We will not be Broken!

This article appears in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2022/04/06/we-will-not-be-broken/

Israel endures a wave of terror and like many times before, we will prevail

Once again Israelis have bowed our heads in sorrow. Once more our hearts have been broken.

Over these past two weeks, Israel has endured another wave of terror that resulted in the loss of 11 lives. Terror waves are not a new phenomenon but they bring with them a whole gamut of emotions. Fear, overwhelm and heartbreak are just some of them.

I don’t know about you but I am angry. I am angry. I am angry at a world that has ridiculous expectations of Israel while ignoring the unique security challenges that we face on a daily basis. I am angry at the world that expects Israel to do everything in our power to supply military weapons in a conflict that has nothing to do with us. The fact that the weapons that people are demanding we send may not be the right kind for this particular war; or that their own countries have yet to provide military aid says more about the critics than Israel. Israel is already making an enormous contribution and will continue to, despite our own precarious security situation, which we have been reminded of yet again this week.

While it is greatly appreciated that foreign ministers have condemned the recent wave of terror, the hypocrisy of those that proclaim to be social justice activists but stay silent when our citizens, including a Druze soldier and Arab Christian police officer, are murdered is staggering.  Who cares about some dead Israelis right?

I am angry at a world consumed with the slap of one self-absorbed actor of his peer at an awards ceremony that is so out of touch with reality; but cannot spare a thought for victims of terror. I am angry, so angry that those who consume their days with sham “human rights” reports, which contains the bitter language that whitewashes terror, stay silent about the murders of our civilians. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others who denigrate Israel can shove their accusations of Apartheid. Israelis live, work and die together. These past two weeks, Jews, Arabs and Druze and two Ukrainian refugees were murdered. We have mourned them, together. At the funeral of slain Druze officer, Yazan Falah, which was attended by thousands, his uncle spoke about how he left behind “an army of friends”. This was evident in the sea of people holding their mobile phones with the torches lit up in tribute to him. Falah had insisted on joining the Border Police, despite being exempt from combat service as an only son.

Taken in their Prime. Seen here at their base are Border Police officers both 19, a Druze Yazan Falah (left) and Shirel Aboukrat, a French immigrant who were killed a few hours later in a terror attack in Hadera, on March 27, 2022. (Israel Police)

During the mourning period that followed, a group of Jewish school children on a trip took time out to pay a visit to his family. The message was simple. Yazan was a son of Israel – and all of us mourn his loss.

The same respect and love was exhibited for murdered police officer Amir Khoury. Several busloads of Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox) departed from Bnei Brak, the scene of a horrendous terror attack where 5 people, including Khoury who had tried to eliminate the terrorist were murdered. The buses were emblazoned with signs that read “Khoury is an Israeli hero” in Hebrew and were filled with scores of Haredim, bound for Nazareth to pay their respects to the slain officer. Khoury was buried in a Christian ceremony, with his coffin draped with the Israeli flag, bearing a wreath in the shape of a cross and surrounded by thousands, including his fellow police officers, United Hatzalah rescue workers and heartbroken Haredim.

Nation that stands Together. Israeli police officers carry the coffin of comrade Amir Khoury, 32-year-old Christian Arab motorcycle cop during his funeral service in Nazareth, after he was killed in a terrorist shooting in Bnei Brak when he drove straight into the line of fire with his partner.(photo credit: David Cohen/Flash90)

This is the Israel that the Amnesty Internationals and Human Rights Watches don’t want you to see. There is no Apartheid here, no separation, just unity in grief.

 I am angry at the disproportionate obsession of the media, global institutions and political pundits who gleefully point fingers at Israel but are silent when our citizens are murdered. The UN Human Rights Council just passed four resolutions against Israel but barely managed to scrape any together to excoriate Iran, Syria or Belarus!

I am angry at the forces of evil who want to derail the sincere, hard work by many towards peace in our region that has seen far too much bloodshed and sorrow. One of the stated intentions of the terrorists who carried out the Hadera attack that killed two 19-year-old Border Guards, Yazan Faleh and Shirel Abukart, stated that they wanted to disrupt the historic Negev Summit that was taking place at Sde Boker. This historic summit, hosted by Israel and attended by the foreign ministers of the USA, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Morocco was a seminal moment for the advancement peace efforts and increased cooperation in the region. The terror attacks were roundly condemned by all the visiting dignitaries.

