In the Wake of Terror

My heart is numb with pain as I attempt to go through the morning motions. Get the children dressed. Pack their lunches. Head for the bus. I call my brother in Har Nof. He is on his way to yeshivah and I speak to him on his cell phone. He passes the scene of the massacre as they are taking the Kedoshim out. There are no words.

I speak to my sister. She tells me my cousin was on his way to shul when a neighbor screamed at him to get back inside: there was a terror attack going on. As he ran toward his apartment block, a convoy of policemen came screeching down the road and asked where Rechov Agasi was. Paralyzed with fear, all he could do was point.

As he continues his walk, my brother relates the morning’s events as he saw them from his window. The sirens, the vehicles, the terror … and the journalists running down the hill, their cameras dangling from their necks in an attempt to get the first, fresh shot.

I feel sickened. I can picture those journalists so clearly, and I feel repulsed. No, I am not judging them. I understand that this is their job. But what disturbs me is the direction that society has taken, the need to be fed constant, instant, hot-off-the press images.

While families are grieving, parents are sick with worry and victims lie groaning in pain, there is something else going on. Something that is not characteristic of the gemilus chassadim for which Klal Yisrael is praised. It is the obsession with images.

And it doesn’t end there. It is all the details that we need to know as well. How many terrorists? How did they infiltrate? Did anyone try to ward them off? Where did they come from?

There is nothing wrong with these questions, but should this be such an integral part of our response? When hearing the news, should our reaction not be to turn to Hashem and cry to Him to save the wounded, give strength to the grieving families and pray for no further casualties? Should it not be a wake-up call to teshuvah, a reminder to take stock of our lives? Should it not be to set a text message in motion with the names of the cholim and take on something in their zechus?

But the yetzer hara, in his tremendous wisdom, has done everything in his power to divert us from where Hashem wants us to be. Countless images and an endless flow of information are all part of his plan to create superficial people — people who view an eis tzarah of indescribable proportions as the next piece of news to look at and discuss. Instead of looking inward for some deep introspection, we are looking more and more outward in an effort, perhaps, to distract ourselves from the truth.

My cousin’s phone had no reception, so she borrowed a neighbor’s phone to call my uncle in Israel. She asked him to relay the news to her parents abroad that, b’chasdei Hashem, she was okay. My uncle caught her father on his way to Shacharis. He dialed the number. Her father picked up. And my uncle was unable to relay the message. He completely broke down.

There were no images. The details were irrelevant. People were killed and wounded and it didn’t matter who, where and what. True, he was about to tell a father that his own children were safe. But what about other fathers? What about other children? A tremendous tragedy had occurred, and for someone who is bursting with ahavas Yisrael that was just too much to bear.

May Hashem protect us from any further tzarah and may we be zocheh to use this eis tzarah as a catalyst for true introspection that will, in turn, bring the Geulah bimheirah b’yameinu, amen.