A message of solidarity from Haifa to my American friends on 9/11
By Rabbi Edgar Nof
In Israel, we retell the legend of a meeting between Napoleon and the Jews. When Napoleon asked the Jews why they commemorate Passover, the Jews answered that they annually celebrate their exodus from slavery to freedom in Egypt 3000 years ago. Napoleon replied that a people who can remember how they were enslaved 3000 years ago deserve to be emancipated in the present.
We Jews are immersed in a time of reflection and introspection before Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. And yet, we perceive that one of our greatest blind spots is ’9/11 amnesia,’ caused in part by a wish to push a traumatic memory away. In Israel, stories related to 9/11 were all over the media for several years. Today, you can barely hear a mention of what happened on this terrible tragic day, and the consequences of the attack.
I remember a few months after the attack, I came with a few high school students from Haifa to visit sister congregations in the Boston area. Everywhere we went, there were American flags waving and banners proclaiming “united we stand.” We were very moved by the American people’s courageous response to those barbaric criminal attacks.
I think that today, too, we have to maintain this message: terrorism will not defeat us. Today, from my home in Haifa, I want to stand with you, my friends in the USA, as we remember the three thousand citizens killed on Tuesday, September 11th, 2001. I feel obligated to remember. I remember when 19 young Arab Al Kaida terrorists hijacked four planes in order to destroy American symbols of freedom, democracy and progress. I remember seeing the worst side of humanity.
Osama Bin Laden, the deranged mastermind, said that one of his three motivations behind the attacks was objection to American support of Israel. The events of 9/11 have transformed not only many dimensions of American life, but also the lives of citizens around the world. The attacks caused economic, social, cultural and political changes that affect us all. America has since been engaged in a series of foreign conflicts including Iraq and Afghanistan; simultaneously, Israel was witness to a huge wave of terrorism post 9/11, what we call the Al Aqsa Intifada from 2001 to 2006. During that time more than a thousand people were killed in over 14,000 attacks. During 2002, on the heels of the 9/11 attack, 457 civilians were killed in one single year, the largest number in Israel’s history since 1935.
Terror attacks are perpetrated in order to destroy a society based on understanding and tolerance, mutual respect and civil law. Terrorists want America and the free western world to feel afraid and desperate. Building a better society and recovering from these attacks is the best way to defeat the main goals of terrorism.
Today as a Jew, as an Israeli, and as a human being, I stand with you, America. Together we remember 9/11. In the year 2012, the 11th anniversary of this horrendous attack, we may not yet fully understand how history changed and unfolded on that tragic and terrible day. We share your pain and your sorrow, and also your hope for a better tomorrow. I believe that all of us in the Land of Israel must stand with America today: whether Israeli, Palestinian, Arab, Jew, Muslim, Christian, Druze or Bahai. We must stand with America in order to create a world based on the values of freedom and tolerance, understanding and pluralism, mutual respect, love and peace.
Rabbi Edgar Nof is a Reform Rabbi in Haifa. He grew up in Argentina and made Aliya in 1981. Rabbi Nof received his ordination from Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem and holds a doctorate in Jewish Studies (D.H.L.).