30 Seconds to Get to a Bomb Shelter

This is the second of at least two articles from Israel by Rabbi Yosi Gordon.  He is a teacher at the Talmud Torah of St. Paul, currently studying at the Shalom Hartman Institute and elsewhere in Jerusalem.  This article was originally posted to Facebook.

Photo: WrenB

Photo: WrenB

So it was 10:30 at night, and a student in my education group was asleep in the apartment she’s renting here in Jerusalem, and the siren went off. Fortunately, there is a bomb shelter. It’s an old building, and the shelter is in the basement. She’s on the fourth floor. That’s European fourth floor: the first floor is called the ground floor, and the next four floors are 1-2-3-4.

Okay, she had about 30 seconds to get to the shelter.

Did I say that she wasn’t alone? There were 4 others with her: her children. The oldest is 11. No one expected rockets in Jerusalem, so when she woke the oldest, who would have to carry the youngest while she led the other two, the oldest needed an explanation on the spot. And the second oldest wouldn’t wake up.

And now there were 15 seconds.

There are some very angry people who actually want to kill her children. Had they succeeded, they would have danced and passed out candies to their children. They aren’t bad people; they are angry people. We have angry people, too.

This is the first time in my life anyone has tried to kill me. (At least as far as I know.) I don’t hate them and I think I understand them. They probably understand me. If we were to sit down and talk, we would understand each other quite well. We might even like each other. But they would still want to kill me. And I would still want to do whatever I needed to do, to keep them from succeeding — including some very oppressive acts. Until we could resolve everything, which might mean centuries.

In the meantime, my n’shama (soul) and theirs would be battered by all the cruelty and pain, and that’s not just a lot of metaphysical mumbo jumbo. Multiply and compound that by the millions of people all around who are suffering the same fate and battering each other every minute of every day for decades. And the pain that pours in from Egypt and Syria and Iraq and Lebanon and Jordan and all our neighbors. While other people pack their picnic baskets and judge us, saying Israelis are barbaric and Palestinians are brutal, or Israelis are brutal and Palestinians are barbaric.

Tonight’s peace rally has been canceled because of the war.