Dreams Were Shattered
By Shira Landau
Hillel Campus Israel Affairs Fellow
Delivered on Thursday, August 1 at a vigil at Georgetown University
We are gathered here tonight because on Wednesday afternoon in Jerusalem a bomb exploded and dreams were shattered. We are gathered here tonight because we can only begin to fathom the feeling of those parents and family. Those parents - making frantic calls on cell phones. Parents, hearts pounding, waiting to hear from their children. We are gathered here tonight because this tragedy strikes very deep. The victims, young people like you and like me, who wanted to learn, who looked with passion toward the future... always hoping. We are gathered here tonight because even amid all the ifs and unknowns of life in Israel, men and women from North American universities traveled to Israel to study at the Hebrew University. They went to stand in solidarity with Israel. They went to send the strong message that Israel will not be weakened by terrorism. And so tonight we all gathered here to honor and mourn the loss of those brave souls.
Yesterday Hillel received an e-mail from an American law student who is completing her degree at the Hebrew University. Her name is Noa. Her words are simple and honest but they made me shiver in fear. She wrote: "A thought dawns on me. I have friends in the middle of finals in the law school. Just yesterday a sweet, Australian guy I met at Shabbat lunch called me up. We made plans to have dinner next week. He is a third-year law student at Hebrew University. Do I still have a date for Sunday night?" These words made me shiver because I realized that she, like those who perished, are exactly like you and I. This reality begs the question of our responsibility to those in Israel.
It must be made clear that these terrorists did not only intend to kill innocent civilians and to instill fear in an already terrorized nation. We must all realize that on Wednesday they aimed at something deeper. By striking at a university, at a place of higher learning where people go to exchange ideas, to learn, to grow they were trying to silence our voice. On our own campuses, anti-Israel groups are using intimidation tactics to try to silence our message that Israel has truly always sought peace. But in honor of these victims, some of whom we know, and in face of this tragic reality, let us reaffirm our commitment, right now. We will not be silenced. And Hillel is willing and committed to work with any student who believes in Israel's right to exist and flourish as a Jewish state within secure and recognized boundaries.
The spread of terrorism into caf's, nightclubs, universities and even into the heart of Manhattan, has changed our reality forever. As we face this new reality we are also approaching a new school year with new faces and new challenges. We must meet these challenges with courage. This year let us continue to stand proudly with Israel. Let us look to Wednesday's attack to strengthen our commitment to educate others and ourselves about the reality of the Middle East, about the groups that are bent on destroying any hope for the future and about Israel's quest for peace.
As a rabbi once said when he was being murdered and his students asked him what did he see? He answered: The parchments are burning but the letters are flying free.
We are about to end this vigil with the singing of the Star Spangled Banner and Hatikva, two national anthems about freedom, about hope. Tonight, let us set ourselves to the task at hand during this upcoming year and set our sights to the future. The students of America stand with you, Israel, because we believe in a future of freedom and our hope will not be silenced.