The Proud Difference

The Proud Difference

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    CG Yehuda Yaakov CG Yehuda Yaakov

    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 Yaara.

    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 them.

    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 blessed.

    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).

    Picture that. 

    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.