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August 27, 2015 | 12th Elul 5775

A Time to Keep Silent

September 16, 2001
Marc Rosenstein

Tuesday afternoon, we conducted another program in our series of inservice programs for teachers at Zippori National Park. On the way to the car, at 5 pm, the park guards stopped us to tell us the news that was just coming in from New York and Washington, and were already debating among themselves what America should and would do in response. Arriving home, all our family could do was to watch Israeli television repeatedly rebroadcasting CNN tapes, accompanied by a constant stream of relatively inane commentary. That familiar depressed, helpless, sickened feeling, that we had felt just a few days before, washed over us in a wave. And this time, besides the enormity of the evil, there was the almost pornographic replaying of the images on television - we were actually watching it happen, over and over again. By 9:30 both Tami and I felt an unnatural tiredness; we couldn’t watch, but there was nothing else we could do. So we went to bed.

And now almost a week later, as the search for bodies continues, as horrible personal stories continue to come to light, we sit here half a world away, knowing that our immediate circle of family and friends are safe, but with no knowledge of the effects of the events on the wide, intersecting circles of acquaintances, professional contacts, friends of friends, etc. With every Shana Tova card we send, there is that twinge of “but what if...”

Meanwhile there is a tendency to feel, after such an overwhelming event, that the whole world shares our shock and grief, and that normal life should come to a stop for a while. But the shootings in the territories did not abate for even a day; our little regional conflict may have been pushed off of page one, but that doesn’t mean it has cooled off or taken a break.

As always, we are drowning in a sea of words, instant attempts to find meaning, to understand, to say something new and clever. Some of the conflicting voices that I have encountered here:

  • Now the Americans will understand us when we talk about terror; now they will stop telling us to exercise restraint. Now we will have a free hand to strike against the Palestinian sponsors of terror.

  • Now the Americans will join us in the war on terror and finally do the job they should have done all along instead of leaving it to us.

  • So, American pride and power, technology and wealth, can all be undone by a box knife.

  • Now America will strike back, ratcheting up the cycle of violence; perhaps they should seek another way, trying to understand the root of what drives this terror, and addressing it.

  • Evil is evil is evil. Should we have avoided violence against Nazi terror, seeking instead to address its economic and psychological and historical roots?

  • And if Israel were to give in to all of the Palestinians’ demands, unconditionally, today, would those behind this terror fold up their tents and turn in their weapons?

  • However many innocents died in New York and Washington, it is but a small fraction of those who have died throughout the third world, Moslems and others, as a result of American military actions, support of violent rebels and oppressive regimes, and corporate greed. It’s time for the sheriff of the world to get a slap in the face.

Somehow I find this cacophony exploitative and dehumanizing, just like the instant video replays of the disaster itself. As for me, I have nothing to say that does not feel trivial in the face of the enormity of the events.


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