As we were trying to put the kids to bed last night, and as my husband was scrolling through news from back home on his IPhone, he saw the headlines about the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and bystanders at a local Safeway grocery store.
“There was a shooting in Tucson today,” he said. “They shot Gabrielle Giffords.” A few years back, my husband had met Giffords, the first Jewish congressperson from Arizona, when we lived in Tucson and Avi was executive director of the America Israel Friendship League, Tucson chapter.
“How can that be?” I asked him, even though I knew he didn’t have the answer, and that the question had no definitive answer.
Sure, Tucson is not without its share of controversy, immigration and border issues being the biggest headlines, second only to wildfires, perhaps. But when we lived in Tucson, we felt safe. Particularly since we landed in Tucson two weeks after 9/11 and our new home was a million miles away from what felt like terror centrals at the time: New York City, where we had just moved from, and Washington D.C.
So how is it that a local supermarket, one that’s probably frequented by our former neighbors and colleagues, was the scene of what is looking more and more like a hate crime? How is it that a Jew has fallen in Tucson, a town that never felt threatening to me, not for a minute, despite the bars on the windows and the occasional gun on the belt of an old school cowboy?
Here I am in Israel, where we are certainly reminded of the threat to our safety thanks to bag checks at the entrance to every store and the very visible presence of the Israeli army. But it’s what has happened in Tucson that frightens me.
I feel the fear as a Jew and as a woman. As someone who speaks up for what I believe in. As someone who airs my grievances publicly. And as someone who wants to feel safe at a community event at a grocery store.
It’s in a moment like this that I also want to say to my American friends, those who are scared for my safety here; those who think Israel is too dangerous a place for a family to live; those who think they are safer than I am because they live in the United States:
Terrorists can strike anywhere, any time. What I am learning, though, even after living here only two weeks, is that Israel is simply better prepared for it.