Monday, March 19, 2012

3/19/12: Tragedy Is Never So Far Away

Mourners outside of a Jewish school in France where 4 people were murdered 

Today brought unimaginable tragedy to a Jewish community in the Southwestern French city of Toulouse. This morning at around 8am a man on a motorcycle drove up to a Jewish school in a residential neighborhood of Toulouse, opened fire, and killed 4 people including the Rabbi, his two young sons, and the young daughter of the school's principle. Along with the 4 confirmed deaths, two other individuals were seriously injured and a country was shaken by one of the worst attacks on France's Jewish community in almost 3 decades. French officials are speculating that this was not an isolated incident due to the fact that, including this attack on the Jewish community, there have been three other motorcycle based attacks that police believe are possibly linked to terrorism due to the nature of the victims all belonging to minority groups in France. The other 3 attacks left French men of North African, Arab, and Caribbean decent dead, and security has now been dramatically increased around the country's Jewish and Muslim centers (schools, places of worship, neighborhoods, etc.). 

I was profoundly heartbroken to hear this news and couldn't believe that only last night I was talking to my mother about my own upcoming trip to France in two weeks, and my excitement to see it's Jewish community. And then this... I will never understand how a person can feel so much hate that he is driven to kill innocent people... News of this massacre resonated heavily in Israel with statements being issued by all major players in Israeli government. An attack on a Jewish community anywhere in the world will always be felt in the Jewish homeland. Us Jews make up such a small percentage of people in this big world that an attack on one is like an attack on all. My whole heart goes out to everyone affected by this monstrous event, and I pray they find the man responsible for taking the lives of these 4 innocent people. 

Mourner's Kaddish for those who were killed today... 

Turning my focus back to Israel and the Middle East, these past few weeks have not been without a fare share of excitement, and I don't mean the good kind... During the past week and a half there has been profound unrest between Israel and Gaza's branch of the group Islamic Jihad. Gazan rockets have pounded the cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod (which is a mere 40 km away from where I live in Tel Aviv), and Israeli strikes in response to rocket fire have shaken Gaza for over two weeks. My mother asked me the other day if I was scared that the rockets were so close, and my response surprised even me. I told her that news of Gaza's rockets is getting to be so common that it almost doesn't phase me anymore (which is immensely sad in itself). Of course it is scary to think that rockets are being fired only 40km from where I live, but I still feel safer here in Israel than I do anywhere else in the world, even my small, relatively safe town of Palm Springs. To be honest to a fault, if I had to chose between living in Ashdod or downtown LA I wouldn't even hesitate to chose Ashdod. 

With that being said I hope no one thinks I am downplaying the severity of the situation here in Israel. When tensions are high between the Jewish state and her Muslim neighbors it is no laughing matter. However, the measures that this country takes to protect her citizen's (of which I am now one) is unmatched by any other place in the world, including the United States (in my opinion). When Islamic Jihad fired their rockets, they were met with a new Israeli development that was designed to use rockets to counter rockets. This invention was put to the test during this last strike and proved to be overwhelmingly successful. 

An Israeli rocket being launched to counter the rocket coming in from Gaza in mid air:
Iron Dome 
The Iron Dome project was so successful that it stopped all but 6 of the many rockets that were showered into Israel from hitting major centers. Here is a clip of what Israelis living in these towns experience during a rocket attack. It is a crazy world we live in, and everyday I am hoping that one day a solution will be found to put an end to this age old conflict. It may seem impossible and hopeless, but as long as there are people who remain hopeful and constructive I know that steps can be achieved towards eventual peace; even if they are baby steps.

Now onto less depressing news. School is fantastic and each of my classes is more fascinating than the next. I am taking three wonderful seminars on the "History and Historiography of the Palestinian Israeli conflict", "Gender, Age, Sexuality, and Health in the Middle East", and one on the "Evolution of the Arab State System". I am learning so much, and finding out so many interesting things about this amazing region that I have decided to spend the rest of my life in. Over this next week I will dedicate a post to details on each of the classes because there is too much information to put in this, already lengthy, post. 

This past weekend was, yet again, better than the one before, which, again, I didn't think was humanly possible. I spent some much needed time with my girlfriend Susanna, got my share of dancing the night away, and spent the rest of the time relaxing and enjoying time with amazing friends. I regret that there were no pictures taken but I will make up for that next weekend :-) 

Stay tuned! Lilah Tov Chaverim,
Jordana Simone

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