To celebrate or mourn? The question weighed heavily this week as we rode a roller coaster loaded with festivity and despair.
In Boston, celebration quickly turned to calamity for the marathon runners and the nation, as we mourned the mounting casualties and slowly began to come to grips with the reality that terror had once again struck our soil.
For Israel and the Jewish people, it was supposed to be the opposite: with Monday’s Day of Remembrance for the country’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror turning into celebration of Israel’s 65 years of independence. But that joy, certainly among American Jews, was dampened by the devastation in Boston.
The juxtaposition of the days’ events highlighted what our two nations share. But too much comparison is not always wise.
In offering condolences to the victims and their families during a local celebration of Israel’s Independence Day, Yaron Sideman, consul general of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic region, pointedly omitted a comparison to Israel’s own experience with terror.
“This is a tragic event that stands by itself and doesn’t need to be compared to anything or linked to any ‘bigger picture’ in order for people to capture or understand its magnitude,” he said in later explanation.
Terrorism has become a fact of life in our world, one that both Israel and the United States are battling on several fronts. How successful we are will determine the degree to which this threat once again overshadows our lives, as it did for a period in the aftermath of 9/11. The uncertainty in this country about who exactly perpetrated the attack in Boston makes it especially difficult.
There is also much that Israel and the United States share, when it comes to these national traumas.
As Sideman eloquently put it, “We value life and grieve its loss, our strength as a collective is tremendous and is evident in our ability to come together as societies and heal and support one another in the face of tragedies, national and personal.
“We are both targets of terrorism by virtue of the values of freedom and democracy that both our countries stand for and fight for,” he said.
The truth is we Jews are well-versed in grappling with both tragedy and triumph, victory and despair. Our history is filled with these ups and downs.We persevere in the face of uncertainty. We succeed against all odds. The way we as a people thrive both in the United States and in Israel proves this every day.
As we conclude the “Yom” days — Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut — the horror in Boston reminds us that we share this dual fate not only with our Israeli brothers and sisters, but with our American ones as well.