As I reflect on the events of the past 24 hours, my thoughts and prayers are with the 130 people who have been injured, to greater or lesser degrees, by the bombs that exploded in Boston. May they be granted speedy and complete recoveries. May G-d strengthen the hands of those who tend to their injuries and wounds. May those in need be granted healing, both physical and spiritual. I know that you join me in extending heartfelt sympathy and prayers for comfort to the families of the three victims who died from their wounds. I pray that those whose job it is to find and apprehend those responsible are successful in their work. May those who are guilty be brought to justice and be held accountable for these heinous crimes.
Like many of you, I sat on Monday, transfixed before the television screen watching the footage, again and again, of the bombs exploding near the Marathon’s finish line. As I watched, however, I experienced a strange degree of familiarity with the images, as if I had seen these images before. Indeed, these were the images we have all witnessed, hundreds of times, brought to us from the other side of the world, from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Israel. As shocking and horrific as this bombing was, it was not unique. In fact, this sort of bombing would have barely raised our eyebrows had it taken place in some far-off place. It was the fact that such carnage and destruction could happen here that created the feeling of sickness I experienced as I watched.
In piecing together the events, investigating the rationales and identifying the perpetrators, the specific timing of the explosions will be considered. Some have suggested that these may have been anti-American crimes, perpetrated on “Patriots’ Day” in Boston. Perhaps those responsible chose April 15, Tax Day, as their response to the government of the United States. I could not help but wonder if the timing was connected to Israel. These terrorists struck the US on Israel’s “Remembrance Day,” the day prior to Israel’s Independence Day, the day when Israelis recall the over 25,000 people who have died since 1948 defending Israel. And, in this context, the coincidence with “Remembrance Day” is instructive.
In Israel, “Remembrance Day” is observed as a solemn day of reflection and collective mourning. In the midst of this day of sadness, however, in every corner of the country, a siren is sounded and Israel stands still. People stop walking, shopping and driving in order to stand, in silence, at attention. The thoughts of the nation, at that moment, turn to fallen soldiers, to the price in blood which Israel has paid for that small country, and to the fact that, as we stand and mourn, we remain at war. As the siren sounds, Israelis are enjoined to remember that we remain the target of millions in this world whose ideologies sanction the killing of innocent people and the eradication of Jews from the world.
It is hard to know, at this early stage, why those responsible planned Monday’s attack. What is clear, however, is that those killed were not targeted individually. Those who were killed or injured suffered the consequences of this act because they were standing near the bomb-site. Nevertheless, we were all, and we are still in the crosshairs. Whether because we love freedom and democracy, cherish equality, protect human dignity, and/or believe in the sanctity of all human life. Perhaps because the US and Israel are such close allies, we remain targets for those who would deny the values we cherish. Those good people, who love peace and work for it, who cherish diversity and embrace the “other,” extending kindness to all, and think, therefore, that they will be safe because of their personal beliefs, are mistaken. To believe that you are not a target as an American in the world today is to believe that the bull will not charge at you because you are a vegetarian.
In Israel, when the siren sounds, the same siren which sounds when there is an air-raid or an incoming rocket, Israelis are reminded that we are hated and targeted because of the values we cherish: freedom, human dignity, protecting and preserving life. These values are preserved at a price, a high price, indeed, but a price we must pay. To reject any of these values would mean to abrogate our responsibilities as Jews and as Americans. For Israelis, to reject these values would be to reject the reasons the State of Israel was founded and continues to exist.
At yesterday’s marathon, America was reminded of the fact that the lofty values for which we live and die make us targets for those who abhor these values. As we mourn those killed in the bombing, as we pray for the health of those injured, we must realize that our values are not shared, that we are hated because of these values and that we are all targets of those violent people who seek to undo, to undermine and to unravel the fabric which holds us together. Only when we realize that we are all targets, that we are all vulnerable, that we must stand together as Americans, we can prevail.
On Shabbat we will add to our services at Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El special prayers of healing and strength. In the meantime, I hope that we will all keep in our prayers those who continue to recover. And keep in your prayers, as well, the United States of America, the values on which this country was founded, the values which make us all targets and the values for which we must be vigilant. Were we to forget those values, we would not only forget what it means to be an American, we would forget what it means to be a human being.