By Rabbi Roni Tabick
During the height of the Second Intifada, I was in Jerusalem studying at the Conservative Yeshiva – something my parents back in London had very mixed feelings about.
On the one hand, as rabbis, they were proud that their son had chosen to spend his year out between school and university studying Torah and learning Hebrew. On the other hand, 9/11 had just happened, and the Second Intifada was in full swing. They must have been sitting at home quite nervously watching the news, hoping not to hear of any trouble in Jerusalem.
Apart from the amazing Torah I studied, the wonderful friends I made, the teachers that set me on the path towards becoming a Masorti rabbi, I remember three images vividly from this time.
I remember sitting in Yeshiva and hearing a loud bang. And every time, the Yeshiva would quieten down and listen. If there was nothing, then we all breathed a sigh of relief – a car back-firing, or something else blissfully benign. But if there were sirens within a minute of the bang, then we knew something terrible had happened. Sometimes, I still do a double-take when I hear a loud bang, before remembering that we’re in London and it’s November.
I remember learning to recite Psalms in times of trouble, and in particular Psalm 121 – “I lift my eyes up to the hills, from where will my help come? My help comes from God, who made the heavens and the earth”. The tune haunts me to this day.
I remember running across the street to the payphone across the road, putting in money and leaving messages on my parents answering machine: “You’re about to hear that there’s been another bombing in Jerusalem, but don’t worry, I’m okay.”
It’s very different seeing this stuff on the news and actually being there. Very different for my parents, watching it on television to knowing that their son was in the middle of it. When I pray for peace in Jerusalem, in Israel, in the Palestinian Territories, these are the images that I think of, and what it means for people to live with those feelings, not just for a year out, but every day of their lives.