When I got home, I realized I had forgotten my keys so I made my way over to my daughter’s school on Rechov Yirmiyohu to pick up her keys. She was in the middle of class until 10:30, so I sat on a bench in the warm sunshine, watching the comings and goings on Rechov Yirmiyohu. Shortly after 10:00 a.m., I noticed the familiar sound of sirens and the sudden rush of all kinds of emergency vehicles with blue and red flashing lights. I sensed a certain urgency as the police, in patrol cars and unmarked vehicles, used their megaphones to expedite the moving of cars to the side so they could pass.
The intensity of the sirens increased as I held my breath, waiting for my phone to ring. There was no question in my mind that there had been a terror attack in the vicinity. It was just a matter of where and what were the consequences.
Within minutes I got the inevitable phone call from one of my children. “Mommy, where are you?” I asked my daughter where the attack had taken place. I could see the emergency vehicles from Rechov Yirmiyohu. My daughter said, “Mommy, don’t move. The attack was between Chiram and Shefa on Shamgar, a #418 bus, probably the 9:30 a.m. from Beit Shemesh.” I was just one block away. Even though at that moment the details were sketchy, for us they carried tremendous significance. My daughter, who works in an office just two blocks away, takes the #418 from Beit Shemesh every morning. I said a kappitel of Tehillim as I waited anxiously for more details.
Soon my daughter called me with more information, the injured victim was a foreign worker who was not a passenger from Beit Shemesh, but after being stabbed on the street had gotten onto the bus. The terrorist was still at large. Sitting in her office, my daughter was petrified and asked me to be careful.
It was almost 10:30, so I approached the gate of my daughter’s school. In the interim, a guard had appeared at the gate, which was locked. The school administrator arrived at the school and calmly asked the guard if he has been apprised of the situation.
My daughter came to the gate; the principal had told her she was only allowed to come to give me the keys and run right back into the building.
Contemplate the fact that within a 2 block radius of the scene of the attack, there are about 10,000 students learning in chadorim, elementary schools and high schools, including two American seminaries. It is one of the most concentrated residential areas, including Ganei Geulah, Techeles Mordechai, Shefa, Belz and Minchas Yitzchok. A knife wielding Arab was somewhere very close. Boruch Hashem this occurred after everyone was safely in school, yeshiva, kollel or work. As the victim said when interviewed, there were not too many people on the street.
Among the plethora of emergency vehicles I was surprised to see so many unmarked cars and vans with flashing lights carrying the full gamut of security personnel, police, soldiers, commandos and detectives, who swarmed the area. By now there was lots of pedestrian traffic as people poured out to come and see what was transpiring.
I walked up towards Shamgar, which was a maze of parked cars and motor bikes, including several press vehicles. I passed an Arab couple walking towards me who then got into a car. I was surprised that they seemed so relaxed. Their car was stopped and their papers were checked before the police allowed them to move on.
I did not allow myself to dwell on the fact that this terror attack was taking place in my backyard, right next to where I live and walk so freely. I did not allow myself to think of the danger that was still lurking.
Shamgar, which I had passed less than half an hour earlier, looked like a war zone, yet for some reason, under the bright blue sky, people did not hesitate to gather and hang around, and there was no tension.
As I walked up Shamgar away from the scene of the attack, I noticed more security forces arriving. One person said that the road to Geulah was closed.
My daughter, who works in a development under construction, was under lockdown in her office, and police and IDF were checking all the construction workers.
About an hour after the attack, using details from eyewitnesses, security forces tracked down the terrorist in one of the large building sites. It seems he did not actually work there but had fled there to take cover.
Everyone has his or her own way of dealing with the unsettling aspects of this unpredictable wave of terror. I adopted Rav Elyashiv’s directive to say the posuk, “Ki malochov yetzaveh loch leshmorcha,” when leaving the house.
I abandoned plans to go to the Kosel after this attack, and that was even before I heard that hours earlier, there had been another attack at Sha’ar Shechem. Instead I decided to use the time to take care of something in Tel Aviv.
When I finished up in Tel Aviv, I made my way down to the ocean, where, with the clear blue sky and the sun overhead, it did not feel like December. The turquoise color of the Mediterranean against the brilliant sunshine helped me relax. “Hayom roah vayonos” were the words that came to mind.
Rav Schwab says the sea is a place where you see and feel the vastness and revelation of Hashem. As I stood and watched the calm waters beneath the shimmering sun shift to turbulent waves in a matter of moments, I thought about how from one minute to the next, the perceived calm of our everyday lives can be thrust into turmoil, as we have witnessed since Sukkos, when families have been torn apart with the vicious attacks of cold-blooded terrorists.
