February 23, 2020

We Are All Israeli

In 1991 when I was 12 years old, my family traveled to Israel for the first time and all of my cousins there, who I had never met before, wanted to hear all about Nintendo and Michael Jordan.  They wanted to hear about my interests since, for better or for worse, we were all Americans.  I happened to be living in America, but their interests and culture made them resemble Americans.  In essence, in 1991 we were all American.

Something has fundamentally changed.  Recently on December 15th, the Superintendant of the Los Angeles Unified School District decided to close all schools in response to what he believed was a threat that arrived via email.  The threatening email arrived less than two weeks after the terrorist attack in San Bernadino that killed 14 people and brutally injured dozens.

The school closure forced my wife and me to contemplate whether we should send our kids to their Jewish Day School that day.  At one point during our conversation my wife said to me, “We never kept our kids home from school when we lived in Israel and there were threats there everyday.”  And, as always, she was right.

In that moment this simple idea crystallized – Today, we are all Israeli.

We all live today in a world with ubiquitous threats and non-discriminating attacks.  Almost everyday, we read of a new type of evolution of Islamic Terror facing the West.  Almost everyday, we struggle with our own response – Who, where and how?

If we struggle to maintain our Western liberal values in the face of violence aimed to harm those we love, then we’re Israeli.

If we struggle to maintain an open-minded and welcoming attitude toward an expansive religion, even though the vast majority of attacks we suffer come from that exact religion, then we’re Israeli.

If we come together after terrorist attacks with prayer services expressing God and love, always trying to suppress the need for retribution, then we’re Israeli.

If we struggle with our political representatives running to the fringes of each side of the political spectrum to immediately seize issues after attacks, then we’re Israeli.

If we struggle with what we can do to keep our children safe in an unpredictably violent world, then we’re Israeli.

On the same day of the San Bernadino attacks, a local public school in West Los Angeles locked down because of a threat.  Many parents in my son’s Jewish Preschool were stuck outside the lockdown waiting fearfully for their older children in that public school.  My wife called those parents to see if she could help with younger siblings at my son’s preschool.  She took another child home because his mother could not leave the locked down elementary school.  I am proud to say that my wife acted as an Israeli.

If we love and support our community in spite of those trying to destroy our community, then we’re Israeli.

This is nothing new.  The State of Israel has always existed as the canary in the coal mine.  This was true during the Cold War and it’s especially true today during the War on Terror.

As the Psalmist writes, “I raise my eyes upon the mountains, from where will my help come?  My help comes from the Divine, Maker of heaven and earth.  He will not allow your foot to falter, your Guardian will not slumber.  God does not slumber, nor sleep, God is the Guardian of Israel.”  (Ps. 121:1-4)  Now that we all act as Israelis, I pray that we all be counted as part of Israel.  May God continue to guard us and bless us all.