Like Israelis, Bostonians show resilence amid pain

Like Israelis, Bostonians show resilence amid pain

    Published in The Boston Globe, April 18, 2014
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    CG Yehuda Yaakov CG Yehuda Yaakov
    Nir Landau
    A month after my arrival in Boston, my newly adopted city, I realized that it suffered from an open wound. It hit me precisely on March 10, when a local news outlet retweeted the following from a teenager:

    “My dad won’t let me go to the boston music fest BC of the marathon bombing. with that mentality I’ll never be able to go anywhere.”

    I replied, perhaps hastily: “In israel, which sadly had its share, our young people - inc my 2 daughters - go everywhere, even a few hrs after,” a bombing.

    She sadly wrote back: “Yeah, even though it’s sad, a rare occurrence shouldnt stop us from living our routine lives no matter how bad.”

    Unsure how to comfort the writer, I stopped the correspondence and instead asked myself: How is my experience dealing with terrorism in Israel relevant to the people of Boston? The truth was that I did not know. So, I began to pay more attention to what people in Boston were saying about the Marathon bombings.

    I found many signs of pain and apprehension: the shootout rehashed on TV, mobile security cameras installed, PA system enhanced, to mention only a few. But I also discovered expressions of optimism and hope: a bombing survivor’s fiancée expecting a child, runners preparing for the upcoming Marathon, banners hung to celebrate the resilience of the people of Boston, even the painting of a new finish line.

    An example that I found truly remarkable was that of Adrianne Haslet-Davis, the dancer who lost her leg in the bombings. Less than a year later (and two weeks after my Twitter exchange), she took the stage at the 2014 TED Conference in Vancouver and danced again — for the first time in public since she suffered her grievous loss. The Globe reported that she “showed off her new high-tech prosthetic leg as she twirled across the floor.”

    No doubt she endured months of extraordinary physical and emotional challenges as she climbed back to normalcy. These are the sort of challenges to which Israel’s population, after years of terrorism, has become accustomed. Many of our citizens have been left handicapped or traumatized, often both. Despite the difficulties, however, most people have found a way to overcome their circumstances through personal resilience and the support of a society that stands by its victims — indeed embraces them.

    Here in Boston, too, both of these qualities have been abundantly evident.

    Our experience shows that while the personal tragedies are enduring, the personal successes are an inspiration helping the collective. The stories of the many survivors have demonstrated that as well as any Israeli could, making our own stories superfluous here. Perhaps there is no better embodiment of the unwavering spirit of this city — indeed, like that of Israel — than the conclusion of the Globe’s aforementioned write-up:

    “After finishing her performance, Haslet-Davis sported a huge smile, wiped a tear from her eye and took a bow.”

    No one can guarantee that tragedy will never strike, but this model of resilience is critical when — heaven forbid — it does. The support and love of the people of Boston, no doubt, are helping all of the city’s residents to overcome the past and move on.

    Good luck to this year’s Marathon participants. May the best runner win.

    Yehuda Yaakov is Israel’s Consul General to New England