Terrorists cannot and MUST NOT win! I am angry and filled with sorrow that there are now 11 families that in the space of one week have been shattered forever. They will never be the same.

Terrorism is nothing new. Israelis have experienced waves of terror before and two intifadas and even though every attack and every incident feels very personal, we will not let it break us.

Shaken but not Broken. Scenes like this at the shooting terror attack in Bnei Brak on March 29, 2022 that took place across Israel have not dented the resolve of Israelis – never has; never will. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

Israelis have bowed their heads as victims were laid to eternal rest. We have cried rivers of tears.

But we will remain hopeful for peace to prevail. We will remain resilient.  We will remain unbroken. Because that is how we win. That is how we defeat terror. We will hang our blue and white flags, the symbol of hope of thousands of years, proudly. We will stand strong. We will let the anger and sorrow wash over us and we will triumph over terror. We will remain resolute, resilient and grateful for our security forces working around the clock to ensure our protection and stamp out terror.

May the memories of all who have been killed by terror be blessed. Am Yisrael Chai!

Dear Golda – The Sequel: A Shining Star

This article appears in Lay of the Land: https://layoftheland.online/2022/03/23/dear-golda-the-sequel-a-shining-star/

If Golda Meir was alive today, would this be the conversation we have?

Dearest Golda, we haven’t had a chat for a while and the last time we spoke, we certainly had a lot to talk about. This time it is no different. Golda, you continue to inspire so many around the world, not just because you blazed a trail in many arenas, including becoming Israel’s first female Prime Minister; but because in times of strife and hardship, we still continue to seek your wise council. It is your words of wisdom that are as relevant today as they were when you led our country through war, insurmountable tragedy and also great triumph.

I write this, wondering what you would say to the world or offer as we watch with horror and broken hearts as yet another war ravages lives.

Dear Golda, I cannot imagine what you must be thinking as you watch on from high. You were born in Kyiv, Ukraine, during a dark time in our people’s history. You have often recalled that your early memories were of your father having to board up the front door because of an imminent pogrom. Even though you would move from Ukraine to the USA and finally come home to what was then British Mandate Palestine in 1921, you never forgot your roots. You were imbued with the fire of Zionism and longed to see our hope of 2000 years realised.

Israeli medical personnel off to Ukraine where they will help man the “Kochav Meir” field Hospital in the western Ukrainian town of Mostyska to provide medical care and humanitarian aid to war refugees. (Marc Sallem, Jerusalem Post)

As the years progressed, you would see many pioneers arrive from the Pale of Settlement and then you would watch with sorrow and frustration as our people endured the darkest time in our history. The soil at Babyn Yar on the outskirts of Kyiv still cries with the voice of our ancestors.

Our memories of Ukraine are painful but over the decades something extraordinary happened. The once decimated Jewish communities started to grow again. Jewish life was once more present in Kyiv and in Kharkiv, in Dnipro, Odessa, Lviv and more. The image of Tevye leaving Anatevka, bowed, broken and with his fellow villagers was replaced with the Chabad synagogue giving spiritual strength and shelter to many. To top it all, a Jewish President had been elected, who is proud of his roots and family history – and who is very much the man of the moment for his outstanding leadership. Volodymyr Zelensky’s unshaven face in his combat green, leading from amongst his people is in stark contrast to the anemic, bloated looking Putin, dressed in a suit and seated at a bizarrely long table.

Equipment for the Israeli field hospital being loaded onto a plane at Ben Gurion Airport, March 17, 2022. (Sivan Shahar/Anaba/GPO

As I write this, Ukraine enters the fourth week of a brutal war with Russia, who invaded under many pretenses, one of which was intention to “denazify” the country. Most countries have appalling elements within society; but the accusation of “denazification” is particularly painful given the dark past and resurgence of Jewish life in Ukraine.

