It was a summer of sirens and shelters, living life in increments of time and making decisions based around access to safe rooms. It was a summer of incredible unity, deeds that spoke louder than words and it was a summer of love for our fellow citizen.
It has been a year since the start of Operation Protective Edge that Israel launched in response to the incessant rocket fire from Hamas during the summer of 2014. There have been national ceremonies commemorating those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and defense. I have felt deeply contemplative and pensive over all we have endured as a nation over the past year and I share my thoughts with you.
Many pundits and opinion makers have tried to explain Operation Protective Edge in numbers. This many rockets launched, that many sorties, however many seconds to seek shelter and the ubiquitous (and this is where the world media is guilty) civilian deaths in Gaza vs Israel. For me, Protective Edge cannot just be explained in numbers but in profound gratitude.
Our heroes in uniform – we salute you!
It is in this spirit that I just want to say thank you to our brave men and women of the Israel Defense Forces:
- Thank you for defending us on land, sea, air and that most hostile battlefield, the airwaves.
- For split second decisions that may have saved the lives of civilians behind enemy lines but may have cost you your own.
- For showing the world that you abide by a strict code of morals and ethics and the “Purity of Arms”. You have set a standard for combat that is so high, other modern armies now face a dilemma when in a combat situation.
- The lone soldiers who come from all around the world, leaving behind their familiar creature comforts to come here and serve.
- The soldiers who expressed their joy at receiving a humble tub of ice cream or a drawing from a child.
- The soldiers who saved other soldiers and those that made sure we brought them all home. Oren Shaul z”l and Hadar Golden z”l – we have not forgotten you. May your souls rest peacefully and may you be returned for a dignified burial.
- From all sectors of Israeli society – Bedouin, Druze, Christian and Arab proudly serving their country.
- Our Home Front Command – making sure we were and are always prepared. Updating us, guiding us and reassuring us.
- To the soldiers who manned the Iron Domes who stood guard over our cities. Nobody got more marriage proposals or was the object of so much affection than “Domey”.
- The Military Advocate General (DABLA) ensuring that we uphold the highest tenets of the law.
- To each and every son and daughter of Israel who protects and defends us through the tough times and the quiet, from the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU!
Saluting our female medics of the IDF
During Protective Edge many in South Africa asked me to ‘come home”. Israel is my home and there is no place I would rather be than doing my bit for my country. It is difficult to explain to anyone who wasn’t here during that time how everybody just pulls together in a time of war. There is no feeling like it – the overwhelming sense of patriotism and unity. I saw everyday heroes in my fellow citizens. The ones who visited wounded soldiers and bereaved families. The citizens who put a roster together to wash the uniforms of our soldiers – when they were not over feeding them! The volunteer organizations like WIZO, who helped to evacuate citizens and provide a safe haven and activities for traumatized families. The organizations that collected “stuff” for our soldiers and patiently schlepped it up and down to bases and borders. The kindness of strangers who lined the streets and cemeteries in their tens of thousands to say thank you and escort a brave fallen warrior to his final resting place. Who can forget the concern of the families of fallen lone soldiers who feared nobody would come to their funerals and were embraced by thousands as they stood sentinel and in respect for their sons?
I have lived in Israel for almost five years and have endured two “Operations”. Not once have I questioned or regretted my decision, rather I could not be more proud or grateful to be here. I have cried buckets of tears for our fallen and my heart has burst with pride. We have mourned together, cried together, prayed together and sang together. We have run together, offered shelter to strangers together, worried together and triumphed together.
They come from all around the world and all sectors of society.
A year after Operation Protective Edge and despite the fact that rockets are still being fired from Gaza and this time some of them are claimed by Daesh (ISIS), life goes on. I cannot say that we are not still traumatized by the effects of last summer. Sirens make us nervous and I have to be honest, they turn this feisty, loud mouthed Zionist into a quivering wreck. But we have continued to build, focus on the future and welcome those who decide to call this tiny miracle their home.
The world media will continue to deride us and institutionalized anti-Semitism in the form of biased reports from the United Nations will single us out for approbation but we will prevail. Many will think they are armchair generals and commentators and opine from the safety of their homes thousands of kilometers away. Some will support campaigns to boycott, sanction and divest from our state.
The technical wonder that is the Iron Dome
But we are Israel and inside our vulnerability lies a steely resilience. We value life above all and seek peace as defiantly as we defend ourselves.
Our hope is to hear our children squealing with joy and excitement this summer, to see our beaches packed with holiday makers and our restaurants full. Our hope is that no wail of a siren will punctuate the calm and we will not send our sons and daughters off to war. For those who fell, you will never be forgotten, to those who battle injuries both internal and external, we embrace you.
We are Israel. Am Yisrael Chai!
Always remembered. May their memories be a blessing.