Every Death Is Too Close To Home

The entire world is bleeding.

If you take the time to press your face against the glass, you can see it lying there. Pulsing. Struggling for breath. Panting in an effort to replenish its supply of oxygen and normalcy and hope before the next attack.

Because as much as we hope there won’t be one, we all expect it. We all keep our eyes on the news and wait for it.

The next attack.

And I know. I know that these attacks have always occurred. That terror has always existed. That ‘now’ is no different than ‘then.’

But back ‘then,’ fear felt more distant.

In college, my classmates and I were given the task of raising awareness about the genocide in Darfur. We endeavored to light up the streets of Manhattan with bright yellow shirts and bright orange signs.

But honestly? I cared more about raising my grade point average than raising awareness.

Because I couldn’t relate to them. These people who lived in a country I had never visited and spoke a language I had never learned. I did not share their skin color. I did not relate to their culture. I did not identify with their heritage.

I was saddened by the situation of those in Africa, but not sad enough to donate more than a signature to the cause. Because I could easily differentiate between Me and Her. Between Us and Them.

I was here, they were there. 6,342 miles apart.

But now? Now something is different. Now, every attack feels like an attack against me personally.

Because last week, an 18 year old American boy named Ezra Schwartz was murdered.

Amongst the cries have been some proclamations of, “It’s just too close. It’s too close to home.” Because he was an acquaintance of a friend of mine.

And because we are that boy.

We are the Americans who traveled to Israel for a gap year in between high school and college. We are the teens who told our parents, “don’t worry. Yes, I’m being safe. Yes, I told you I’m being safe. I’m going with everyone else. Okay, Mom? I really have to go now.”

We are the ‘do gooders’ who went to do charity work in nearby neighborhoods. We are the kids who spent nights debating about whether to go to sleep early or hang out with friends.

We are that boy.

(Except that we are still here, whereas he was murdered.)

And two weeks ago, there was the wedding of Sarah-Techiya Litman and Ariel Biegel. Or, what should have been the wedding of Sarah-Techiya Litman and Ariel Biegel. Because instead, they sat in mourning. Because the bride’s father and 18-year-old brother were shot en route to celebrate the upcoming nuptials.

And amongst the cries have been some proclamations of, “It’s just too close. It’s too close to home.”

Because we are that bride.

We are the fortunate who have emerged triumphant in the struggle to find our other halves. We are the mixture of nervous and excited and happy and scared when we realized that he was the one.

We are the girls who have planned the wedding. We have sent out the invitations. We have gathered family members together to celebrate the weekend before.

We are that bride.

(Except that our gowns were made of lace whereas hers was sown from tears and incredible fortitude.)

And then there was Paris. We all know what happened in Paris. The names are too many. Mothers and Fathers and Sons and Daughters and Businessmen and Concert-goers were lost to the world. There is a website listing every victim alongside a photo and short bio. A life-worth of hopes and dreams and struggles, compressed into 4 sentences.

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And amongst the cries have been some proclamations of, “It’s just too close. It’s too close to home.”

Because we are those concert-goers.

We are the working class who went out for a ‘night on the town’ with our friends. We are the dreamers who bought tickets with hopes of seeing our favorite band. We are the girls who did our hair before going out. We have taken selfies and posted them on social media.

We are those concert-goers.

(Except that we crashed into our beds at the end of the night, whereas they never left the concert.)

And then there was Kenya. 147 college students, gunned down while attending university classes.

And amongst the cries have been some proclamations of, “It’s just too close. It’s too close to home.”

Because we are those students.

We are the dedicated, who hope to get an education so that we can make a living so that we can build a life. We are the procrastinators who finish our assignments right before class and then run to school in order to turn them in.

We are the buyers of backpacks and pencils and clothing which we hoped would impress the guy sitting down the row from us. We have stressed about grades and memorized information and struggled to keep our eyes open, because we know that this is important.

We are those students.

(Except that we’ve gone on to stress about our next exam, whereas they’ll never get that chance.)

We are all connected.

And in truth, some deaths will effect us more than others. The same way that some celebrations effect us more than others.

We react more viscerally to the fortunes of our family. Of our community. Of our country.

And it would be impossible to fall apart after every news report. We wouldn’t be able to survive it.

But there is this battle. This unspoken competition. This media war rating whose pain is greater. Rating which deaths mean more.

Which is insinuating that it’s possible to rate which lives mean more.

Which is insinuating that the value of souls can be measured.

It doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish or American – you should care about what happens in Kenya.

It doesn’t matter if you’re French or Buddhist – you should care about what happens in Israel.

Because it doesn’t matter what color our skins are or what flags we wave or what ages we are.

It doesn’t matter which continents we live on and how far apart they are.

Every act of terror is too damn close to home.


Image by Amir Farshad Ebrahimi of Eli Azran mourning his daughter who was killed by a Hamas rocket in Ashdod, Israel in 2008.