I’m deeply troubled.
Not only by the terrorist attacks of the past few days, but even moreso by the seeming lack of interest in acts of evil perpetrated against people that completely go unmentioned.
But when Paris, the chic capital of the western world, lights up with gunfire and explosions and people run frantic through familiar European streets, we fall silent. We cry out in disgust and shame and fear. We bemoan the fate of the dead … because they look like us.
Because it could have been us.
But if it’s Kenya or Beirut or anywhere where the majority of the people do not have fair skin and light eyes, features deemed soft and likable by too many pages of history, well then we stay silent. We read the newspaper articles and turn the pages.
We go on about our days and our ways and our routines because this can’t possibly have anything to do with us.
We are only scared when it’s the white people who are attacked.
I’m sorry to say it, but it’s glaringly true.
Don’t we realize that PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE?
That the blood coursing through our veins is identical? That the color of our skin has to do with our lineage, where our ancestors came from, the pigment from their genes and their location on the planet.
And really the hatred swirling in this world today is about not being comforted by difference but instead, feeling courage in sameness.
The second time I visited Israel, I was 26 years old and a budding journalist. I sat on the plane next to a 30-year-old Palestinian man and we talked the whole 10 hours from our Atlantic shores to the sandy shores of the Mediterranean.
He’d come from Denver and was on his way to visit family in East Jerusalem. I was on my way to volunteer with the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, as a journalist covering this unique program, where foreigners can sleep in Army bunkers and wear Army fatigues and help with menial tasks out in the field while learning about the incredible history of this tiny Jewish state.
Sar-El, or Volunteers for Israel, as it’s known, brought me to experience the in-the-trenches volunteerism that only the Israeli Army can offer and to write about it because they were lacking volunteers from America. The year was 1997. They said their largest contingent of volunteers came from France because that’s where the biggest surge of anti-Semitism raged.
Nearly 20 years have passed, and the story hasn’t changed.
The Jews who volunteered for the Army only came when they felt their western lives were in jeopardy. When they felt the free world did not support their Judaism. When they felt they had nowhere else to go.
On the plane, the gentleman next to me was vibrant and dynamic, and we had a great time talking to one another. We concluded that the whole world was missing out on this one-to-one conversation, the connection of human to human.
I looked into his eyes and they radiated back to me the same glimmer I would later see in my own when I looked in the mirror.
That’s the problem, you see. Victims are victims; they’re not white or black or Arab or Jew. They’re people.
Living, breathing people with dreams and love and family and goals.
One life taken is a whole world eradicated. That’s what Judaism teaches us.
When you kill one person, you have killed a whole world because you have ended their entire potential – not only the children who one day may come from them, but also the good they could do in the world.
Like ripples on the water.
Did you hear about the terrorist attacks of the past few days? They started in Beirut, and then Kenya, and then Paris. I actually don’t know the order of time, but what I can tell you is that there are some pretty sad, hate-filled people who want to do as much destruction as they possibly can so that the rest of us cower in our corners, clinging to what we know and not answering the door if the knock is unfamiliar.
They’re winning if we can’t see the humanity in every single attack.
They’re winning if we can’t see the terror in their eyes.