I was still snoozing at 6:30 this morning when the phone rang. I guessed it was a radio interview for my husband who arises early, and let him pick it up. But soon he was calling my name--saying it was our son.
"Bad timing," I thought, assuming our 18-year-old wanted the flight information for his return home for Passover. But no. "Mom, I'm all right," he began, and I bolted upright.
"There was a terrorist attack at the bus stop today, and I just wanted to let you know I'm okay." My son is spending the year in Jerusalem studying at a yeshiva, a post-high-school program focusing on Jewish texts designed to set him on the right path spiritually for life. The only transportation he uses in Jerusalem is busses, and he rides them from one end of town--where his school is located--to the other, where we have friends and family. Yes, my son told me, he stands at and rides by that bus stop often, including the day before.
"Well don't ride any more busses," I told him firmly, recalling placing the same restriction on our daughter when she spent 2004-5 in seminary there.
It's only moms who are far away giving such admonitions. The rest of Israel, including all of Jerusalem, soon went about its business in normal fashion. The modern, fast-paced nation doesn't let one incident slow it down, and in fact, the attitude is that a strong and vibrant culture will repel repercussions better than dwelling on injury.
And Israel is definitely strong. Both men and women serve in the military, wearing their M-16 guns slung across their backs even when off-duty. The sight of well-armed and well-trained youth on the streets brings a feeling of security. As do careful inspections of trunks of cars as they pull into parking lots and structures, and watchful door guards at cafes and gathering places.
I'll never forget the sight at my nephew's wedding three years ago--his army buddies dancing around him link-armed in a circle, their long guns flapping against their backs as they jumped and high-stepped in joy. This is a society that trusts in God, but knows that man must do his part as well.
So, there was a a bomb, perhaps remotely controlled to hit a passing bus, left next to the bus stop. A woman died, three are in critical condition, twenty are injured. President Obama "condemns in the strongest possible terms" the bombing and in the same paragraph expresses "deepest condolences" to the families of 4 Palestinians accidentally killed in a Gaza airstrike aimed to stop the "dozens of rockets" that Benjamin Netanyahu says Hamas has "rained down" on southern Israel targets over the past several days.
I don't think the latest attack affected the safety situation in Israel overall. The modern, achieving people in that tech-savvy country are aware that some of their Jew-hating neighbors want them eliminated. They continue to carry out their usual activities, with a prudent sense of caution, aware that in the broader context, Israel has a very low intentional murder rate--2.1 per 100,000 population compared to the U.S.'s rate of 5.0 per 100,000 people. (Mexico and Russia both show 15 murders per 100,000 population in latest figures.)
As a mom, I'd rather have all my children close to me, and certainly prefer to have my son within my protective purview. But I also know that this is a precious year for him, a year when he can gain independence within the structure of a grounded program that will reinforce solid values. He likes his teachers and feels he's maturing and gaining insight. So, happy as I'll be when he returns home for Passover, I also know that there's something worthwhile about this special time in Jerusalem, center of spirituality.
I don't relish unexpected phone calls telling me of very frightening events. But being a parent means that unless your kids are sleeping soundly under your own roof, you're bound to have a tinge of worry, and if they're old enough to be on their own, I'd rather their early morning phone call begin with "Mom, I'm all right..." Somehow, I believe (though I continue to pray) that Israel will be all right, too.