Saturday, January 26, 2008

Recent comment made by someone who heard me speak for a Jewish organization a couple years back about my experiences as a Victim of Terror:

Her: Seeing that you survived the bombing, don't you feel that you have a responsibility to those who died?


Actually--I am not going to fill in my response. Instead, I pose a question for the masses--aka-those who are reading and who have an opinion and a few minutes to respond.

As I will describe in future posts, I spent two weeks in the hospital and the next several months going back and forth to the hospital. As such:

What if, instead of my injuries being sustained in a bombing, they had been sustained in a car accident? Would I then have a responsibility, an obligation, to the thousands and thousands of people killed in car accidents each year?

What if, instead of surving a bombing, I had survived cancer? Does a cancer survivor have the right to say "Give up more time to cancer? I already gave up hours and days and weeks of my life to this disease. Enough!" Or does he or she have a responsibility, an obligation, towards the millions who succumb to cancer each year?

What if, instead of my body being effectively violated by a bomb and a terrorist, it was violated by a rapist. Does a rape victim have the right to say: "I never want to think about this again"? Or does she have a responsibility, an obligation, to those who died in rape attacks?

Are those who survived rape, car accidents and cancer somehow responsible for and obligated towards all of those who did not?

And if not, why am I different?

(As for my writing about the bombing now....the writing is for me).
Just to clarify, the person who asked the question is a lovely person. The question/sentiment is one that I have actually gotten from many, many people. It appears to be something of a knee-jerk reaction. I am looking at this post as a means to challenge people's perceptions (including my own!) and not as a form of criticsm.


Frum Jew in Recovery said...

Some people say things that drive me crazy and turn me off to people in general. Whoever said that to you, to give her the benefit of the doubt I would say maybe she was having a bad day. Perhaps people like her are some kind of a test, not sure what her purpose is though.

I have never been able to talk about these kinds of things tho.

One of my brothers was in one of the Israeli wars and was lucky to survive. Several of his friends died, in the very same battles he was in, people I knew, guys who had been over for Shabbat, etc.

When he got out of that war I couldn't say much, i was overwhelmed with emotion. I just gave him all the cash I had at the time and told him to go somewhere for a well deserved vacation.

I still think it is a private exp. what you went through in the sense that i personally cannot understand it, not having faced this.

Wishing you a great week, Shavuah Tov!

Bas~Melech said...

I think every person, whether or not they've had a particularly eye-opening experience, has a responsibility to live their life to the fullest, to (so to speak) "give back" to G-d from the life He's given you.

Often, life experiences such as accidents or illnesses give people a new perspective or idea of how they'd like to do that. But it doesn't happen to everyone. Many people just want to go on with life and forget about the experience.

I think the only time there's a specific 'responsibility' is when because of a certain experience, a person has the opportunity to raise awareness about something others don't know about. But that doesn't need to be a life-consuming project, either.

(Just my $.02)

Gila said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katrinayellow said...

maybe you have the responsibility to live your life to the full, to not take each day for granted (speaking in cheesy quotes here). But surely we all have this responsibility - those who luckily haven't had any brushes with death surely have as much responsibility to value their lives and live them to the full. Apart from that, I would say that maybe just possibly you might have suffered enough, and the burden of that suffering might be quite large enough without an extra burden of responsibility - whatever that means - to those who died.

ultimately I think we can justify any vague statement any which way we please - yes you do have a responsibility because x y z, no you don't because a b c. And I don't think the reasons on either side of the debate are any less valid than each other.

could say more but really should be working and not reading on a sunday morning!

Anonymous said...

I like the fact that you brought it up at all for people to think about...

Anonymous said...

Your responsibility is to ensure that you are doing whatever it takes to make your life as complete and as fulfilling as possible, that you are taking any steps that you deem necessary in order to heal both physically and emotionally. Yes, you survived a horrific ordeal, but it was an ordeal in which you were an unfortunate, innocent victim, as were those who died. You weren't responsible for those deaths, and I imagine that one of the questions that may haunt you is why you and others survived, while others did not. I think that this issue (as well as healing, of course) is a big enough burden to bear.

I'd be curious to know what this woman envisions your responsibility as being, as well as whether or not any feelings of responsibility that you may have have simply become part of the person that you became, as a result of what happened.

originality is dead, long live originality said...

