Prudence, Not Panic

The terrorists aren’t out to kill and maim a few Jews. As their name implies, they are out to terrorize an entire nation, to make normal life impossible, to deny us our simchas hachaim.

Their goal is to succeed with a ragtag force of knife-wielding fanatics where the powerful armies of Egypt and Syria failed. They want to bring Israel’s economy to its knees by keeping locals too scared to shop and frightening off tourists and foreign investors.

We’re already seeing the effects. Downtown Yerushalayim is a shadow of its former self. On Sunday, I conducted a very informal survey of business owners and they paint a bleak picture. The proprietor of the Zemach Shwarma and Falafel store on Jaffa Road said business is down 50 percent. The few tables outside his eatery are always empty, he added. “The people who do come in only want take-out. They’re too nervous to sit out at the open at the tables.”

The Machaneh Yehudah market was so empty that bicycles could ride through the center along the narrow path that is usually crowded with shoppers and their carts.

“Business is down 50 percent,” said the owner of a spice and nuts booth. The news from the butcher at Zizi Meats was worse: Ninety percent down, according to the owner.

On the diplomatic front, terror attacks initially evoke some form of pareve condemnation, but with the passage of time the anger at the killers turns into sympathy for these poor “victims of occupation” (what choice did the employee of the Bezeq phone company who rammed into pedestrians on Malchei Yisrael Tuesday have?) and we hear calls from the Israeli left, Arab countries and Europe for a two-state solution. These calls pick up steam in today’s Washington and the United Nations, and Israel finds itself under unbearable pressure to make absurd territorial concessions.

It’s a familiar pattern, whereby the aggressor is turned into the victim and the victim becomes the culprit.

Our response has to include three elements:

One, maximum hishtadlus. The security forces must do everything possible to quell the terror that is sowing panic throughout the country. As of this writing, on Tuesday morning, the government is set to meet and impose a closure, keeping Palestinians out of Israeli cities for at least a few days to calm things down. It’s difficult to understand what took so long.

Second, maximum bitachon. The situation calls for prudence, not panic. We must identify with the victims of terror attacks and their families and daven for the wounded, but not be consumed by anxiety and gloom. We have Protection, and I don’t mean the security forces.

In Devarim (14:1), the passuk says: “You are children to Hashem, don’t gouge your skin, don’t pull out the hair … [in mourning] for the dead.” What’s the connection between being children of Hashem and gouging skin?

Sforno answers that it isn’t appropriate to go to such extremes to mourn the loss of a relative — as if we are left alone, bereft of any protection — when we have an even more important, powerful “Relative” who continues to be there for us. As the children of Hashem, we have no reason to overdo it in mourning for a flesh-and-blood relative.

Moreover, there is no need to pull out hair for the departed because we are an am kadosh that is entering Olam Haba, a world that is infinitely more beautiful than this world, and therefore it is out of place to mourn excessively on their behalf.

Third, we need to daven. We have seen so many miracles in recent weeks. The four Henkin children who were spared because one terrorist accidentally shot another; the car bomb that was stopped on its way into Yerushalayim Sunday before it could be detonated in a crowd, and on and on.

There is one brachah that we can say today with infinitely more kavanah than before the current terror rampage: shelo asani goy. Witnessing a “religion” that worships death, that bases its history on lies and whose concept of the World to Come can’t rise above their most base instincts, redoubles our appreciation of what it means to be the am ha’nivchar.

Ashreinu mah tov chelkeinu.