No matter where we live, terror is a cruel phenomenon that we have grown to accept as an unfortunate fact of twenty-first-century life. Indeed, the current war on terror that our nation is facing is a living testament to the ongoing battle being waged, in large part, against a faceless enemy.
The dread of being in an attack and of finding oneself in the crosshairs of a merciless enemy is nothing new. Our Holocaust-surviving parents and grandparents certainly tasted terror firsthand. And who can forget the hijackings of 1970, the Entebbe hostage standoff, the Munich massacre, the loss of life over Lockerbie, the incessant rocket attacks, the ongoing suicide bombings, the First and Second Intifadas and 9/11? All of the above, have, in a certain sense, desensitized us to the real essence of terror. Even if we haven’t suffered as victims ourselves, we observe as frustrated bystanders, distressed at our inability to prevent further attacks or even to provide comfort to the survivors.
This brings me back to the year 2000, as the news streaming in from Israel was bleak, with bombing after bombing murdering countless innocent men, women and children. As the number of dead and maimed mounted, so did the frustration of a number of concerned Jews. An ad hoc Orthodox Union mission (the first of many) was formed so we could visit the victims and try to comfort and console them, and begin, in a way, to understand the meaning of “terror.”
For a nation as small as Israel, the number of terror victims was truly staggering. We couldn’t possibly visit everyone. While our visits were planned in advance, we sadly were also compelled to make a few shivah calls at a moment’s notice. We visited between ten and fifteen homes a day all over the country, in places such as Elon Moreh, Psagot, Emanuel, Beit El, Netzarim, Neve Dekalim and Kiryat Arba. In Jerusalem, we went to neighborhoods like Bayit Vegan, Talpiot and Ramat Eshkol. After seeing the victims face to face, we felt the enormity of their tragedies and marveled at their ability to go on.
In the pages ahead, we bring to you not only five profiles in courage but five in-depth analyses of how ordinary Jews harnessed their faith in God after surviving a terrorist attack, and succeeded in creating a positive postscript to their lives. All of the victims exhibit extraordinary strength and resilience, and even more remarkable emunah.
You might remember Ora Cohen, her husband, and five small children, including a newborn, all of whom were on the No. 2 bus returning home from the Kotel when it exploded. Amid the carnage of that blast, Ora and her family were seriously injured. However, their road back to a normal semblance of family life through bitachon is an inspiring story that only Ora can tell.
There’s also seventeen-year-old Betty Levy, who deepened her connection to Yiddishkeit because of her pain, and the grieving Ruthi Cohen, who lost her sister, her home and her life as she knew it during the terrible summer of 2005. Other victims share similarly inspiring stories; if these stories teach us anything at all, it is the power of faith during times of crises.
On a lighter note, the issue features some refreshing and exciting talent from an Orthodox female artists group, which is arousing great interest in the art world. Only five years old, the group, called “From Under the Hat,” has already exhibited in many museums and is preparing for more shows up and down the East Coast.
We also asked Rabbi Mordechai Kuber, director of Kashrut, OU Israel, to explain the intricacies of shemittah and how it affects the American consumer. Readers will surely come away from his informative article with a deeper understanding and appreciation of this complex mitzvah. In an accompanying article, journalist Michael Freund introduces us to Ariel Porat, an Israeli farmer who found that hydroponic farming provides an “ideal solution” to the challenges posed by shemittah.
Finally, I invite readers to read Dr. Nathan Aviezer’s thought-provoking article on the nature of knowledge in the realm of science and Torah. As always, we hope you will enjoy the array of articles in this issue, and we look forward to receiving your feedback.