Every year on 9/11 I watch the same clip from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. In his first show after the tragedy of the terror attacks that struck so close to home, he struggles to put into words his grief and his belief in the American people. He finishes his heartfelt speech with a description of the view from his apartment; it used to face the World Trade Center, but after the attacks the view from his window was the Statue of Liberty, standing proud in the bay past the rubble of Lower Manhattan. “You can’t beat that,” he says, before taking a break and getting back to the dry political humor we know him well for.
I was six years old when those planes struck the Twin Towers, and I have grown up almost entirely under the shadow of that Tuesday morning in September. It’s honestly hard for me to imagine life without it affecting my community, my country and the world at large. It was one of those earth-shaking events in history, something that will be remembered well after much of what we know is gone. But if history has anything to say about the attacks, it fits perfectly with Jon Stewart’s story of the view outside his apartment window. Even after a symbol of American strength and ingenuity was destroyed, right behind it stood another poignant symbol of American spirit and perseverance. I have lived much of my life in a post-9/11 world, but I have not lived in a post-U.S. world because of it. The United States and its allies are still here, promoting peace and preventing terror wherever it may be around the globe.
While I have felt the effect of the horrific attacks on 9/11 as a New Yorker and as an American, I have also unfortunately felt the impact of terrorism in other aspects of my life. One of the great gifts of American culture is that you can be American while still retaining your identity from your old homeland. My father emigrated to America when he was a child, and through him I proudly retain my identity as an Israeli.
Thank God, Israel has never had an attack on the scale of 9/11. But the same fight that brought those planes to Manhattan brings knives into supermarkets and guns to the Temple Mount. In Israel, terrorism has been quieter; no less meaningful, just less loud. Piece by piece over decades, terrorism in Israel has added up, in a less theatrical and horrific way than that in the United States, but no less deadly by numbers. The same radical Islamic theology that brought war to America sixteen years ago is combatted in the West Bank and Gaza today. But at the same time the same stubborn pride and perseverance felt around the country after the Twin Towers fell is felt by Israelis as they refuse to avoid bus stops, nightclubs and restaurants that have been targeted by terror in the past or might be targeted in the future.
While the effects of terrorism have been felt both throughout the United States and Israel, I believe what connects them even more powerfully is their shared insistence on hope. Israelis and Americans both fight to live their lives free and without shame, to pursue happiness, and to choose for themselves what they believe and think. These shared values are upheld especially in the most dire of circumstances, when terrorism strikes at our homes and our hearts. That resistance to terror in defense of our way of life is what binds nations like the U.S. and Israel together. What we feel so viscerally in the imagery of the Lower Manhattan skyline falling just to frame the Statue of Liberty beyond the destruction, Israelis feel in their constant struggle against Islamic terrorism every day. In Israel, behind every fallen soldier and civilian is another to take their place. The history of Israel parallels that of the United States in that both have refused to submit to terror and abandon their founding principles of freedom and self-determination.
On this day of mourning and remembrance for the lives lost to senseless terror in New York, it gives me great comfort to keep in mind that those that supported and carried out this attack and others like it are being fought and beaten around the world by the United States and Israel alike. May both nations remain strong in the face of terror and death, and may one fallen symbol always be replaced by another, to keep the values that sustain us alive and well.