only focus on a certain amount at a time. It is part of the limit of being human; every choice requires a sacrifice, whether conscious or not.
And suddenly, I found myself confronted with a tragedy. A reminder.
In my head, I saw Yeshivat Merkaz Harav as I most vividly remember it: the night of Yom Ha'atzmaut after maariv, hundreds of young men, dancing with pure joy, full of gratitude to Hashem, celebrating our ability to live in our homeland. And then I imagined the same place, filled with emergency vehicles, stained with blood.
I felt it, I felt the hurt. How could they do such a thing to us?
And then, to hear the bored anchor continue tonelessly on to other news, treated as equally, if not more, important—trivial news, most of it—ripped me apart. I yelled silently at the radio: "What do you mean!? That's all?! That's all you have to say? Do you understand what you just said? How can you just move on from that? How can you talk about the stupid tiny details of the primary vote tallies, or the four-year-old girl who showed up to school drunk? They just killed at least seven members of my family!"
But, of course, the news anchor really didn't care much. Why should he, in truth? Israel is a tiny country, far away; for him, the people there exist only in the same way that all theoretical people exist, the ones we've never met and never will meet.
Realizing this, I felt, anew, that connection, that pull, that reminds me why I care, why this feels so different to me than it does to Mr. News Anchor. Kol Yisrael areivim zeh lazeh: we are one family; we are connected.
It is not a question of politics. It is not about the right solution, the wrong solution, whether there is a solution. And for me, it doesn't feel like a time to ask God why, either. It feels like a time to feel. A time to experience the emotion of connectedness; to hurt because of my brothers' and sisters' hurt, to stand together as one people, united against those who wish to exterminate us.
Am Yisrael chai.