An Update from the JCC Israel Center • Operation Protective Edge – Day 46

Since Hamas renewed firing missiles on Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of rockets have been launched at Israel. Some have made direct hits, including, very sadly, a four-year-old child who was killed. This was only just announced, but today’s missiles from Gaza also hit a synagogue in Ashdod earlier today that injured three, and one near an operating preschool with infants attending in Be’er Sheva, wounding a man. And we learned that Hamas’ cruelty doesn’t omit anyone, not even their own: Earlier today Hamas publicly executed seven Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel. This came fast on the heels of execution of 11 others of their own.

Living here has become a little surreal. Life continues simultaneously with constant sirens, ongoing alerts and endless street signs and radio warning of what to do in the case of rockets falling. It’s frustrating and exhausting.
Last night my 16-year-old daughter was walking home from a friend’s house, when she first heard a very loud noise, like an airplane flying way too close, and then immediately heard the siren’s alert. She realized the noise she heard wasn’t a plane, but the Iron Dome defense system taking aim at one of Hamas’ rockets.

So imagine a 16-year-old finding herself in the middle of the street, now has to make a decision: Does she have 90 seconds to run home or to a nearby house or not? Eventually she hides behind a wall, when she hears the explosion. Only then did she feel it was safe to run home, crying.
Can anyone picture such a reality? But that one is ours, for the past 46 days. Would any sovereign country remain indifferent to this reality and restrain itself? Or would it hit back, even harder than Israel is doing?

My daughter is fine. And soon enough we turned this into a funny story, an adventure. But  believe me, it is not one I would like to see repeating itself. So yes, life goes on. This week Israel marked the shloshim, or 30-day mourning period, for some of our losses. Events that had been planned, however, had to change course due to the war.  On Tisha b’Av the nation cried with Gali Nir, Israel Defense Force (IDF) Maj. Bnaya Sarel’s 26-year-old fiancée, at her loved one’s funeral. Bnaya was killed during the Gaza war along with 63 other Israeli soldiers and citizens.

Bnaya and Gali resemble all that is so beautiful about Israeli society. Gali comes from a secular kibbutz, Bnaya from a modern Orthodox family living in Kiryat Arba by Hebron. Bnaya was one of eight children, all raised with Zionist values of patriotism, giving and caring. At his funeral, Bnaya’s father told the 10,000 attending that his son used to donate his army service stipend, month after month, to lone soldiers, those who have made aliyah and serve without nearby family.

Bnaya and his lovely fiancée Gali came from such different backgrounds, and yet based their love and friendship on the values they both received at home.

Yesterday Gali and Bnaya were supposed to get married.  Everything had been planned. Israeli weddings are very large with 500 to 800 people celebrating. However, what was supposed to be the happiest day of Bnaya’s and Gali’s lives was instead a very sad day for their families and friends in mourning.

So instead of dancing at this beautiful couple’s wedding, Bnaya’s family decided to follow his example and give to others. All the invited wedding guests were asked to donate an amount of money equal to the gift they were planning on giving to the couple. With all the money collected, the family arranged a very large gourmet meal at a soup kitchen in Jerusalem to feed the poor.

Their pain will last forever; the loss will hammer at their heart through time. But good deeds last forever.  Giving to others and repairing the world honors Bnaya’s memory and is an example to follow.

Ehud Manor (1941-2005), one of Israel most popular poets wrote:

I Have No Other Country

I have no other country
Even if my land is burning
Only a Hebrew word
Reaches my veins and my soul
With an aching body
With a hungry heart
Here is my home…

Once again I will light Shabbat candles with an additional prayer for peace, quiet and safety. Home is hurting and threatened, but it is a solid home, made so by its people, here and across the Jewish world, who hold to it with great love and pride.

Shabbat shalom
Leah Garber

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