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Brad Hirschfield

Brad Hirschfield

Posted: March 23, 2011 11:01 AM

Terror in Jerusalem: Seeking a Wise Response


Not since 2004 has Jerusalem been rocked by a bombing of the magnitude of this morning's attack -- years since dozens of broken and bloodied bodies were transported to hospitals as they were today when a bomb exploded by the city's central bus station. It's been long enough to be shocked by the quick succession of emotions which frame my initial response to such acts of terror, but not so long that they did not in fact all come flooding back.

Nausea, rage, sadness and resolve. First, the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach -- a feeling that I might throw up, not because of the gruesome images which appear on the screen, but because of the pain and suffering which the wounded and their families are caused.

Next comes a flash of rage, rage which cannot even be directed at a specific person or party as no individual or group has been identified as the perpetrator of this act of terror. Having been attacked, and I admit to experiencing such attacks on a very personal level, it's pretty typical for people to want a clearly defined enemy at whom they can direct their justifiable rage. Typical, but insufficient.

Realizing, as we all must if we want peace to reign where war is the norm, that such rage is never the best frame from which to respond, I feel deeply sad. I experience a wave of sadness and even hopelessness about what seems like an inevitable and unstoppable cycle of violence.

Whether because being sad is simply too painful, or because I know that such sadness is as insufficient to the moment as my earlier rage, a sense of resolve emerges. And it is that resolve which presents a real choice about what comes next.

People can find the resolve to pursue an escalation of violence, a commitment not only to locating the criminals who committed this act, but to military action whose scale and purpose is to make committing such acts of terror less attractive to those who commit them. I actually believe that response is totally justifiable. This is a war and that is a part of all wars. But while that response is justifiable, it may not be wise and it takes resolve to make that distinction -- to choose what is wise over what is justifiable.

It takes resolve to figure out not only what is the just response to acts of terror, but what is the wise response. The responses which address the original nausea, rage and sadness provoked by this attack, may not be the wisest responses to the situation.

It takes resolve to do what Jerusalem Mayor, Nir Barkat, asked people to do in the wake of this morning's bombing: "return to normal." In calm and reassuring tones, in language absent of malice but clear about the need for justice, Barkat emphasized the need for people to return to normal and help Jerusalem do the same.

In a region scarred by generations of violence, it takes resolve to imagine that "normal" is peace, not war. It takes resolve to make every effort to respond to this morning's attack in ways that move toward the realization of a better normal in which peace really is the norm. Whatever the responses, whatever combination of military and political action is deemed appropriate by the Israeli government; I hope that it is guided by that resolve more than any other.

 

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