As I write this newsletter, it is still unclear whether Israel will continue to be involved in a war with Hamas, whether we will move on to a war of attrition, or whether some sort of agreement will be reached between the parties.
As an Israeli, watching the news day in and day out during these past few weeks, living in my own community and as part of my nation, I feel and believe more than ever before what a privilege it is to be a part of the Jewish people. Every day, we are witness to the incredible sacrifice of young men who are fighting this terrible war to protect and defend our people. The stories are amazing. On Friday, less than two hours after a cease-fire went into effect, agreed upon by Hamas in a commitment given to the US and to the UN, Hamas terrorists attacked a unit of IDF soldiers working to neutralize a tunnel, an activity allowed by the cease-fire. A Hamas suicide bomber attacked the unit, creating confusion and a distraction, while other Hamas terrorists attacked the soldiers, attempting to kidnap one of them. News went out all over Israel that a soldier had been kidnapped and the fear and anxiety was palpable. Everyone felt for these parents, whoever they were. Everyone hoped that the country would not again be faced with the impossible decision to trade terrorists for a lone brave soldier.
On Friday afternoon, we learned the identify of the soldier who was missing, a young man named Hadar Goldin from Kfar Saba. Just before Shabbat began, the synagogues in our community held a special prayer service for the safe recovery of Hadar. For weeks, we have been reciting special Psalms during the Shabbat morning service for the protection of our soldiers and our citizens. After Shabbat was over, the Goldin family spoke courageously to the nation on TV, speaking of faith and their belief in the courage of their son. Hours later, we all learned that Hadar had actually been killed in the battle.
In the heat of the battle, a young officer, the son of a good friend of mine, chased after the terrorists and later, helped the IDF recover the remains of Hadar. His bravery has become the stuff of legends.
Just the other day, another friend of mine, Chagit Rein, mother of one of the fallen officers in the Second Lebanon War, was interviewed on television. Nearly 100 years ago, a young Zionist fighter named Trumpeldor, as he fell in defense of Tel Hai, proclaimed: “It is a good thing to die for our country.” In recent years, many have questioned that statement, wondering if it reflects a desire for death. But Chagit made it very clear that it is a statement that gives us life. We have been forced to fight for our lives. If our enemies have forced us into this war, then it is, indeed, an honor to die fighting for such a noble cause.
Every day brings additional reports of anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe. Jews in France, England and Belgium are being attacked. The UN, populated with hundreds of nations who hate Israel, condemns Israel daily, while ignoring the murder and horrific abuses of civil rights exercised by member UN nations such as Syria and Iraq. BDS activists spew hatred against Israel on every continent — I personally witnessed a horrific display during my recent visit to Washington, DC.
In Israel, every new war or military campaign is given a name. But in looking back over the past 66 years of our existence as a state, and even before that, to the very beginnings of the modern return to the Land of Israel, we have been engaged in one long, protracted war with our Arab neighbors throughout. It is a sort of high and low tide, sometimes flaring up and sometimes more subdued but always there, as constant as the ocean. And, in truth, anti-Semitism in one form or another has been with us for centuries.
A classic Jewish prayer opens with this statement:: “You have chosen us from all the nations.” I have no idea why G-d chose us and the burden He has given us is a heavy one. But I wouldn’t trade it for all the world. Even as we are the targets of anti-Semitism and terrorism, I know that G-d has given us the strength to keep moving because He has given us direction. We know who to pray to, and He has shown us our destiny through His holy word.
Beginning with the kidnapping and murder of those three young boys and throughout this horrible war, our people have stood together like never before. People have traveled south, even defying military closures, to bring food and toiletries to the soldiers. Families and communities in safer areas, have reached out to house families from the south, giving them a safe haven from ongoing bombing. (And you, our CFOIC Heartland supporters have helped in this effort!) Thousands have gone to hospitals to visit the wounded soldiers. When word went out that two lone soldiers had been killed in the war, both of them young men who had moved to Israel from the US without family, thousands honored their memory by attending their funerals.
No other nation can boast such unity, such love for one another, such strength in the face of adversity. No other nation has been attacked again and again for centuries. No other nation has to defend its very right to exist day in and day out, on the battlefield and in international forums. We are a strong-willed people, or as G-d Himself called us — a stiff-necked people. We are opinionated and often argue and bicker among ourselves. But our enemies have always underestimated our real strength — the strength that comes from a shared history, a shared faith and a shared destiny. We stand united and, as such, will face our enemies. G-d has chosen us and we will survive. Am Yisrael Hai — The Nation of Israel Lives!