Dear Jamal Julani,
My name is Ben I’m a nineteen year old college student from Mercer Island Washington, and I go to Occidental College in Los Angeles. I was raised in a household that taught me the Jewish values of respect for others and repairing the world. This summer, I was a counselor for kids age 14 and 15, and I tried to teach them values as well.
I was at camp on August 16th, and I didn’t hear about what happened to you until I got back to my home that Saturday. Reading about your attack, it felt like my chest hollowed out. Seventeen doesn’t feel that long ago. I then thought about my campers, and how they would be your age in two or three years, and to think that this could happen to any of them, felt unreal. And then to think that any of us could’ve been the attackers too – it just made me feel sick.
I am going to Israel for the first time this winter. My friends who have been to Jerusalem before told me they remembered Ben Yehuda Street as a happy place on all of their trips. Hearing about these attacks makes me nervous, but also strengthens my commitment to going. I want to go to see all of Israel and the West Bank, the beautiful landscapes, the thriving cities, and everything else that makes your region so amazing. I also want to encounter the parts that aren’t beautiful, to try to see Israel as it is.
Jamal, I want to say that what happened to you is so out of line with what it means to be Jewish, what I want Israel to represent. By the time I get to Israel this winter, I would love to stand with you in Zion Square, looking at diverse people working together, sharing a city in peace. I hope that for you and me and Israel and Palestine, things get better.