Who ranks in history as the first terrorist? Hint: He is uncannily similar to the terrorists of today.
Just like today, the first terrorist was an invisible killer. His goals were invisible as well. He was a person but also an archetype. And he remains formidable. But he can be defeated, if only we are able to demystify his power, and learn what he has to teach us today … in the post 9/11 age.
As we honor the tenth anniversary of 9/11 (this Sunday) – the date of the worst terrorist attack on American soil, which shook our confidence and ushered in a new era of uncertainty – it seems wise to reflect on the roots of terrorism, in order to better understand the meaning of these attacks, their lasting effects and, above all, to know what we can do about it all.
One of the most mysterious elements of the 9/11 attacks which remains inexplicable until this very day, 10 years later, is why were we attacked and what do these terrorist want from us? Every war in history, no matter how grotesque, had defined goals: land conquest, taking over natural resources, vengeance. But what were the goals of the 9/11 attacks? We don’t really know. And if we don’t know the enemy’s objective, how can we fight back?
This week we read in the Torah about the first terrorist attack in recorded history and that God decreed the perpetrator be wiped off the face of the earth. Why such a very harsh command?
As Al Qaeda did on 9/11, as terrorists do today, the terrorists of the past did not issue an open challenge to war, because such a war they knew they could not win. They attacked from behind, taking out the unarmed, the weak, the vulnerable and the defenseless. And as terrorists do today, their intent was to wreak psychological damage – to terrorize rather than to conquer – to paralyze the Israelites emotionally, to undermine their nascent self-confidence and fragile sense of confidence.
And this is what we are meant to obliterate from under the heavens.