This post currently appears in The Times of Israel:
The summer in Israel started out all about the Rolling Stones and Justin Timberlake, start-up acquisitions and celebrity spotting. And then it all changed.
This past month and a half has probably been one of the most traumatic and difficult in Israel’s recent history. We hoped with all our hearts for the safe return of our three kidnapped boys and then wept with untold grief as we mourned their brutal slayings. We were plunged into war by a ruthless and relentless enemy, who hold both their civilians and us hostage with their terrorist intentions.
But Israel, despite all that she is enduring, is standing tall.
I am in awe at my fellow citizens and the calm and proactive way everyone is handling this situation. Instead of cowering or spewing hate invective, we have adopted a “all hands on deck” approach and everyone is doing their bit to help each other and our soldiers. Every citizen wants to show our soldiers our gratitude for their service, for fighting for our freedom and defending our beloved country. Each soldier is our child and the least we can do is show our appreciation.
We have cooked tens of thousands of meals, bought out entire stocks of underwear, deodorant and every conceivable thing a soldier (and a well fed army) would possibly need. We have converged on hospitals to visit our injured soldiers, bearing cards, gifts and of course, food. We have made our lone soldiers part of our collective family, doting over these brave warriors who come to serve and don’t have the families here to support them. Children from as far as South Africa have joined our in drawing pictures and making cards, and our bereaved families have been held tenderly in our collective arms as we hold them through their grief.
We have formed prayer chains and vigils, evacuated terrified citizens from Southern communities and gently tried to coax children out of shelters. We know that the massive task of post-traumatic stress management will start as soon as this operation is over and to organisations like WIZO who are standing by to listen and love, we thank you.
And we have lined the roads to bury our fallen warriors. Just when I thought I could cry no more, the loss of another brave son tears a fresh wound. Thousands have attended funerals to accompany our warriors to their eternal rest. We may not have known them personally but our love for them and our deepest gratitude at their sacrifice overrides acquaintanceship. May their memories forever be blessed.
Loss of our brave young warriors is almost too much to bear. Their handsome, vibrant faces, filled with the promise of life haunt me as I know that they were cut down in their prime, defending our country and our freedom. From a grateful and heartbroken nation, we thank you.
We know that what happens in our neighbourhood impacts on our Diaspora communities, many of whom are facing a tsunami of anti-Semitism we have not seen since the 1930’s. Please know that we stand shoulder to shoulder with you and your love gives us strength. We have faced a barrage of bias from the international media who in my opinion are complicit in civilians casualties as their skewed facts give impetus to the grotesque Hamas death factory of human shields. And they are complicit in flaming the fires of anti-Semitism.
This tiny country who has faced wars and intifada, calls for boycott and slander by people delirious with hatred stands heads and shoulders above the rest. My beautiful country and your inspiring citizens, you have demonstrated dignity and grace and they can sling their arrows of venom towards us but we will never be broken.
Our strength is each other, our faith unbreakable. We punch above our weight in every sense of the word. As we observe Tisha B’Av and the countless tragedies we have endured, let us remember the rallying cry that has helped us triumph over centuries of tragedy – AM YISRAEL CHAI.
The people of Israel live.