by Rabbi Jonny Roodyn
Over the course of history, cities become identified with events – all too often, horrific ones. Many of us closely associate Munich with the tragic air disaster of 1958 and the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics.
In more recent years, Boston with the marathon bombing and in the last few months Tunisia, Paris, Brussels, Istanbul and Lahore among others have joined this infamous list. The Brussels and Paris attacks appear to have been closely connected and associated with the so-called Islamic State and have shaken Europe to its core.
The outpouring of solidarity and unity is comforting and heartwarming, but the fear is palpable. Politicians and security experts are predicting similar attacks – with no end in sight. The goal of terrorism is just that, to strike fear into the hearts of ordinary citizens, to paralyse and prevent them from leading normal lives.
In a certain sense, the effects of the attack reach far further than the death and destruction that they leave in their wake. Certain cities however, do not appear to be immediately associated with the terror attacks that have taken place there. Notable examples include New York and Jerusalem.
Perhaps one reason is that they are seen as being bigger than the attacks that have occurred on their soil. Or maybe it is because the residents themselves refuse to be defined by their tragedies. In this week’s sedra, the joy of the inauguration of the mishkan was marred by the death of Aaron’s two sons Nadav and Avihu.
The sages of the Talmud (Avot De Rabbi Natan 14:6) interpret this silence as a sign of being comforted. Aaron responds to this tragedy with strength and silence allowing national life to continue. Tragedies may be outside of our control but we do have the ability to choose how to respond to them. My hope and prayer is that those who have been hurt or injured should have a speedy and complete recovery and that God should comfort all those who have lost loved ones. May He guide the governments of all civilised countries to make bold and correct decisions so that humanity regardless of race or religion can live safely without fear of terror. May we remain strong in the face of adversity. I hope and pray that people of Brussels do not let the attacks define them. This will be their greatest victory over the terrorists. • Jonny is an Aish UK rabbi