Every person has his own particular situations that frighten him, as fear is part of the human condition. Some things are universally scary, like illness, accidents, and natural disasters. Other fears are more subjective. Many people fear the unknown. But what is unknown and frightening to one person is just plain ordinary for another, causing the other to have difficulty understanding why the person is even afraid at all.
Years ago, there was a time when our enemies in Gaza were targeting southern Israel with ongoing and continuous rocket attacks. With the situation in the south being precarious, few people felt safe traveling to Sderot, and their businesses began to suffer. In order to help ease their plight, many shuls in the center of the country took it upon themselves to host fairs for the residents of the south. The store owners would transport their merchandise from Sderot to the shuls, and then local residents would make it a point to come and shop. It was a compassionate gesture that brought much needed income to the store owners and gave the communities a very convenient and pleasant shopping experience. It was a win-win all around.
My brother lives in the Shomron. Eager to help their brothers in the south, his shul reached out and offered to host such a fair. However, the residents of Sderot declined the offer. Why? Because they were afraid to go to the Shomron. They were subjected to a constant barrage of rockets raining down on their city, had to run for cover with barely any warning at all, spent entire nights sleeping in shelters, yet they were fearful of coming to the Shomron. This came as quite a surprise to the residents of the Shomron who go about their daily lives there with no fear at all. Each group feared the unknown but the unknown is not the same for everybody.
As I write this article, I am sitting on a flight heading to New York to share in the simchah of a very dear friend. I am looking forward to celebrating with my friend, but as I get closer to my destination, I feel a sense of apprehension coming over me. I never felt as safe in New York as I do in Ramat Beit Shemesh, but with all the incidents of anti-Semitism being reported in the news on a constant basis, I’m feeling a bit worried about my upcoming trip. Violence, harassment, curses, threats – and significantly worse – are occurring in alarming frequency in places where I’ve lived, visited, and intend to visit. I have lots of family and friends living in these places. It’s quite unsettling. The turbulence on my plane brings to mind the turbulence of the world and the times in which we are living. Somehow I manage to calm myself by remembering a scary incident that I experienced a few short years ago.
It was the height of the stabbing intifada back in the year 2015-2016. The entire country was on high alert and people were extremely anxious, as multiple stabbings were the order of the day. During that same period, Ramat Beit Shemesh was dealing with the problem of packs of wild dogs on the loose. Large groups of dogs would freely roam the streets and attack residents at their whim. Being the cautious person that I am, during this time period, whenever I took my daily power walk, I armed myself with pepper spray in one hand and a rock in the other. I was pretty high-strung, but I wasn’t about to give up my walk. One day, when I was walking very late in the afternoon, I suddenly felt a dark figure come up behind me. In an instant my heartbeat quickened as did my pace. But the figure behind me did the same. Then I really began to sweat as my tension mounted. I broke out into a jog in an effort to outrun whoever was behind me but it was to no avail. The figure stayed right on my heels, not even making the slightest attempt to be discreet. I jumped in horror as I realized there was no escape and turned around to get a good look at my would-be assailant. I burst out laughing when I landed on my feet and realized that my pursuer was nothing other than my shadow! I was so stressed that, yes, I was afraid of my own proverbial shadow, which was so long and dark at that hour of the day, not that I ever noticed my shadow during the many times I’ve walked at that same hour. What a relief!
I continued on my walk as I regained my composure and thought about the pasuk we say in T’hilim, “Hashem shomrecha; Hashem tzilcha al yad y’minecha.” Hashem is our protective shadow. He is always extremely close by, looking after us and making sure that we have exactly what we need. Not a bit more. Not a bit less. With a personal Guard who never sleeps, by our side 24/7, we don’t actually have a reason to fear. Whatever is meant to happen will happen. And Hashem knows best exactly what we need. V’Ha’ikar lo l’facheid klal. With these thoughts in mind, I am able to relax as we make our final descent.
Suzie (nee Schapiro) Steinberg grew up in Kew Gardens Hills. She works as a social worker and lives with her husband and children in Ramat Beit Shemesh.