In wake of terror, a hope for peace, love and candy canesPublished 7:03am Thursday, December 11, 2008
Last week, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wrote about the human spirit. That I was thankful for its ability to endure.
No time did that seem more apparent than in the days that followed our holiday as events unfolded a world away in Mumbai, India.
There, terrorists put the city under siege, setting off a round of explosions, and gunning down innocent civilians, taking countless hostages and changing the lives of the victims' families forever.
Much speculation has been made on the how the Mumbai attack unfolded. The calculation, the planning – and some are wondering if this is the new face of terrorism. Calculated plots that strike numerous targets at once.
Reports say terrorists who stormed the lobbies of hotels involved in the attack demanded and acquired the names, room numbers and information of Westerners in particular. Going from one room to the next…
Westerners were not the only victims in the attack, however. Of all the victims, India is mourning a majority.
I've always held the opinion that terrorism is rooted in fanatical symbolism. Sometimes the strike is not about the end result – but what the hater believes will be a bigger symbol of their supposed power.
Strike the largest building. Strike at the utmost innocent of victims. And so I was struck at the attack as taking place in a country that gave the world the non-violent philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi. The country that served as the place where Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu – known more commonly as Mother Theresa – took her initial vows as a nun.
Of course the need for peace is always more prominent when it is disturbed. Most often, by violence. It's a lot like love. Love is everywhere. It is in our blood, coursing as resolutely as our family histories. It's in the families we create for ourselves – the friends whose shoulders we lean on and cry on. It's in the curious eyes of our children and the compassionate eyes of our husbands and wives. It even lives in the selfless kindness of strangers. But as with love, when it comes to peace, we sometimes forget about its very existence, until we find ourselves without it .. .in need of it.
As a society – we can be vigilant against terror. Be resilient – as has been clearly seen by a country that has survived the attack on Pearl Harbor (the anniversary of which is marked this weekend) and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But we can not always control it. We can do our part to try and prevent it. We can try to eliminate it entirely. And when events such as the attack on Mumbai take place, it seems all we can do – is try.
Roosevelt was on to something when he said, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Because it is fear that breeds terror by initiating hatred. Terrorists fear those whose ideals different from theirs. And that fear takes over, breeding hatred, becoming terror…
Far from the bloodstained streets of Mumbai, last night I wrapped my arm around Morgan, the small, sweet smelling little baby girl of one of my oldest friends. Her eyes seemed to get wider with every second. Wider with curiosity, wider with excitement. Her lips were maneuvering their way into uncontrollable smiles.
I thought of two-year-old Moshe Holtzberg. Moshe's parents, the Rabbi Gabi and Rivka Holtzberg were murdered last week in Mumbai. Moshe was miraculously saved by his nanny, it was reported, who was also killed. Members of the Jewish Community – and others I imagine – have offered to take care of the little boy, whose eyes remind me of Morgan's, raised in a smile as he is shown in a recent photo, sitting in the safe arms of his mother.
Moshe will not have the chance to know the love his parents shared for each other – and for him.
Because love – like peace – is the ultimate target of terror.
"When you have faith," Rivka is quoted as saying, "you believe that God puts challenges in front of you, and tests your faith. Sometimes you may not understand why things happen, but that does not mean you should lose faith. Sometimes it takes years to figure out what you learned from the situation…"
Moshe will never have the chance to learn Gabi and Rivka's stories in their own words. And I can only hope that what he gains is a world in which intolerance to terror builds … saving another child from losing a parent to hatred.
And when I got home last night, I slipped out a Christmas card from an envelope my friend had given me. Pictures of Morgan and her sister Madison, wishing happy holidays. 'Peace, Love and Candy Canes,' it read.