On September 11, 2001, the radio was blaring, as we were getting ready for the evening meal and prepping the next days’ lunch, when the news came.
I was the head-chef of the kitchen in a women’s seminary in the Old City, Jerusalem. We had Arabs in the kitchen. My boss an expatriate from South Africa, my assistant a chassidish woman and a neighbor of mine from Beitar Illit, my prep assistant was a Palestinian from a small village outside of Hevron, and the dish washer was a local Palestinian from Silwan.
That day, my ten year old was with me. It was his birthday, but he was with me because he had an earache and couldn’t go to school that morning. (Actually we had spent the early morning in the hospital treating him – it was a bad earache.)
That year had been awkward working side-by-side with men of the Muslim faith, as a woman and as a religious Israeli. In the past year there had been the lynching of the two Israeli reservists in Ramallah, the murder of Shalhevet Pass, a 10-month-old Israeli baby was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in Hevron, the Dolphinarium massacre, when a Hamas suicide bomber exploded himself at the entrance of a club killing 21 Israelis youth, the Sbarro restaurant massacre, when a suicide bomber killed 15 people.
The Arab workers always showed dismay and disagreement of their co-religious behavior when an attack was announced, but it didn’t make it comfortable to be in the same room, especially they were the ones who had the knives.
Arabs are a not a cohesive group and these guys didn’t seem to have any political leanings, just wanted a job so they could support their families. When I had to work with other Arabs in that school, and felt nervous by their looks, or behavior, I had asked the school to get rid of them. The seminary did respond, especially when one of them was caught of security cameras stealing the milk delivery.
These two Palestinians, Hilel and Kahil, were actually nice people. They told stories how they were afraid of the Palestinians police. But it just put more trepidation in my heart working with them; they admitted that they could be given pressure to do things they wouldn’t be happy with to save their own families. I am not sure why the schools still hired them.
Reports started coming in; first how one of the towers was hit. Was it a mistake? A terrorist attack? It wasn’t clear yet. Then, the second tower was hit. Work stopped. We all looked at each other. “That’s it. I got to go.” I grabbed my son and we ran to the Kotel.
We were not the only ones. People swarm into the plaza as one huge mass. Prayers, Tehillim, crying, we all there together trying to make sense. “Did you hear?” was the constant phrase. Asher, my son, pulled my arm. “Ima, for my birthday can we find a TV to watch the news?”
“We’ll go to our cousins, in Talpiot, they have a TV.” By the time we got there the second building had been hit, and they were showing the crash and the collapse of the two buildings over and over again with scenes of the Pentagon interspersed.
“Where is your father?” I asked my cousin, since both of our families lived in New Jersey and worked at times in the city.
“Pennsylvania.” And just then they reported on the news of the fourth plane went down somewhere in Pennsylvania. The film of the towers was playing over and over again, with shots of the pentagon, yet we couldn’t see it enough. We just cried; all three of us.
We had been hit time and time again, in Israel. Each time it was personal, painful and a powerful reminder that we have no one to trust but the Almighty. But in one hour, the evil ones brought America to her knees. Over three thousand lives killed. The buildings that represented the free world were destroyed by a dozen men with a few knives. The bigger they are the greater the fall.
It seems every generation has their watershed moment as a nation. My parents had D-Day of the Second World War. For me it was the assignation of Kennedy, although I was only two; I still remembered the day. For my older kids, brought up in Israel, it was the killing of Rabin. The day they started realizing world events are part of our inner lives too. Then of course there were all the terrorist attacks, when actually people we knew were murdered.
But, 9/11 supersedes it all. It changed the world. It became the watershed moment for us as a world people. I have a son who was born afterwards and he can never understand how it was different before that date, when America felt strong, invincible, and safe. He has never been fooled to think in those terms, as we once had.
Israel, thank G-d, receives her blows little by little in small numbers. The rest of the world can sit quietly on the side and think they are safe, they think they know how to handle terrorists; just show them we are on their side, support BDS and BOOM! Terrorism comes to the world in large numbers.
- July 26, 2016: Two armed men stormed a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, a suburb of Rouen in northern France. The attackers slit the throat of elderly priest Father Jacques Hamel and took four other people hostage. One of hostages is fighting for his life.
- July 24, 2016: In two separate attacks on Sunday, a man blew himself up in Ansbach and a man killed a pregnant woman during a machete attack in Reutlingen.
- July 22, 2016: A young Iranian-German gunman went on a deadly rampage in Munich on Friday after being inspired by far-right killer Anders Breivik.
- July 18, 2016: A doctor died after being shot in a Berlin hospital on Tuesday July 26 during the fifth horror attack in Germany in just over a week. The string of violent attacks started when an axeman hacked passengers on a train in Wurzburg .
- March 22, 2016: Brussels bombings: The Brussels bombings killed 32 people and wounded more than 300 other victims in a day of terror. There were two suicide bombings at Brussels Airport and another bombing at a Metro station in the Belgium capital.
- 2, 2015: San Bernadino, Calif; fourteen people are killed and more than 20 wounded when a couple, husband and wife team open fire at a holiday party at the Inland Regional Center, a service facility for people with disabilities and special needs in San Bernardino, California.
- November 13, 2015: The Paris attacks; a series of terrifying attacks in Paris killed 130 victims and injured hundreds of others. It was the most deadly assault on French soil since World War II.
- June 12, 2015: A mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub in the early hours of Sunday, leaves 50 people dead.
- June 14, 2015: Karachi, Pakistan: bomb explodes outside American consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, killing 12.
- January 9, 2015: A policewoman was killed a day later. On, another terrorist killed four hostages at a Jewish supermarket.
- January 7, 2015: Charlie Hebdo attack; two masked gunmen carried out a bloody terror attack on the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris killing 12 people during the lunchtime massacre at the Charlie Hebdo offices in the French capital.
- 2, 2014: An ISIS militant decapitates another American journalist, Steven Sotloff, 31, who worked for Time and other news outlets.
- August 19, 2014: Members of ISIS behead American journalist James Foley from Global Post, 40, in apparent retaliation for U.S. airstrikes against the group.
- April 15, 2013: Boston, Mass; multiple bombs explode near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three people are killed and more than 260 people are injured.
- 11, 2012: Benghazi, Libya: militants armed with antiaircraft weapons and rocket-propelled grenades fire upon the American consulate, killing U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other embassy officials.
- 26, 2008: Mumbai, India: about 300 people are wounded and nearly 190 people die, including the four Israelis from the Chabad house, Rivkah and Gavriel Holtzberg, Rabbi Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum of Jerusalem and Ben Tzion Korman of Bat Yam.
To name a few. Terrorism has taken over the world and we are left to remember ‘ain od milvado’ there is nothing but G-d.