This column will come to press on September 10, a day shy of the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States. To my thinking, this is the seminal moment of my generation, much as Kennedy’s assassination defined the generation before. “I remember where I was when the Twin Towers fell” is the opening line to a generation’s stream of thoughts on domestic and world politics.
9/11 inspired me to rededicate my life. Recognizing life is short, unpredictable and cluttered with challenges, I focused on pursuing the values I believed in — Jewish values. Jenny and I married and started a family shortly after 9/11. Several years later, leaving behind a beautiful home, my wife’s successful medical practice, a shul, friends and family, we opted to make Aliyah, recognizing it as the synthesis of our commitments — Torah, the Jewish people and the land of Israel.
Three years and a summer into our Aliyah we remain … American. Blatantly American. As we did with our Jewish values, we now blend our national, political values as Americans and Israeli citizens. In Israel we relive hints of the emotions experienced on 9/11 with each act of terrorism perpetrated by enemies of Judaism, democracy and freedom that occur here in our homeland. Our micro-version of 9/11 occurred this past summer when the three yeshivah students, Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, were literally taken out from under our window. Their abduction point is our “Ground Zero,” the physical location where a heinous act was committed that set in motion a chain of events leading directly to Operation Protective Edge, the recent war on Gaza, presently on ceasefire, until the inevitable resumption of the war by Hamas, the terrorist rulers of Gaza, enemies of Israel, America, and the West.
It is said that you can learn a lot about a person by whom they consider friends. Similarly, you can learn much by whom they consider enemies. We can extrapolate this to the level of nations. America and Israel share the same broad values and therefore share the same view toward nations. The difference is not so much which they like or dislike, in which they are in general agreement; the difference is a matter of degree. Despite the present nadir the relationship is experiencing, the unique connection between the United States and Israel is strong and enduring. And the image of 9/11 is a big part of that. Israel more than any nation in the world can empathize with the horror the United States experienced 13 years ago.
While the United States had this seminal moment in 2001 and launched a war against terror both domestic and foreign and has not had another attack on its soil, Israeli life is regularly punctuated with violence by humans bereft of humanity who have no place in the society of men. No Western democracy could be more sympathetic and supportive of Israel’s predicament than the U.S., and most probably America will more consistently demonstrate common cause with Israel when a new administration takes the White House in 2016.
If you were not in Israel this past summer, the only way to understand the achdus flourishing in the aftermath of the tragedy of the kidnapping and the subsequent war in Gaza is to recall the spirit that infused the United States and New York in the wake of 9/11. Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel, and his counterparts, President George W. Bush and Mayor Giuliani of New York City each rose to the challenge and led with a robust vigor, a dimension often lacking in their respective tenures until then. The nation of Israel, the nation of America and the “nation” of New York (New York City has nearly as many people as the entire nation of Israel) were each transformed into extended communities of support. A sense of national unity and purpose transcending religious affiliation developed, with the general exception of Muslims, who celebrated the tragedies each host country experienced. I was in Passaic, NJ, at the time of the attack on the Twin Towers. While we were davening and housing stranded strangers, just up the road in Paterson, NJ, formerly a predominantly Jewish mill town, the Arabs were blaring horns and handing out sweets. During the abduction and search for the three boys, and subsequently when rockets were launched towards Jewish communities in Yehudah and Shomron, I saw the same images of Arabs blaring horns and handing out sweets again in neighboring towns. What greater proof do we need that the U.S. and Israel face the same craven enemy, an evil that rejoices in the death of innocents?
It is Elul and the shofar blows daily. It will also sound to herald Moshiach, who will come when we can sustain the achdus we as a nation knew this past summer. The “King is in the field,” so let us greet Him in achdus, bringing peace to two great and deserving countries, the U.S. and Israel, who have suffered much from terror, and by extension bringing peace to the world.
Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst, and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at msolomon@Hamodia.com.