Here in Eretz Yisroel we are privileged to extra closeness to the Shechinah. It motivates us to accentuate our emunah and bitochon. We feel vulnerable and therefore tend to maximize each moment. We never know what tomorrow will bring, so we focus on the positive and look forward to a better future, not allowing ourselves to be dragged down by the past. We enjoy the nachas in our lives and tangibly feel that hakol beyad Hashem.
We have role models. One only had to be a participant in the chasunah of the yesomah Sarah Techiyah Litman bas hakodosh Reb Yaakov Litman Hy”d to see how a young, broken kallah could get up from shivah for her father and brother, rise above her grief, and with her chosson, Ariel Beigel, share the kol sosson vekol simcha with the entire nation.
I walked over to Binyanei Hauma for the chuppah, which was for family and friends. It was a relatively small crowd and the chuppah area in front of the convention center was gated off, although there were some spectators. Klal Yisroel accompanied this family for the last two weeks, feeling to some extent the raw pain of a family on the way to the aufruf of their son-in-law only to watch as their husband and father and son and brother were brutally murdered. The almonah, Noah, walked her daughter down to the chuppah with overwhelming emotion. Rav Yaakov Schapiro, rosh yeshivas Merkaz Harav, where the chosson Ariel and the kallah’s brother, Netanel Hy”d, learned, was mesader kiddushin. Rav Schapiro, who has guided the yeshiva and gave chizuk throughout the tzorah of the Merkaz Harav terror attack and at times when his talmidim have been killed in war or in other attacks, continued leading his talmidim as he reconciled the tzorah of losing a beloved talmid with the simcha of the marriage of another talmid. After the brochah achritah was said by Chief Rabbi Rav Dovid Lau, singing and dancing accompanied the chosson and kallah from the chuppah, an uplifting and tangible moment of true simcha.
No doubt there were a myriad of sheilos to be answered and decisions to be made, yet the wedding was a fulfillment of sorts of, “Od yishoma beorei Yehudah uvechutzos Yerushalayim kol sasson vekol simcha.”
Later, tens of thousands of people converged on Binyanei Hauma to be mesameiach the chosson and kallah. When the hall reached its maximum capacity, security and police told the rest of the crowds to wait outside. The spirited crowds outside followed instructions and waited patiently, singing and dancing. Later, the police decided that instead of making room for the thousands of waiting guests to come into the hall, they would bring the chosson and kallah out to the crowds. A makeshift dance floor was formed, with trees serving as a mechitzah as the crowds sang and danced to express their joy and empathy.
Who were these guests who accepted the chosson and kallah’s open invitation to their wedding? They were not just Israelis; they were from all over the world, from Australia, America, France and many other countries. Some communities sponsored the attendance of a representative. A philanthropist from Baltimore sponsored a popular teacher to represent the community. She brought an oversized banner bearing signatures of the Baltimore community which she and her sister hung on the long mechitzah of the hall in Binyanei Hauma.
The invitation to the wedding and pictures of the kallah’s father, Reb Yaakov, and brother, Netanel, were prominently displayed in the hall.
Many rabbonim and dignitaries came to wish mazel tov. Avraham Fried sang a moving rendition of “Im Eshkocheich Yerushalayim.”
In an interview the day after the wedding, the chosson did all the talking since his beaming wife said, “Ein li kol, ani lo yecholah ledaber.” She had lost her voice! Ariel warmly thanked everyone for their support before, during and after the wedding.
The Jewish nation possesses resilience which motivates us to move forward from times of sorrow to times of great joy. However, it does not preclude us from continuing to be nosei beol im chaveirov. We still have to daven and support the rest of the families who are reeling from the consequences of terror attacks and do not currently have a simcha to dispel some of their deep physical and emotional pain.
I recently heard a line from a rebbetzin who is undergoing a personal tzorah. She said, “Every day, I say the 13 Ani Ma’amin’s, but it does not mean ‘ani meivin.’”
I myself have had three consecutive “tsunamis,” each of which could have caused me to become despondent. However, I chose to accentuate the positive, maximize every moment and appreciate the privileges I have, such as the zechus to live in Eretz Yisroel and the ability to spontaneously go to daven at the Kosel and mekomos hakedoshim. I have learned to express hakoras hatov for the little things in life, reflective of the buoyant Jewish spirt.