Last week was exactly 7 years since I was almost blown up in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem. After 7 years, it’s time to reflect back to be thankful for the gift of life.
In March 2002, I hosted 50 rabbis (as one of the programs of the convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) in Jerusalem that year) at the ICCI Education Center on in the prestigious German Colony in Jerusalem for a panel discussion with a Christian and Muslim Colleague on “The Contribution of Interreligious Dialogue to Peace-building in Israel and the Middle East,” a subject about which I have spoken and written extensively during the past 18 years. After the session, I joined three other rabbis and two spouses for lunch at the well-known Café Cafit on Emek Refaim St., just two blocks from my office. During the lunch, a terrorist entered the outer courtyard of the café and was noticed by a courageous waiter, who tackled him and dismantled his explosives, which were taken away by the police. We were saved by this act of bravery (and by the miracle of the non-functioning of the terrorist’s detonator!) and, thank God, I am alive to tell the story. On the following morning, when we went back to thank the heroic waiter, Shlomi ( a graduate of an elite Israeli army unit), we were interviewed by Israeli television, and by the end of the day the whole world knew about this incident. A few days later, my colleagues and I offered a special blessing of gratitude to God at Shabbat morning services held at Bet Shmuel/Mercaz Shimson, the educational and cultural center of the World Union for Progressive Judaism in the heart of Jerusalem in a very emotional and heart-warming ceremony, which I will never forget.
Notwithstanding this traumatic experience, I have tried to be a voice for dialogue and peaceful coexistence here in Israel. Since Israeli society has been moving to the right in recent years, I often find that my voice is a lonely one, but I persist nevertheless. In my lectures to visiting groups in Israel and around the world, I am often asked if Israel will ever live in peace, and my answer is “Yes!” It can and it will happen in my lifetime! As a counter to the prevailing mode of despair and pessimism, I continue to hold the view that our conflict is not irresolvable. If other complicated and long-standing conflicts in other parts of the world, such as South Africa and Northern Ireland, can be resolved, so can the one between Israel and the Palestinians and the neighboring Arab states.