Dear Golda, millions have fled, becoming refugees – but many have stayed to fight. Dearest Golda, it is your example that many cite as their inspiration. They quote you by comparing the will of the Ukrainian people to live to a famous saying about the enemy laying down its weapons and brave soldiers like Aleksander Gorgan, who made sure you are with him when he went into battle by taking a copy of your autobiography in his combat backpack.

A Ukrainian officer shows off a biography of Golda Meir that he carries into battle with him. The Kyiv-born Israel premier has become a symbol of hope for Ukrainians.
(Screen capture: Twitter)

None of us can watch what is happening in Ukraine without feeling a profound sense of sorrow. We all want to help as much as we can.

Dear Golda, you were one of the founders of the modern state of Israel, your signature is on our founding documents; and you had a clear vision of how our tiny country could live up to the tenet of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world). We have always said NEVER AGAIN after the Holocaust and try wherever we can to help and Ukraine is no different.

As you know, Israel’s position is very precarious. We face an ever growing threat from Iran and the presence of Russian troops on our borders who control the airspace over Syria means that we are able to strike when our security is threatened. We have to carefully coordinate this with Russia. We have good bilateral ties with both countries and are now faced with the role of mediator, however delicate it may be. President Zelenesky thinks Jerusalem, our capital could be a venue for mediation but we have endured many wars and realise how cautious we have to proceed with negotiations but it is our moral duty to do what we can for the sake of saving lives.

While some have derided Israel for not sending military aid (other countries could also do more but singling out Israel is preposterous!) and Iron Domes (which are not effective against the kind of Russian military strikes being used), it must be understood that we have to protect our citizens against opportunistic attacks that could come from Iran and proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas.

It is not just in mediation where Israel is playing a vital role. We have endured several wars throughout our existence and this has given us an ability to mobilise help quickly. As I am writing, the Israel Population and Immigration Authority report that 13,500 Ukrainian refugees have entered Israel with 5,000 making Aliyah under the country’s Law of Return.

Israeli national emergency response service Magen David Adom send four armored ambulances to war-torn Ukraine to help treat the wounded and evacuate them from the field.

Dear Golda, today those same Olim who come from what was the Pale of Settlement come into Israel as refugees with one major difference – they are home. As soon as the Russian tanks rolled in, we mobilised our diplomats from Ukraine, Romania, Poland and Slovakia along the border to evacuate Israelis.

Tasked with providing initial aid, assessing needs, and building a comprehensive long-term treatment plan, seen here is the first group (jump team) of United Hatzalah’s humanitarian aid mission from Israel to Ukraine comprising 12 EMTs, paramedics, doctors, a dentist, and members of the Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit.

Israelis aren’t the only ones they are helping – they have evacuated civilians from Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Morocco, Gaza and the Palestinian Authority who were stranded by their leadership. I cannot keep up with all the aid Israel and Jewish organisations are sending but a basic account  says four armoured ambulances from Magen David Adom, United Hatzolah and IsraAid medical care in Moldova and Romania, including safe spaces for moms and babies; Ukrainian and Russian speaking police from Israel’s Police Force to help refugees find out where to go; Jewish Agency emissaries along 14 points on the border; 100 tons of humanitarian aid from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs; aid packages from Maccabi Tel Aviv soccer club in partnership with organisations; ZAKA rescue; 6 large generators for hospitals in Lviv and countless others.

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The real shining star is the field hospital, organised by Israel’s Ministry of Health and Sheba Medical Centre. Operation “Shining Star” has commenced with over 17 tons of medical aid and over 50 medical personnel. So far, it is the only field hospital on the Ukrainian side of the border. It will have wards and state-of- the-art equipment and provide sanctuary and medical care for civilians and soldier.

Trucks carrying equipment for Israeli field hospital in Ukraine. (photo credit: Construction team for Kohav Meir hospital)

Dear Golda, the hospital is named “Kochav Meir”. Yes, Golda, it is named in your honour.

Dearest Golda, all these decades later, through tragedy and triumph, war and peace, the building and rebuilding of countries and communities, you continue to inspire and empower. I hope the next time we chat, it will be a conversation about peace in both the country you were born in and the one that you helped build.

Erecting the Israeli “Kohav Meir” (Shining Star) field hospital in Mostyska, Ukraine.
(photo credit: Construction team for Kohav Meir hospital)