A bus exploded at a crowded bus stop near a central bus station in Jerusalem today, killing a woman and injuring at least two dozen others. The explosion was apparently caused by a bomb left in a bag near the stop. This was the first such bombing in Jerusalem in over four years. No group has come forward to claim responsibility.
The threat of terrorist bombings have been a fact of life in Israel for as long as I can remember. I remember being a kid and being afraid of going there. I remember talking to Israelis about the anxiety of living in a place like Jerusalem, or even Tel Aviv, where a terrorist nightmare could happen at any time.
It turns out, as we learned in 2001, that we all live in a place where something terrible could happen at any time. Maybe there’s something we can learn about living with uncertainty from people who have always accepted uncertainty as a given.
In the aftermath of 9/11, as we were trying to fathom our new anxiety-tinged life, I thought about Israelis. Israeli residents grow up, and raise their children, in a place where this particular risk is part of the equation. How do they deal with this? According to most of the Israeli’s I’ve interviewed on the subject, they mostly deal by not thinking about it. Sometimes they avoid certain places they consider particularly risky for whatever reason. But overall, the main tactic seems to be: If it happens, it happens. There’s nothing I can do to prevent it from happening. So why should I let it ruin my life?
This kind of attitude is perhaps harder for Americans to swallow since the exposure to this type of risk is still so new on our shores. But recent events have been a scary reinforcement of what we already know: our ability to protect ourselves against disaster, whether by terrorist or natural causes, is sadly limited. Maybe we should focus on limiting how much worry about it affects the good parts of our families’ lives. I know I’m going to try.