America and Israel: Partners in Grieving

This 9/11, Americans should think about the terrorism that has affected both this county and Israel.  Those who have experienced losing a family member or a friend to terrorism are agonized by it each and every day.  American Thinker talked with some who personally experienced its horrific consequences.

Many Americans immediately thought of Israel on the days that followed 9/11.  They felt a common destiny, a shared anguish, a reinforced sense of values, and they were much more aware of the terror Israel has endured for decades.  As author J.J. Livingston said in her book Deadline, "Only someone who has lost a loved one can truly comprehend how hard it is to face that brutal moment of acceptance. Irrevocable. Absolute. Never to be heard or seen or touched again."

That is exactly how the friends and families felt about the victims killed.  Sally Oren, the wife of former ambassador Michael Oren, experienced firsthand losing a loved one to terrorism.  Her sister, Joan Davenny, was killed in August 1995 by a Hamas suicide bomber who blew up a crowded Israeli commuter bus.  Joanie, as she was commonly known, was a dedicated teacher at a Connecticut Jewish school and was in Israel attending Hebrew University after receiving a scholarship.  Every summer, for several years before this, she brought a group of her students to Israel.

Sally noted, "It is hard to explain what it is like to have someone taken from you instantaneously in such a violent way.  After Joanie's death and the deaths of two classmates, my son commented shortly before his Bar Mitzvah, 'I have been to more funerals than Bar Mitzvahs.'  My children suffered a lot of anxiety.  During the Second Intifada in the early 2000s, there was often background noise of missiles and bombings in public places.  I would give anything that my children did not have to experience such real-life trauma."

Sally recalls that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated two months after her sister died.  "Our personal mourning became a national mourning.  The lines blurred for my family as the national trauma overlapped with our personal trauma."

Judi Reiss understands completely how Sally feels, because she lost her son Joshua during the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.  Josh was a vivacious 23-year-old who was working in the towers.  His mom noted that a day would not go by where Josh did not call her to say hello.  She feels that "no mother should ever suffer again the senseless murder of her child.  I miss my boy more than I can put into words.  I remember watching and screaming at the television, 'Josh, run out!'  As the door opened and Gary, my husband, walked in, I began screaming, 'The building fell down!'  Gary's haunting words: 'I think we lost our child.'  The next night it rained.  I truly believe that G‐d was crying."

Senator Ted Cruz (R‐TX) also lost someone close to him on 9/11.  His dear friend Barbara Olson was on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.  She delayed her flight so she could celebrate her husband's birthday with him.  She is described as an incredible journalist who was full of life.  The senator told how he was a mile from the crash that killed his good friend: "My wife Heidi and I were horrified and saddened when we heard Barbara was murdered in that plane.  Within minutes of the plane hitting, I could smell the smoke.  We invited a number of friends to come over and pray for our nation."

Everyone agrees with Jenn Reiss, Josh's sister, who wants people to understand that their loved ones are not just a number.  "I want everyone to think of him as a person.  I don't want my brother to be just one of those people who died in 9/11.  He was a human being with a name, enjoyments, and dear friends.  I still think how my life would be different if Josh were alive."

An interesting bond among all interviewed is how they gained solace out of the connection from their love of music.  Jenn stated, "When Josh died, I was eleven years old, so we did not have much in common.  But the memories I hold most dear are when he would come home from college, play the guitar, and teach me the words to the songs.  It was just our time together." 

Senator Cruz also gained comfort when he became a country music fan after 9/11.  He felt connected with "the country music singers' response to that tragic day.  I can think of Alan Jackson's song, 'Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning.'  I felt these are my people, who share the same values with me."

The kinship the Reisses feel with Israel are partially due to their shared experiences.  Judi believes that "the average Israeli understands what I am going through more than the average American.  It is this shared and sad experience.  Israelis just get it.  These families suffer with me as I suffer with them."  Jenn further noted, "After 9/11, we as Americans have a glimpse of what Israelis deal with every day.  Every American old enough to understand 9/11 should now understand what Israel has to go through.  You really do not know what someone has been through until you walk a mile in their shoes."

Americans should understand that Israel is not only an ally, but a friend as well.  Israel has a memorial overlooking the city of Jerusalem commemorating the victims of 9/11, one of the first international memorials to mark this horrific event and honor the memory of those killed.  This bronze sculpture is composed of a waving American flag transformed into a memorial flame.  The monument rests on a base of gray granite, part of which comes from the original Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.  Outside the U.S., it is the only place that recognizes the names of those killed as well as their country of origin.

Judi told American Thinker that when she visited Israel, she saw "this absolute magnificent 9/11 memorial.  I was able to see my son's name.  It was restful and peaceful for me, since I felt there is someone else in the world that will remember my child.  He will be remembered there as long as that monument will last, unless the Iranians bomb it."

In citing the Iranian nuclear deal, those interviewed feel that nothing has been learned from what happened on September 11.  Senator Cruz believes that "these theological Iranian felons will possibly carry out murder on a scale the world has never before seen.  The risks of this Iranian deal are exponentially greater than the attacks we saw on 9/11.  That horrific attack took the lives of 3,000, where one Iranian nuclear weapon in the skies of Tel Aviv, New York, or Los Angeles could in a flash of light murder millions."

For those interviewed, the shock and horror of what happened to their friends and family remains painfully fresh.  They feel a solidarity and sympathy for all the victims of terrorism across the globe.  As Jenn noted, "I hope in the future Americans and Israelis never know what I have gone through.  If you hang up the phone and don't tell that person you loved them, it could be the last time you ever get to speak with them.  After the terrorism of 9/11, we will never be the same country again."

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews and author interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.