OpinionIsrael at War

The world can say what it will

This past week was marked by an unofficial policy change in Israel.

A military helicopter with fighters who participated in the rescue operation of four Israeli hostages from the Gaza Strip flying to the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, June 8, 2024. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90..
A military helicopter with fighters who participated in the rescue operation of four Israeli hostages from the Gaza Strip flying to the Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, June 8, 2024. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90..
Rabbi Hayim Leiter. Credit: Courtesy.
Rav Hayim Leiter
Hayim Leiter is a rabbi, mohel, wedding officiant and member of a private beit din in Israel. He founded Magen HaBrit, an organization that protects the ceremony of brit milah and the children who undergo it. He lives in Efrat and can be reached on X.

Saturday was the hottest day of the year so far, and we had a 45-minute walk to a bat mitzvah on the other side of town. We were all suffering from the heat, so I remarked: “Don’t worry, we’ll be in the synagogue’s air conditioning soon enough.”

Upon arrival, the signage zig-zagged us until we were spit out the back doors to an open-air tent where the service was being held. I didn’t think I was going to make it. But as we listened to the bat mitzvah girl, everything else melted away.

“Did you hear the news?” a woman eagerly stopped us on our way home. We hadn’t heard anything because we don’t use electronics on the Sabbath. “Four hostages are home!” she informed us. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

How could any of us complain about sitting in the sun for a few hours while the hostages have been suffering in Gaza for eight months?

Shabbat is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, after hearing the news, we were anxious for the holiday to end, so we could participate in our national celebration. On the other hand, the Shabbat bubble protected us from the inevitable backlash to our victory.

The prevailing narrative of Israel as the aggressor could not be suppressed even for the rescue of four innocent people. The international media did everything it could to spin the story against the Jewish state. There was CNN’s headline that read, “Four Hostages Released,” as if Hamas suddenly had a change of heart, to the incessant focus on the number of casualties incurred on the other side, numbering hundreds. The media will stop at nothing to vilify Jews protecting themselves.

This past week was marked by an unofficial policy change in Israel. It feels as if the government is saying, “We do not care what the world says about us anymore.” The first incidents that indicated a change were the strikes on two Hamas-embedded UNRWA schools. Inevitably, the world’s reaction would be entirely negative because schools were involved, yet the operations were green-lit anyway.

The hostage rescue mission is another example of Israel doing what’s needed in this conflict with a relentless terror organization. The similarities of this operation to the raid on Entebbe in July 1976 are uncanny. Preparation for the rescue was practiced in a similar fashion, attempting all possible scenarios before being put into action. And to lose one soldier, Arnon Zamora, as the State of Israel lost Yonatan (“Yoni”) Netanyahu (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s older brother) in the Entebbe rescue effort, is eerie. Its success was nothing short of miraculous and to have these four hostages home with their families is what the country has been longing for.

But as amazing as these four hostages coming home is—and that can’t be overstated—it just isn’t enough.

As is well known, more than 100 individuals are still being held captive by Hamas. But they are not the only captives. Today’s bat mitzvah girl and her family are close friends of 23-year-old Hersh Goldberg-Polin and his family. Hersh was abducted to Gaza on Oct. 7, and the only contact since was the propaganda video Hamas released in April.

As is done in many religious communities around the world, a prayer was said for the hostages. Hersh’s cousin was given the honor of reciting the prayer, but her emotions didn’t allow her to finish. A friend had to step in to assist her.

No one knew that four hostages were being rescued at that very moment. Sadly, Hersh was not one of them.

But something was noticeably missing from this special day. Hersh’s parents, although close family friends, were not in attendance, and their absence was not due to a conflicting engagement. They weren’t there because they are trapped in a world of pain—the likes of which no one should know. And this anguish, along with the nonstop schedule of advocating for their son, keeps them from participating in the happy occasions we all need so much.

It is because of these captives, both the hostages and their families, that Israel will never stop fighting until the war is won. The rest of the world can say whatever they want about us, but nothing could be worse than what Hamas has already done and continues to do to our people. May we see an end to this conflict with all of the hostages and our soldiers home swiftly and safely.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war. JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you. The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support? Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates