I was 12-years-old when I was at my aunt Margit’s home in North York, Ontario, Canada, when I overheard her talking to my mom about 17-year-old, Marnie Kimelman, who was murdered on the beaches of Tel Aviv, Israel on 28 July, 1990, by Hamas terrorists. (She was also from North York, where I was born and raised.)
How does a young Jewish girl visit Israel on an organised youth trip to learn about her culture, religion, and roots, only to never return home?
Suddenly I had ill feelings towards this place called Israel. A real fear lived inside of me when I thought about ever visiting. I never want to go to Israel. Who would want to ever go there? How did her body come back home? Or would they go there to bury her? Why did they hate us so much?
I walked out of the kitchen and into the hallway, pondering my mortality, and all that it meant to be a Jewish Canadian, as the granddaughter of Spanish Moroccan immigrants and Romanian Holocaust survivors. I also thought about what it was like to be a young girl who would never return home.
I dedicated my debut chapbook, Casa de mi Corazón: A Travel Journal of Poetry & Memoir to Marnie Kimelman and to all victims of terror because I ended up also being a youth who visited Israel. Except I came back home in one piece. But then again, I almost didn’t: It was sometime in the afternoon of 30 July, 1997, when we received word that there were two consecutive suicide bombings that ripped through the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem. Our tour group had visited the market that morning.— Casa de mi Corazón: A Travel Journal of Poetry & Memoir.
Although I had a close call, I was safe and sound. I was alive. So I was able to live and learn. I was able to take my experiential learning from my travels to Israel and apply them to my life. I was able to reconnect with my identity, homeland, people, culture, religion, history, and roots.
But Marnie was not able to have the same privilege as I did. No, Marnie did not have the same opportunities I had. Instead, she was murdered for being Jewish by Hamas terrorists who planted a bomb on the beaches of Tel Aviv.
And in fact, many Jews, especially those in the Diaspora, are fearful of visiting their homeland. Alternatively, many are defiant and face terrorism in the eye when choosing love over fear, and visiting Israel anyway:
[Marnie] is one of the many people we think of when fighting for peace in Israel. You see, to be fearful of Israel was a deeply ingrained misconception perpetuated by the media’s coverage of the violence. In order to survive, we had to quell our fears and look terrorism right in the eye when visiting our homeland. Our defiance is what would honour those who fell victim to terrorism.— Casa de mi Corazón: A Travel Journal of Poetry & Memoir.
Being fearful of terrorism is very real, not only for Israelis who live with it day in and day out but for Jews in the Diaspora. As described at my book launch talk, many Jews become desensitised to all of the security measures and precautions that are taken on a day-to-day basis to survive as a Jew in Israel.
Even today, this fear continues. When I speak to my own children about our family’s goals of visiting Israel, perhaps for my son’s Bar mitzvah, they are fearful of going. The first thing they say is, what about the bombs?
But the rest of the world doesn’t fear for us. They don’t ask: what about the bombs? Instead, they say, what about the Iron Dome?
According to A Jewish Resistance, “The Iron Dome is Israel’s defence system to identify and destroy incoming rockets. Israeli officials credit the Iron Dome with saving thousands of lives during the Hamas/Israel conflict in May 2021. Israel, home to almost half of the world’s Jews (6.8m), is the size of New Jersey. Many of Israel’s neighbours loudly advocate for wanting to wipe Israel off the map and push them into the sea.
Why is that? Why is it that when Jews want to protect themselves from being killed that everyone gets so angry?
Would you like us to go like sheep to the slaughter? Well, no, sorry, not sorry. Never. Again.
I dedicated my debut chapbook to Marnie Kimelman and to all victims of terrorism.
May their memories be a blessing.