I remember shortly before “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008-09—the first of the three Gaza Operations within a four-year period—I drove a number of times from my home in Gush Etzion to Sderot with a car load of my friends. Sderot was getting the brunt of the daily rockets fired from Gaza. The people there were suffering, emotionally and financially. My friends and I wanted to show our support with its residents.
We walked through the streets that bared the evidence of previous exploded rockets, and we patronized local eateries. We shopped in the then nearly deserted stores, mostly hitting smaller businesses, the mom-and-pop shops, paid off some people’s debts in the local grocery stores and visited children in the shelters.
We weren’t alone.
Many others did the same. Buses filled with people who sought to help in any way headed south to Sderot as the rockets rained down. Because in Israel, kacha—that’s how it is.
During one occasion in Sderot, my friends and I branched off to different shops located at an outdoor strip mall. We weren’t there too long before the “Tzeva Adom” alarm blasted, providing the 15 seconds of warning before the rocket would find its mark. (This was before the days of Iron Dome.) One of my friends ran into the store I was in to get me, frantically saying, “We have to go!” I looked through the storefront window at a large, almost empty parking lot. Hardly a place of refuge. With just about eight seconds away from the rocket finding its mark, I turned to my friend and almost laughingly said: “Where would you like to go? We have nowhere else to go.”
We stood in the center of the small shop in quiet foreboding, waiting. And then we heard the explosion, the vibrations rattling the storefront window. It landed two blocks away, just outside the grocery that we had gone to earlier.
Since then, the entire country has experienced three Gaza Operations and countless missiles fired from Gaza onto our population, reaching Tel Aviv and beyond.
Today, in addition to the threat on our southern border, we face a massive Iranian piloted threat on our northern border, and our troops there are currently on high alert.
Even on our tiny sliver of land, we are not permitted to live in peace. Another war is unfortunately inevitable. Our predicament explains the yiheye b’seder (“It will be all right”) maxim so common in Israel’s vernacular. You see, it has to be all right. Because we have nowhere else to go. Our history confirms this to be so. Over and over, again.
To be honest, there is nowhere I’d rather be. I love my land. I love my people. I treasure each day I wake up to the Israeli sun. While the road to our ultimate destiny is no doubt a rocky one, I know that my family and I are exactly where we are supposed to be. Our fate as a people will not be determined in exile, but here—in the land of our forefathers, in our God-given land, in the land we are meant to be in. It’s very soil is inseparable from who and what we are. It is a place that envelops our spiritual essence and defines our existence; it is a land that completes us as a distinct Jewish nation.
The Jewish nation belongs in Israel. It is our homeland. No amount of fraudulent allegations and no amount of purposeful, falsified revisions of history by our detractors will change that. Though forced to fight and all too cognizant of the losses we must endure, no one will ever take Israel away from us again.
Yom Hazikaron is upon us, and the air is heavy with the pain of our bereaved and from the burden we carry. On this solemn day, our hearts no longer beat in a familiar rhythm, but shudder with sorrow.
The price we pay his high. We feel the enormity each and every day. Yet we set aside this day, Yom Hazikaron. We stand in silence for all our fallen precious souls stolen through acts of terror and on the battlefield. As the siren sounds throughout our country, we stand in silence for all our heroes who gave their lives so that we may live. So much loss and so many tears in this little country of ours. We are weighed down with an eternal sadness, knowing well that the struggle continues.
As it has been throughout the generations, it is our people’s fate to fight and to struggle for the preservation of our existence until such a time as our swords will be set aside for plowshares. Only that time is not yet here and, until then, we will do what needs to be done. Indeed, we want peace. We crave peace. Only, the world craves something else, and sustains and strengthens our enemies who are menacingly perched on our borders.
Nevertheless, unlike the wretched exile that we left, we, the nation of Israel will continue to stand our ground, here in our Land. Ein lanu eretz acheret (“We have no other land”). We have nowhere else to go.
In reverence to our fighters, respect for our wounded, and in deference to our dead, we pray to God to continue to watch over us, to grant wisdom and courage to our leaders, to heal our wounded and provide solace to our bereaved.
At the military cemetery of Kiryat Shaul in northern Tel Aviv, I stand at the grave of my own cousin who fell in the line of duty.
And while I beseech all of God’s angels in the realm above to serve nobly as our relentless guardians, on the ground, on the front lines and in the trenches, ever is the sense that our angels wear green.
You can find more in-depth articles on Israel and the Middle East @en.mida.org.il.