Thursday, July 14, 2005

30 Tammuz

This is a post I have been working on in the hopes it never gets published...

Somewhere in the back of my mind I always felt it was a question of “when” not “if.”

Despite the fact that I had witnessed 9/11, despite the fact that I had ridden the New York City subway on the very day that her London counterpart exploded in three places, despite the fact that I often think of my cousin's narrow escape from a bus-bombing in Jerusalem—despite it all, I never allowed my imagination to wander too far down the "what if?" path of a cold, cruel reality.

That it could happen to us. Not just here in New York, but to us here. And now my imagination doesn't have to wander. It's focused. The pain is palpable. Wrath, grief, regret all swim around in a hodgepodge of confusion. It happened. It actually happened.

Now, alongside 9/11 in the United States, alongside 7/7 in England, we add 30/Tamuz, using the Hebrew date to signify the uniquely Jewish aspect of the tragedy.

The terrorists were obviously planning this for some time. How could they not be? Brooklyn is as multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-religious as it gets. People of all shapes and colors pass through her daily, people from all walks of life, in all modes of dress. No one would have ever noticed, let alone suspected, a young man riding the D-Train, reading intently from a dog-eared Koran that sat atop the bulging knapsack on his lap.

It all makes perfect sense.

Where else would Palestinian sympathists—furious over the treatment of their co-religionists overseas, furious at the Zionist-American government for supporting the oppressors of their bretheren, furious at their Jewish neighbors here in America who feel closer to the Jewish settler six thousand miles away than to the non-Jew living next door—find such a deserving target? Brooklyn. Plety of Jews, plenty of Jew-haters.

These kids watch the news. They see it every day on television; see how the martyrs are honored; see how their own families and communities react with hidden admiration. Did we really believe not one would step forward. They found twenty willing to climb on a plane, why not one to hop a subway?

One youth, valiant or disgruntled—take your pick. Someone not afraid to die and not afraid to kill. A kid like so many others in the world—except this one lives on our side of the Atlantic. How did we actually fool ourselves into thinking that not one such teenager existed? How did we fool ourselves into thinking that, with all their efforts in spreading radical Islam, they would fail to find one recruit to drop the bomb?

One young man (or woman) to climb on a subway with a knapsack full of explosives, promises of Paradise ringing in his ears. One young man to tuck the Koran in his pocket, sling the knapsack over one shoulder, get off the train, and walk leisurely toward a kosher deli in Boro Park. One young man, who looks like your average Middle Eastern Jew, to order his last meal: a burger, fries and coke, before taking a seat in the middle of the crowded restaurant and waiting. Waiting for the place to fill up.

What hurts the most is how easy it was.

Nearly one hundred people died in the explosion, most of them under the age of eighteen. The two shops adjacent were destroyed as well. So were the windows of many of the stores across the street. The cars on Thirteenth Avenue were ripped open like tuna fish cans.

Hatzalah trucks came wailing nearly immediately, their sirens pouring out the emotion of a whole community. The Post photographer captured the image of a fourteen-year Hatzoloh veteran, sitting on the sidewalk, weeping. Hatzoloh members, recently trained in Israel by Zaka, were spending more time picking body parts from the debris than administering CPR. There were so few left to save.

The helplessness that gripped me on September 12 rushed back full force as I entered shul that evening, Rosh Chodesh Av. What could we do? What could we have done? What could I have done?

And then I remembered.

I remembered how I had left the same shul that very morning in such a hurry. I had walked out before the shliach tzibbur was finished. Oh yes, he had finished the traditional prayers, but afterward he began to recite some Tehillim. Our shul had been doing that now for years. Ever since the Intifada erupted, many congregations had added the recitation of just two or three chapters of Psalms at the end of the service. An extra five minutes, tops.

Initially, we all pronounced these additional words with great deliberation and feeling, imploring the Good L-rd to watch over and protect us and "Acheinu, kol Beis Yisrael—Our brothers, the entire Congregation of Israel." But the fervor didn't last. As the advent of homicide bombers abated, so did our concentration, and then our interest. After a while it was rote. The chazzan would rush through those Psalms while the congregation began to discuss the upcoming day: How did the market look? Was rain in the forecast? Were the Yankees at home or in Boston?

