First Person

Jewish World Review Sept. 12, 2001 / 23 Elul, 5761

Now, all Americans are Israelis --- like it or not

By Ron Ostroff

I HAVE a friend in Tel Aviv who reluctantly is probably moving to the United States.

After a year of terrorism, my artist friend can't take it any longer. Although she firmly believes G-d will protect her and Israel, she is scared. She is in a war zone and she knows it. And she figured, she would be safe in the United States.

And all of us have felt the same way: The worst of everything couldn't happen here. America was like a womb, a safe, warm place protected from anything that could harm us. Terrorism happened in other far-off places. It happened in our embassies, in our overseas military bases. But here was safe.

Terrorists changed that Sept. 11 when two jets slammed into the World Trade Center towers, which collapsed shortly after, a plane hit the Pentagon and another hijacked airliner went down near Pittsburgh.

Now we can begin to feel like the Jews of Israel - the Jews who take their lives in their hands when they go to the market, the mall or drive their children to school. Now suddenly a cloud of apprehension has come over our long time feeling of security.

Many dovish Jews have turned to hawks. Those too scared to send their children to Israel are now feeling what it might have been like if they had.

Calls for restraint have turned to yells of anger and revenge - because finally, the insane violence of more than 50 years of Mid-east terror has hit home and hit hard.

After this disaster, just as after Israel's disasters, everyone will be affected. Nearly everyone of us will have a friend or relative who perished in the planes, the buildings or on the ground - or know someone who did.

And now life in these United States has changed forever.

Today, Jewish educators are asking: How will we cope? What will we tell our children? How will we go on with our lives?

As Rabbi Yehuda Farber of Beth Medrash Govoha, the Lakewood Yeshiva, put it: "If there is still any innocence in American society, it has obviously been shattered. We will be looking over our shoulder for quite a while.

"As wonderful and as great a country as this is, it shows that ultimately the only one we can have faith in is the one above."

As one rabbi told me yesterday about his forthcoming Rosh Hashana sermon: "I was going to talk about why Israel makes these missle attacks against terrorists. I guess now I don't have to."

This is one year where it might have been more appropriate to have Yom Kippur - with mourning and reflection - preceed Rosh Hashana.

Maybe it did.

But we must not let these acts of insanity completely disrupt our way of life. So here's what we must do:

When we go to sleep, some who were close to the twin towers will have nightmares based on what they saw - men in suits jumping from buildings, their ties fluttering in the wind; shoes left on the street from people running so fast for their lives; the two majestic towers crumbling into rubble and dust and becoming a burial ground for tens of thousands.

When we wake, we'll wonder if it was real or just a nightmare.

And I wonder about my friend and her plans to move to the safety of the United States.

Now maybe she's having second thoughts.

JWR contributor Ron Ostroff is editor and publisher of The Jewish State, an independent weekly newspaper based in Highland Park and covering Central New Jersey. Comment by clicking here.


© 2001, Ron Ostroff