For the British, the most terrifying aspect of the 7/7 suicide bombings in London was the realization that the perpetrators were not foreign attackers, but home-grown. Within two days of the bombings, recently retired police commissioner Lord John Stevens predicted that the bombers would be "apparently ordinary British citizens, young men conservatively and cleanly dressed and probably with some higher eduction." He proved prescient on almost every count.
The enemy is within. Not only that, but he was given birth and raised in merry olde England. One of the suicide bombers worked in his father's fish and chips store and was described by friends as an avid cricket and football fan. You can't get more English than that.
Another bomber was not even born a Muslim. Like the so-called shoe-bomber Richard Reid, he was a recent convert.
There are 1.6 million Muslims in England. If only 1% of those share the jihadist ideology of the 7/7 perpetrators, that comes to 16,000 potential terrorists alone. And that percentage may be low. A poll taken after the second round of subway bombings for Sky News revealed that 2% of Muslims agree with what the suicide bombers did, and 5% feel there is Koranic justification for their actions. Three thousand Britons are estimated to have passed through Al Qaeda training camps.
These angry young Muslims can travel freely back and forth in Europe on their passports, as well as enter the United States without a visa.
Britain did much to loose these internal furies. An irresponsible asylum policy allowed in thousands of jihadists, many of them wanted in their native lands on terrorism related charges. Islamist preachers were allowed to call for holy war against England and Christendom without fear of punishment or expulsion. Jihadists cheerfully referred to London as Londonistan.
England now experiences the horror that David HaMelech felt when the Navi warned, "I shall raise evil against you from your own household" (Shmuel II 12: 11). The only question about further attacks is when.
AS INDIVIDUALS TOO we experience moments of brutal clarity in which we recognize that our chief enemy is within – that our misfortunes do not just befall us, but that we often bring them about. As Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchok Ruderman, the late Rosh Yeshiva of Ner Israel used to say, "There are people who have tzaros, and there are people who make their own tzaros."
We can easily observe this with respect to others: parents who poison their relationships with their children by harping of their every imperfection; husbands and wives who have time for every good deed in the world, except spending time with their spouse.
Nowhere is this more obvious than when we see someone else involved in a machlokes. To outside observers, it is immediately evident that the toll exacted by the machlokes on the parties involved and all those close to them is far greater than whatever is at stake. The machlokes becomes an obsession blinding the parties to everything else in their efforts to destroy one another.
Yet what is so clear to us with respect to someone else's machlokes is rarely so when we are involved. And so it is with all the other forms of self-destructive behaviors that we witness in others. The trick is to take those observations and use them to look within and discover our own internal enemies.
No time of the year is better suited to that task than the three weeks of bein hameitzarim, which began on 17 Tammuz. The five calamities of Shiva Asar B'Tammuz, beginning with Moshe Rabbeinu's breaking of the first luchos, carried within them the seeds of the Churban (destruction) of Tisha B'Av.
I heard from one of the greatest ba'alei haskafa of our generation (who shall remain nameless to protect him from the limits of my simplistic understanding) that the seeds Churban found in those calamities each has a parallel on the individual level.
The luchos habris contained the entire Torah, indeed the entire world according to Hashem's original plan. The words with which Hashem created the world were not just written upon the luchos, but engraved within, so that the words and the luchos were inseparable.
The heart, the seat of our understanding, is compared to the luchos – "inscribe them on the tablet of your heart" (Mishlei 3:3). We too have the capacity to become one with the Torah. By recognizing the original Divine breath as the sole source of our existence, we unite with the Torah as one. That recognition brings repair of the Churban on both a national and individual level. As Chazal say, "One who possesses da'as (understanding) is accounted as if the Temple were rebuilt in his days."
And to the extent that we view the Torah as external to our very being, as a set of commandments imposed from without, we continue the process of destruction.
From Shiva Asar b'Tammuz, the daily Tamid offering was no longer offered in the Beis HaMikdash. Hashem created the world with continuity. That continuity was lost when the Tamid offering could no longer be brought. Today even if we do something daily at fixed times, each day we may do so for a different reason: the act is no longer exclusively the result of the Divine command.
On the individual level too, the lack of regularity and continuity in our lives is an aspect of our personal destruction. "Elokim made man straight" (Koheles 7:29). And yet too often our lives lack any order, any sense of continuity.
In part that reflects our lack of a clear self-identity. Rather than shaping our existence as a unified whole, we are tossed and turned by a welter of conflicting impulses and desires. We are a microcosm of the city whose walls have been breached, as were those of Jerusalem on 17 Tammuz.
As long as the walls of the city remain intact, the entire city is one entity, its residents united in one reshus ha'yachid (private domain). When the walls fall, however, the unity is lost, and all the disparate parts go their separate ways. The private domain becomes a reshus ha'rabbim (a public domain).
As individuals too we have become a reshus ha'rabbim. Rather than being masters of our lives, our daily agenda is determined by the actions and opinions of others. We do this because of what ploni will say, and avoid doing that because of how almoni will react. What we claim to love or hate does not flow from our own individuality, but from the expectations of others. We have been taken over by a disparate multitude.
Let us use the Three Weeks to confront the Churban inside ourselves. Not for the purpose of bringing ourselves to despair, but so that we can root out the enemy within and begin the process of Tikkun (rebuilding) of ourselves and Yerushalayim.