12 Years: Remembering Marla

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Yesterday, my wife Shoshana and I saw the movie Boyhood. As most people know by now, the movie was filmed over the course of 12 years. You get to watch the child actors grow up and the adult actors grow older, right before your eyes. And equally as interesting, you get to watch the world and society evolve – from antenna phones to flip phones to iPhones, from Bush to Kerry to Obama. It’s a chance to remember everything that we’ve been through over the last 12 years, and all the ways that our world has changed around us.

It wasn’t until today that I realized the significance of that time period for me.

12 years ago I was about to start Rabbinical School. An intifada was raging in Israel, and my (then future, now past) classmates and I were debating whether we would spend our first year of school in Jerusalem, as all rabbinical students do. Shoshana and I were on the fence, leaning toward staying home because of the daily violence.

12 years ago today, I woke up inexplicably in the middle of the night, checked the news, and learned that our friend Marla Bennett had been killed in a suicide bombing in Jerusalem. She was having lunch in the cafe at the Hebrew University, where we had eaten together so many times as students. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and her life was ended.

12 years. From antenna phones to flip phones to iPhones. From Bush to Kerry to Obama. That’s what Marla has missed. That’s what Marla never had the opportunity to experience or to contribute to. She has missed an entire “boyhood.” This world is so much poorer for her absence from it.

In the wake of Marla’s death, Shoshana and I made the decision to spend that first year in Israel. It was, in part, our way to honor her memory. But mostly, it was because we love Israel so much.

I thought of Marla earlier this year, when we brought our three children to Israel for the first time.  The extraordinary joy of sharing the place we love most with the people we love most was intermingled with the sadness of knowing that our friend would never have the same opportunity. She would be glad to know that another generation is growing up to love the Jewish state. She would be devastated to know that more than a decade later, there is still not peace. Each day of my life, I pray for quiet and for peace, and that there may be no more Marlas, on either side of the border.

As we exited the movie yesterday, Shoshana and I walked right into a pro-Palestinian rally that was being held downtown. Amid cries of “Israeli apartheid!” and “No peace without justice!” she started to cry. She was thinking about Marla.

12 years. From antenna phones, to flip phones, to iPhones. From war, to war, to war. We are still caught in the endless cycle of violence and hatred that took Marla’s life 12 years ago. It is still taking lives. When will it end?

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