Experience is at best an emotional appeal, at worst an ad hominem attack. Every side of an argument can find or fabricate some sort of personal testimony to bolster their side. You should live your life, not relive it. The strength to continue with what you've been called to do is your real responsibility. ...Of course you should probably take my opinion with a grain of salt.

Anonymous said...

It seems that this person was trying to put you into a box - you know, the one Hollywood puts out every once in a while called: victim of X recovers by giving to others, etc. I think you were right in your previous observation that people cope by making generalizations - and this is just another one. You are obviously an individual, and have made your own individual decision about how to react to what happened to you. Don't feel the need to justify it.


Baila said...

I think your only responsibility is to yourself, and what heals you. If that is reaching out to other victims, or educating others about terrorism, fine. If it means never discussing the experience, fine. If it means blogging, fine. It's up to you and only you.

Unknown said...

That just seems like a weird thing to say. What kind of responsibility are you supposed to have? What does it entail? I am glad you are taking care of yourself emotionally and setting boundaries.

Jerusalem Artichoke said...

I don't think you have a responsibility, but you do have an opportunity. Some part of deciding What to Do About Terrorism should be shaped by people who have experienced it.

That said, it's important to be aware that not everyone who experiences terrorism will have the same reaction. See, for example, the bereaved parents who are weighing in on both sides of the question about whether Israel should negotiate with the Palestinians.

Gila said...

Jerusalem Artichoke-you have the coolest blog name and a cool profile bit... but no posts! :(

As to what people envision my responsibility as being, it varies, but all too often the end result is the same--my raising money for this or that organization that helps Victims of Terror (R), new olim, sick people, etc. Or my providing entertainment (of sorts) for a tour group. Or giving someone material for a book. Sometimes it is hard to figure out where the line lies between actually helping/educating and serving someone else's self interests.

And I will have my bit to say about such organizations (the good and the bad) in about...oh, 20 posts. Or until I have the article toned down. Whichever comes later.

When you get right down to it, this blog could be said to be fulfilling my responsibility to educate and inform, no? But I am not raising money for anyone. Unless potentially using the blog as scholarship application fodder (long-long-long-term goal is to study Tanach) counts as raising money. But I don't think so.

Okay--gotta get back to work so I can get home tonight early enough to put out another post. The next installment--the Bombing Muppet's 15 minutes of fame! Woohoo!


WashingtonGardener said...

This person sounds like they talk BEFORE they think - I mean REALY think about what they are saying and asking of you - much less laying at your feet. A very heavy burden indeed and unwarranted - would they want to take that on? First you are victimized andthen you have to spendthe rest of your life acting on behalf of the other victims? If you CHOOSE to do so out of this - that is one thing, but to actually say you SHOULD do it is crossing a line to me.
Your comparable examples are good - you might extend those to survivors of slavery and the holocaust too. As with others here, I agree that a survivors responsibility is only to survive and embrace life as best they can.

Jerusalem Artichoke said...

Hi, Gila
It's Gayle.
Forgot that the system posted under my wannabe blogger name.

treppenwitz said...

All those well-meaning questions lead down the same dark alley.

If you were left alive among all those people, surely you have some responsibility to live your life for them, right? If you survived it must mean that you have some special job to do in the world, right?

Wrong... and wrong. You were put in this world to live your life, and nobody else's. You do have a special purpose in this world but it has nothing to do with the bombing... and certainly nothing whatsoever to do with those poor people who were killed. In fact, they had a special purpose too, but someone strapped on an explosive belt and made a unilateral decision for everyone involved where and when the party would end. So they never got to fulfill their purpose.

You probably take life a bit more seriously than most of us... you know, savoring moments that most of us let slip by unnoticed. I've read that people who've had a scrape with death sometimes appreciate life a bit more than the average traveler.

I envy you that perspective but I am horrified by the price you were forced to pay for it. And none of this obligates you to the people who were near you when the bomb exploded any more than you are obligated to your fellow shoppers in the shuk every week when nothing blows up. By this I mean that yes, you have the normal 'every Jew is responsible for every other Jew' thing to deal with... but not a scintilla more or less.

I love your writing (found you through my friend Jameel) and hope you get as much pleasure from sharing your thoughts as we do from reading them..


We all of the responsibility of remember those who were killed.

IMHO you have the responsibility to prove that try as they might Israel will not be defeated!