This year right after Yom Kippur hit its concluding crescendo with the blowing of the shofar, the synagogue broke into singing ‘next year in Jerusalem’ and everyone started dancing in a circle. I jumped into the circle, with much enthusiasm over the spiritual accomplishment of the day, and then it hit me. I was singing ‘next year in Jerusalem’, but I was in Jerusalem, we are here!! What a thrill to think that all these years of signing at the end of Yom Kippur and of the Passover Seder ‘next year in Jerusalem’, with a deep yearning to be in Israel, and now we are living here. Then I really thought about it, and actually, we are not really in Jerusalem (even though Beit Shemesh does have the same 02 area code as Jerusalem). More importantly the song actually says ‘next year in Jerusalem rebuilt’. So it is not just a call to return to Israel, it is a call, a prayer, a yearning for Jerusalem to be rebuilt and for the Temple, the focus of Jewish spiritual life and of our connection to the Almighty to be reestablished.
What is the significance of Jerusalem being rebuilt? It means we will be in a world where everyone recognizes the existence of the Almighty, with the same concept of divinity, and learns to live together in peace. This means that tragedies like the one that happened the day before Yom Kippur, the stabbing murder of Ari Fuld obm, leaving behind a wife and four orphans, will no longer happen. Ari was well known in Israel advocacy circles for his love of Israel and the Jewish people, and for his activism in defending the cause of Zionism and Israel. Ari was also a third degree black belt in Karate, taught hundreds of children self-defense, and carried a firearm. And yet he was still murdered by a seventeen year-old Palestinian teenager. His strength and being prepared was not for naught, because after stabbing him the Palestinian started to attack Hila Peretz,the woman working in the falafel shop that Ari was standing in front of. Ari got up after being stabbed in the back, ran after the Palestinian and shot him. He died a hero preventing the terrorist from taking any more lives.
This event shook up the entire country to its core for many reasons. It shook us because of Ari’s dedication to the Jewish people and to Israel. It shook us up because of the tragedy for his family. It shook us up because he was brought down despite this strength. It shook up the Anglo-Israeli community because like us he made Aliyah from the United States. I think mostly it shook everyone up because we just stood before the Almighty on Rosh Hashanah, when our destiny was inscribed for the coming year.
It shook us up personally because a month before we were sitting in the same falafel shop in Gush Etzion in front of which he was stabbed, being served by Hila Peretz whose life he saved. And we were shopping in the same supermarket around the corner where the terrorist was stopped twice by security. Since he hid the knife in a nearby bathroom he was not detained. When we were online in the supermarket I took the picture below. For me it was an illustration of the reality on the ground, that Israel is a diverse society where Israelis and Palestinians might be locked in a political and sometimes violent stalemate, but still shop at the same supermarket, wait at the same junctions and swim at the same beaches. As you can see in the picture, right next to the soldier with a gun is a mother with a hijab over her head, and her sons standing online waiting to checkout with the flower pattern shorts, with her grandson at his side. As someone who lives there told me, everyone gets along, until they don’t. The friends who we visited told us that the rule in their community, Alon Shvut three kilometers down the road from the stabbing is that if they hire an Arab worker to do work in their home they have to hire an armed guard who accompanies him from the gate of the community, sits with him the entire time he is working and escorts him back out. When I heard this I thought that might be too cautious, but after the murder of Ari Fuld this policy is totally understandable. They might be our cousins, but they are not family. And as a result our friends hired a Jewish worker do the the work.
Yes, I also biked down the west side drive near Battery Park a month after people were mowed down by a terrorist in a U-Haul truck this past year. But somehow here it is different. Here we are all family, every Jew is our cousin, every falafel stores is one we could have eaten at, and every tragedy hits home in a very personal way. May Ari Fuld’s memory be a blessing and may the Almighty have a special place for his soul. A comforting post-script is that within four days of Ari’s passing they are 4/5 of the way towards the goal of raising one million dollars to provide for his widow and orphans. Indeed, we are all a family. May we be a family in our celebrations as well.