`This struggle is worthwhile'

August 08, 2002|By Marla Bennett

The following is excerpted from an essay by Marla Bennett, one of the five Americans killed July 31 in the bombing of Hebrew University. It originally appeared in the weekly San Diego Jewish Press-Heritage on May 10.

EACH MORNING when I leave my apartment building, I have an important question to contemplate: Should I turn left or should I turn right?

This question may seem inconsequential, but the events of the past few months in Israel have led me to believe that each small decision I make - by which route to walk to school, whether to go out to dinner - may have life-threatening consequences.

I have been living in Israel for a year and a half; I arrived just a month before the current wave of violence and horror began. And for about that same period of time, I have been receiving calls each week from various friends and family members who subtly, or less than subtly, suggest I think about coming home. My friends and family talk about how dangerous it is here, and I have to agree with them. It is dangerous. But I remain unconvinced that the rest of the world is such a safe place.

At least if I am here I can take an active role in attempting to put back together all that has broken. I can volunteer in the homes of Israelis affected by terrorism, I can put food in collection baskets for Palestinian families, I can see what goes on each day with my own eyes instead of with the eyes of CNN. Beyond all of the brutality, in most places in Israel life goes on.

Three weeks ago, I went to Prague for the weekend. One of the perks of living in Israel is easy (and cheap!) travel to Europe, and as the stress of living in Israel continued, my friend Amanda and I decided to take a break for a few days. Indeed, it was a break: We felt free to walk in large, crowded areas without looking over our shoulders. We went to cafes and drank coffee without constantly eyeing the door for anyone in bulky clothing, we used public transportation without second-guessing our choice.

But as we sat in shul on Friday night, an announcement was made that a rally for the Palestinians was being held in a square nearby and we should be careful to take a different route home. With the rising anti-Semitic violence in Europe, no one was sure that the night would end peacefully.

Could we feel carefree anywhere?

During Pesach this year, while terror attacks within Israel were a nearly daily occurrence, an acquaintance noted that though she does not always feel safe going to public places in Jerusalem, she still feels safe to walk alone on the streets at 1 in the morning.

I question which way I will walk to school in the morning, but I too feel secure walking the streets of Jerusalem alone at night - even the small side streets I frequent now to avoid the popular thoroughfares. I never felt safe enough to do that while I lived in the United States.

My friends and family in San Diego are right when they call and ask me to come home. It is dangerous here. I appreciate their concern. But there is nowhere else in the world I would rather be right now. I have a front-row seat for the history of the Jewish people. I am a part of the struggle for Israel's survival. Paying for my groceries is the same as contributing money to my favorite cause. Since traveling to Prague and feeling the fear of the Prague community as they faced possible violence, I know that this struggle is worthwhile.

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