By evening the bloody boom from the bowels of Brooklyn cleared those thoughts. The market is down, the weather is dreary, and the Yankees do not exist.

But the Good L-rd still does.

And while those poor families are mourning, making arrangements for funerals and shiva; while the pundits are pontificating, second-guessing homeland security and analyzing religious divides; while the terrorists are celebrating, toasting their latest martyr and seeking their next one; I will be back in the synagogue, saying those Psalms. Only this time I will recite them as I should have in the past, slowly, with feeling, trying to grasp their meaning and depth. I will listen to the words leaving my mouth.

I pray He does too.


Blogger Rebecca said...

This makes me shiver. May it not happen.

Fri Jul 15, 02:21:00 AM  
Blogger Veev said...


Fri Jul 15, 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger brianna said...

It could happen. I can imagine it happening. Look 9/11 shocked me. Now I'm pretty much unshockable.

Sun Jul 17, 12:54:00 AM  
Blogger Jack's Shack said...

It could happen in a lot of places. LA has a huge Jewish population. Or they could hit Chicago, cleveland or any number of other spots.

It is scary prospect, but we have to keep living. Screw them.

Sun Jul 17, 01:10:00 AM  
Blogger Alisha said...

ClooJew, this could happen, and you're not alone in predicting that it might. Please G-d, it never will. But how could you dare to pick a date, a specific location, a number of deaths? How could you write an entire post in the past tense, stating as history that which you pray will never become fact???

Sun Jul 17, 01:31:00 AM  
Blogger Olah Chadasha said...

Cloo, I have to partially agree with alisha. Being in Israel, I read this, thinking that it happened over Shabbat. I just started turning to Foxnews and looking online to see what you were talking about, thinking, Holy Sh$t, did this really happen?!? Not cool. My heart rate is just now starting to calm down.
OK, it can happen anywhere at any time, but you can't let this fear control your life, or you'd never leave the house. I,too, was in NYC on 9/11. I went to school there for 4 years, and lived there for 5. Cloo, have faith. Be always vigilently aware of your surroundings. And, always know that what's meant to happen is meant to be.

Sun Jul 17, 07:52:00 AM  
Blogger Rolling hills of green said...

I think your point, which I understood to be to strengthen your tefilla, is a very important message. I have started saying tehillim every day for Gush Katif. I beleive if veryone tries a little harder there is alot we can do, B'ezrat Hashem.

Sun Jul 17, 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger Olah Chadasha said...

Very good point, rolling.

Sun Jul 17, 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Wow, that was one great post!!

I tried to reply to your comment you left on my site but it bounced. So, here's my reply:

Wow, thank you!!! I just haven't met the "right" guy yet :-) I'm
sure I will when the time is right. As for religion, I'm basically spiritual/Christian.

Thanks for stopping by - and again thank you for the compliment!

Sun Jul 17, 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

This makes me completely ill.

Please consider removing this post so as not to give anyone out there any ideas of this sort.

We have enough people who hate us around the world.

Please G-d it should never happen.

Mon Jul 18, 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger parcequilfaut said...

I just flipped my wig, CJ, because I've been out the past 4 days in a place with no TV, radio or news sources of any kind, and I was wondering why I hadn't heard an emergency bulletin on my way home.

Pray G-d it never happens. And you scared the junk out of me.

Mon Jul 18, 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger HaJew said...

May G-d bless us and protect us. My prayer is not so great - maybe I owe it to the world to pray better.

Mon Jul 18, 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Cloojew: I have a question, please.

You write with such deep thought and meaning. I know that you have embraced this concept of lulei demistafina as a response or solution to much that you raise in your blog.

If you would permit me, as I am not certain I understand. Could you please explain how this concept is relevant or applicable to this post please?

Thank you

Mon Jul 18, 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger ClooJew said...

It appears that this post has given a few people a "War of the Worlds" moment; I'm not sure if I ought to be delighted or apologetic about that. Perhaps a bit of both.

In fairness, the line at the top--not to mention the date, for those who follow the Jewish calendar--should have set the post up as fictitious.

