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My Thoughts from This Summer’s Events, by Beth M. (MHT Art Teacher)…
My husband recently sent out an email update that presented some sound information about what has been happening here in Israel in order to provide some broader knowledge and understanding for those living outside the country. While I see the big picture here, my view is often most affected by the smaller things; details behind the scenes that never achieve the “breaking news” exposure, so this is my play back that will give you a chance to view the big picture through smaller windows.
The catalyst of events here began when Hamas terrorists kidnapped three Jewish teenage boys. When the news was confirmed, Hamas and the Palestinian people in Gaza shot off rifles and danced in the streets while women passed out cakes and sweets in celebration. All over Israel, Arabs flashed a new victory hand-signal at the Jews: holding three fingers up, which meant, “We have 3 (prisoners) this time not just one prisoner (like Gilad Shalit).”
At the same time, on the Israeli news, the mothers of the 3 kidnapped boys appeared on T.V. with dignity and great courage, encouraging the Jewish people to be strong together and to have hope that the boys would be found unharmed.
Israel called for a national day of prayer for the teens’ safe return and literally thousands upon thousands of people responded by praying at the Kotel (Western Wall) and other gathering places all throughout that day. The country was literally holding its breath and waiting for good news…but it was not to be. The 3 teenagers were found dead over two weeks later, shot in the head and buried in shallow graves.
The country mourned together as one, but some ultra religious people grew angry and blamed the government for not doing its job. This anger was expressed in a few religious communities with demonstrations, and then an Arab teenage boy was kidnapped by three wayward Jewish boys who brutally killed him in a Jerusalem forest.
The three kidnappers (described later as religious juvenile delinquents) were caught and their actions were publically condemned by Rabbis, Israeli citizens, government officials, and the Prime Minister, who personally apologized to the Arab boys’ parents promising them that terrorism is NEVER acceptable no matter who perpetrates it and that these three perpetrators of terrorist acts would be tried accordingly.
Immediately after the Arab boy’s funeral, many Arabs took to the streets in Jerusalem, rioting in revenge. They destroyed property, cars, burned things and shot rifles until soldiers were called in. The damage to Jerusalem’s new railway transportation system, alone, was estimated in the millions of dollars due to the rioters smashing ticket stations and derailing train tracks for miles.
The Arab boy’s family, meanwhile, received condolences from friends and family in their “mourning tent.” A bus of independently motivated Jewish men and women came to the tent to offer their own condolences and sympathies reaching out, as fellow human beings, who also know and share the pain of sorrow and loss of a loved one. They were received in the tent for the boy’s eulogy, but, instead of the family and friends accepting their expression of sorrow, the Jewish Israeli visitors were met by words of blame, anger and hate for Israel and its government. When they left the tent, one said, “I came to offer comfort and caring and to show that we are not all like the ones who killed this boy, but now I am sorry that I came.”
Gaza, meanwhile has been sending a barrage of rockets into Israel nonstop for months, but after these events, things began to increase horribly. A ground incursion of Israeli soldiers to destroy all terrorist tunnels and weapons of Hamas was scheduled to take place. Israel called for a national time of prayer for the battle before the soldiers were to go in. Everyone in the country was asked to pray Psalm 91 together at noon time and then the soldiers were prayed over and sent into Gaza.
Israel traditionally drops thousands of flyers, uses loud speakers and personal phone text messages to warn Gaza’s citizens in target areas to get out.
Hamas counter-orders Gazan residents instead to take their children to the roof tops and hold them as shields to thwart the attacks. (Now Hamas is not just ordering them, they are publically beating them in the streets if they try to leave.).
Repeatedly, the news shows coverage of innocent Palestinian causalities (but they never include the details such as the fact that Hamas stored great amounts of weapons and warheads in hospitals, schools, or homes).
Hamas employs diabolical (and cowardly) traps such as fitting donkeys with explosives and sending them into Israeli soldier groups or leaving a wounded, old man in a field who is hiding hand grenades under his body, prepared to throw them at Israeli soldiers who come to help him.
When a misguided rocket fired by Hamas backfired and hit Gaza’s electrical plant, Israel went in to repair it so the citizens would have power.
Israel set up an alternate field hospital to treat the Palestinian wounded (literally saving their enemies’ lives).
Israel honored the first humanitarian cease-fire while Hamas continued to fire rockets only hours later breaking the cease-fire. Israel honored the second cease-fire and, again, even though we ceased, they continued to fire.
Nightly, on Israel’s news stations, the names of every soldier killed in battle is heard. A photograph, something about the person’s character and life, and how he died is retold – one by one. Every life that was lived and lost is revered and remembered here.
One exceptional soldier story is that of Max Steinberg, a 24 year-old,Jewish man who came from America, specifically to volunteer in Israel’s elite Givati Brigade. He is known as a “lone soldier” or one that has no family here. When he was recently killed, fighting in Gaza, people who knew him were afraid that he would have no one to mourn him at this funeral, but astonishing, 30,000 Israelis (I saw the pictures and article) showed up to attend his funeral and honor his passing. Friends who had friends told other friends and family, etc., until that remarkable number of people, who cared, turned out for him.
Another story in the Israeli news was about a group of specialized American fire fighters who were at 9/11 and volunteered to help Israel put out the fires that are being caused from Gaza’s rocket fires landing in open fields and wooded areas. The photo showed these men decked out in fire fighting gear, proudly walking together and holding the flag of Israel stretched like a safety net between them.
Lastly, on a personal note, I walked away in tears after I was asked by three 15 year-old Israeli boy scouts to donate snacks for the soldiers in Gaza. As I bought things like pretzels, granola bars, and Coke, (as others had also done) I was overcome with the type of teenage snack food we were sending to the soldiers on the front lines (who were barely beyond being teenagers themselves) and how different it was from the substantial institutional foods American soldiers have when facing wars. This was a small, caring personal detail from one family member to another.
Israel stands together in many unusual ways. Recently, a very popular advertisement network here called Janglo collected 600,000 Shekels (approximately $172,000) to buy pizzas and gear for IDF soldiers. The business manager said, “It’s amazing to be in a position to see everyone give and not take credit for anything – it’s the least that we can do.”
And, of course, the background picture to all of these small scenes taking place around me was the backdrop that depicts people violently demonstrating against Israel and the Jewish people worldwide. No matter, whatever seems to happen or not to happen, anywhere in the world, whether it be true or untrue, the blame falls upon the universal scapegoat. That remains the same.
So, I will seriously ask you in these days, as you consider whether to bless Israel or curse her, to remember that this little country is the only place in the vast Middle East where the light of democracy struggles to shine. It is the only country that values LIFE, as much as the religion and politics around us teaches others to value death. So, please, look beyond the news reports when you choose with whom you will stand these days…because, if you choose wrongly, surely these same terrorist troubles that are on our doorstep now, will be on yours one day.
A follow up note about the timing of how all these events resulted in exposing a greater plan of Hamas: Their plan was to use the tunnel systems on this Rosh Hashanah to kill and capture hundreds of Israelis living next to Gaza. They planned on a mass infiltration of hundreds of terrorists on that day disguised in IDF uniforms to enter through numerous tunnels simultaneously attacking kibbutz communities and army bases to take men, women and children into Gaza. Operation Protective Edge has miraculously foiled this plan. God did hear and answered our prayers.
“Evil can only be victorious when good men remain silent.