MEVASERET ZION, ISRAEL –
This past Tuesday my
wife Ofra and our younger daughter Yaara left the house early, all smiles
despite the war here and eager for a girls' day out in Tel Aviv for a temporary
escape from the result of Hamas aggression.
As their bus approached the
Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway exit to the town of Yehud, the sirens began to wail.
While the driver and passengers argued among themselves whether or not to get
off a rocket crashed into a house close by, totally destroying it.
I could have lost Ofra and
Images of injury, chaos, and
even death are flashing before our eyes here in Israel at a dizzying pace this
week, making it nearly impossible to remain focused on the many examples of
humanity on the part of Israelis. We do ourselves a disservice by ignoring
Perhaps closest to my heart: the
outpouring of love we witnessed as tens of thousands of Israelis attended the
funerals this week of Sean Carmeli and Max Steinberg, two Lone
Soldiers from the United States who fell in Operation Protective Edge. I saw
this outpouring intensify on Thursday as the Steinbergs sat shiva at
Jerusalem's Crown Plaza hotel; when Ofra and I arrived, literally hundreds of
people stood patiently in line as it progressed at a snail's pace, there to
demonstrate with their actions the ties that bind.
Thirty years ago I too was a
Lone Soldier, leaving this wonderful country for the land of our forefathers
just like Max and Sean. Like me, they chose Golani. May their memory be
I also found myself deeply moved
by a brief report on one of the TV news programs here, showing an Israeli
surgeon shuffling between wounded IDF soldiers and civilian cases. Making his
rounds, he stopped to check in on a Bedouin infant hurt by a Hamas rocket,
compassionately mixing Hebrew and Arabic to assure the mother that
"inshallah, it'll be alright."
These scenes are merely the tip
of the iceberg. We have lost more than 30 soldiers and officers. As the number
of IDF fallen grows, the public discourse here could be expected to ask: Would
we lose so many if we weren't so careful not to harm Gaza's Palestinian
civilians? Unsurprisingly, this question does not generate any discussion,
because there is nothing to discuss.
Not only is it clear to all that
everything must be done to protect and help Palestinian civilians, even as the
Iranian-backed leaders of Hamas try to kill as many of our citizens as
possible. No, we also understand that we have an obligation to do so.
There is no other way to explain
why the IDF has set up a field hospital just outside the Erez crossing to
facilitate continued treatment of injured Palestinians also living under fire.
Or why Israel's Electricity Company would risk the lives of its employees to
fix power lines blown by Hamas rockets. Or why the Kerem Shalom crossing
remains open to allow the flow of daily humanitarian shipments.
(Since the beginning of
Operation Protective Edge, more than 860 Israeli trucks have brought food,
fuel, and medical supplies to the people of Gaza.)
These are not the actions of
mortal enemies, but rather the actions of concerned neighbors. Our fight is not
with Palestinians. Our fight is with the jihadists along our borders and their
backers from afar who seek to annihilate the Jewish state and the Jewish
people, to wreak havoc throughout an already volatile Middle East.
Through such an emotion-packed
week, what has resonated in my mind so potently is this story: Last
week, 13 Palestinian children from Gaza and the West Bank arrived at Israel’s Wolfson
Medical Center in Holon (near Tel Aviv) to undergo life-saving heart
operations. By now, when the sirens announcing in-coming rockets blow, the
toddlers there instinctively raise their arms for the volunteers to scoop them
to safety in the protected room. But mostly they are busy doing arts and crafts
or watching movies (Alvin and the Chipmunks is a favorite).
A few days after their arrival
at the hospital, 13 very different Palestinians popped out of an infiltration
tunnel into Israeli territory with the sole purpose of slaughtering the women
and children of a nearby community. Their mission was the result of a decade of
Hamas' bloodthirsty indoctrination; we can only hope that the other 13
Palestinians - the children in an Israeli hospital whose lives we just saved -
do not wind up in the same hellish situation.
That's the difference between
Israel and its warmongering adversaries. This is who we are, and we can all be
proud of that.