What's not fictitious, however, is the possibility of such an event happening. But I disagree with the fatalistic approah of Olah, who wrote "what's meant to happen is meant to be." I believe we can take action to redirect our destiny, through prayer. And that--to answer my patient and good friend Barbara--is the point of the post.

Without the protection of G-d Above none of us is safe. It is important, therefore, for those of us who do pray to pray with feeling and sincerity, and not simply mouth the words. It is equally important for those of us who don't pray to perhaps begin, even if only a little bit.

Mon Jul 18, 09:39:00 PM  
Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Thank you for the clarification, clooJew.

With this explanation, giving people such ideas, I suppose, would not be a possibility, as if we pray, and do so with sincerity, these events will happen, or not, depending upon G-d's plan. And the outcome will, in the same vein, be revealed to us based upon Him.

Is this a fair statement?

Just with such imaginative Jew haters out there, I do not want to give them any more terrible ideas than necessary.

Thank you for your thoughtful answer.

Mon Jul 18, 09:59:00 PM  
Blogger EN said...

Your final message of davening more and looking to Hashem to save us from all tragidies is commendable. However I do not believe any Muslim is ever going to walk into a Jewish Deli and blow it up. It is hard to get bombs and because one little kid watches some movie he isn't going to blow himself up for no purpose in Brooklyn. In Iraq, yes, becuase the Americans are on their turf. Or in Israel because they perceive it as a war. But here in Brooklyn to randomly decide let us go kill a bunch of Jews for no reason, I doubt any Muslim would believ the Koran advocates to go and kil any walking Jew.

Tue Jul 19, 10:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tue Jul 19, 01:04:00 PM  
Blogger Jessica Lovejoy said... are wearing blinders. The sad truth is they would "kill a bunch of Jews for no reason", but they would think they were doing Allah's biding by "killing the infadel" by the way that includes you too because not only do they look at Jews that way, they look at everyone who's not muslim in that way.

Wed Jul 20, 07:06:00 PM  
Blogger Olah Chadasha said...

I second jessica's sentiments. en, I don't know what world you're living in, but I wish we could all live there too. It's actually very easy to make a bomb. Timothy McVeigh used a bunch of fertilizer when he blew up the Oklahome City federal building. Obviously, you don't know very much on this subject, or you wouldn't have made the comments you did. I don't know if you know this, but Osama's umbrella organization is called, "The International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the JEWS and Crusaders". By international, they mean all over the world. By Jews, they mean every JEWS. And, yes, there are many, many, many Muslims who believe that the Koran advocates, even commands, them to kill EVERY walking (infidel) jew. Come back from Oz, en.

Thu Jul 21, 06:42:00 AM  
Blogger Esther said...

En, I think you're very naive. The person would be killing Jews, killing Westerners ... that's enough reason. The fact that I, a Jew, get up in the morning and breathe is an affront to these people. Jessica and OC get it.

CJ, great post. I read the first line so I understood what you're doing. As for those who think you're tempting fate or giving people ideas, that's lunacy. To think this isn't already on their minds every minute is to live in the same fantasy world as en. I'm not saying that's not a comforting world to live in, but it's not the one where most of us reside.

Thu Jul 21, 06:25:00 PM  
Blogger bleemy's blemishes said...

Indeed, it is a matter of when, not if! :-(

Sun Jul 24, 10:52:00 PM  
Blogger Malka said...

Ok, this has nothign to do with your post but I want you to interview me.. ;-)

Mon Jul 25, 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger Shopaholic said...

Thanks for shareing this great post!
I just got back for a shir by R' Shlomo Pearl on Tefillah and then I read your post... I think the signs are telling me I need to improve on the way I daven- and you get a sechar in any change I make!

Tue Jul 26, 11:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why would you post this? everyone thinks it, but why choose the exat spot and number of deaths - why plan it out? i didn't even realize it wasn't true! although i do agree with your last sentiments, it is a terrible thing to predict a catastrophe of this magnitude.

Tue Aug 02, 10:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Al tiftach peh....

Wed Aug 03, 12:20:00 AM  

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