In May 2006, when I was in 8th grade, Daniel Wultz died in Tel Aviv after a suicide bomber detonated 30 pounds of explosives. Daniel went to David Posnack Jewish Day School in Davie, Florida, where I grew up. I didn’t go to Posnack (as it’s called), but many of my Jewish friends did. Everyone knew someone who went there, who knew him, who was tied, however loosely, to the Wultz family. I remember that Daniel was born on the exact same day as my brother, and my mom acted like she had lost her own son, though we had never met the Wultz family.
After graduating college in May 2014, I had the good fortune of teaching second grade at Posnack. I loved it there. It is a warm, loving, welcoming community that I felt lucky to be a part of. But every once in a while, there was a silence, a sadness, that only comes from losing a family member. I saw it in the faded plaque in his honor. I saw it in the eyes of the teachers who were working there when it happened. I still see it when my boyfriend, who went to Posnack starting from elementary school, talks about what it was like to find out the 16-year-old boy who held on for almost a month had ultimately succumbed to organ failure. If the Posnack community is a heart ready to love everyone who chooses to be a member of it, there is a small crack in it that has never healed, has never formed a scar over it. It is vulnerable; the weak spot.
This past August, I moved to Boston where I became the youth educator at a temple in Newton, Massachusetts. A thriving, lively community, the emphasis on youth outreach and engagement here is remarkable. At some conventions, upwards of 300 teens show up; there are 11 Jewish day schools to choose from, all offering their own views on Judaism and how to honor it. It is a progressive and vibrant community, welcoming Jewish children and families from all walks of life and encouraging them to be involved and contributive members of it.
But now, 9 years later, I find myself in the same position I was in 8th grade. This past Thursday on November 19th, after weeks of senseless, meaningless stabbings and terror, an 18-year-old boy from Sharon, Massachusetts, was killed in a terrorist attack in the West Bank. Ezra Schwartz, like Daniel, was an important and well-loved member of his community. And here too, the teens I work with are all loosely tied, somehow connected and definitely affected by his death. Again I find myself at a loss. I didn’t know him, but I feel a tie to him and his family. With my brother living in Israel now, I know the terrifying reality of the situation is that it could have been him. It could be, and it is, someone’s brother, someone’s son, someone’s grandson, and that is heartbreaking. An American Jew is, for all intents and purposes, a terrorist’s jackpot, and as horrifying as this is, it’s true. When Daniel died in 2006, Abu Nasser, a leader of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, one of the groups that claimed responsibility for the attack, called him, “the best target combination we can dream of – American and Zionist.”
So what do we do? As a Jewish American who loves Israel, I need to know what to do. My temple’s annual trip with the 10th grade is coming up in February, and I’m scared they won’t want to go, and I’m scared to go too. But here’s what I’ve come up with; this is what we do: We go. We go because Israel didn’t always exist and it might not always exist, so we go. We go and we celebrate the life and the rich culture and the layers of history that are a part of what makes Israel so special. We go with our best selves. We breathe the air on the top of Messada with big, gulping breaths. We screech at the top of our lungs as our feet float out from under us in the Dead Sea. We laugh harder on camels and cry harder at Yad Vashem and yell, “Am Yisrael Chai” as loudly as we can. We go. We absolutely go.
But more importantly, we love. Because if I’ve learned anything in my 23 years on earth, I’ve learned that you don’t fight hate with hate, you fight it with love. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told us, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” So call your friends in Israel, in Paris, in America, your next door neighbors, anyone you love, near or far. And I’ll call my brother and tell him I love him. Because for right now, that’s all we can do. We go and we love.