Honoring bravery in the face of terrorism

The heroes of Israel mirror the nation’s vibrant diversity, embodying courage and resilience that transcend religious, ethnic and cultural boundaries.

Kibbutz Be’eri resident Aya Meydan hugs one of the Bedouin rescuers who saved her from Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, 2023. Source: Screenshot/Partners in Fate.
Kibbutz Be’eri resident Aya Meydan hugs one of the Bedouin rescuers who saved her from Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, 2023. Source: Screenshot/Partners in Fate.

Israelis and Americans, both Jews and non-Jews, become a formidable force when they unite against threats. In the face of challenges, this unity is powerful proof of strength derived from diversity—transcending religious and cultural boundaries. Israel’s cultural mosaic promotes resilience and solidarity when the Jewish state is under attack. Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, religious, secular, men, women, natives and immigrants all came together in a shared commitment to defend the Jewish state.

American Natalie Sanandaji owes her life to Israeli hero Moshe Sati. Natalie attended the Nova music festival during a trip to Israel. Iran-backed Hamas terrorists killed 364 civilians at Nova. Moshe and his son saved more than 100 lives by driving back and forth in their truck during the terrorist attacks. Natalie only recently learned his name when she returned to Israel: “I’m very lucky that he is who he is. It was incredible, to just meet such a selfless person who was really willing to risk his own life—not once, but risk his life over and over again.” The 28-year-old New Yorker also spoke of her fear of living in New York because of the multitude of pro-Hamas supporters: “I’m safest as a Jew in Israel.”

All-female Israeli tank crews in the Israel Defense Forces defended civilians during the Oct. 7 massacre. The soldiers battled Hamas terrorists for 17 straight hours. Their commander, Col. Shemer Raviv: “When the tanks arrived, they broke up the battles. These female warriors, with three tanks at that point in the attack, they fought in a most impressive way.” A tank officer, Hagar, described how she had no fear: “You think about the people sitting at home, the people that need us, and understand that there is no room for fear.” Tank commander Tamar humbly stated: “I don’t feel like a hero, I feel like a soldier following orders and doing her job.” (VIDEO with interviews)

Dogs have also been playing a key role against Hamas terrorists. In multiple battles, specially trained army dogs have prevented ambushes of Israeli soldiers: “During a scan by a dog named Toy, a corridor was found connecting the building where the soldiers were located to another building where a terrorist was lying in ambush. Toy neutralized the terrorist, thus saving the force from operating in a dangerous building.” Another dog, Patrick, overpowered a Hamas terrorist waiting to ambush troops. The IDF’s Oketz special forces use Belgian Shepherds to search for terrorists and sniff out hidden explosives.

IDF Search Dog
Toy, an army dog, is part of an IDF special forces unit trying to sniff out terrorists in Gaza. Credit: IDF.

Several Israeli Arabs from the Bedouin town of Rahat in Israel’s south saved countless lives. Four Bedouin men drove to Kibbutz Be’eri to rescue their cousin. They found Israelis fleeing the music festival: “Our conscience wouldn’t allow us to leave them there, under fire. Before we went to evacuate our cousin, we helped many other people who were at the party. We evacuated at least 30 to 40 people.” The cousins comforted and fed the victims. Another Bedouin, Youssef Ziadna, drove nine Israelis to the Nova festival in his minibus hours before the attacks began. One of the nine, Hadar, urgently called Youssef for help. He immediately drove to rescue them and saved 30 lives. Unfortunately, the Bedouin heroes suffer from the same flashbacks and trauma felt by other Israelis.

Shlomo Ron was at home with his wife, daughters and grandson at Kibbutz Nahal Oz on Oct. 7. He devised a plan after realizing that the terrorists were checking all the houses and killing those inside. His niece Irit shared his brave heroism: “When the terrorists were at their doorstep, my uncle, empty-handed, used his elderly, sick body to protect his family. He went to the living room, sat down in his armchair and waited for them. The murderers came, saw an old and lonely man sitting in an armchair, shot him and moved on. It didn’t cross their minds that this old man was physically protecting his dear treasure, his wife and family, and that’s why they moved on.” The rest of the family went undiscovered in the home’s safe room because of his sacrifice.

IDF Women Tank Crew
An all-women IDF tank crew that fought on Oct. 7, 2023. Source: Israeli “Channel 12” News screenshot.

Other heroes include a 45-year-old mother of 10, Orthodox Border Police Superintendent Shifra Buchris, and 31-year-old Filipino caregiver Camille Jesalva. Shifra and two of her officers used their personal vehicles to rescue wounded Israelis for 12 hours: “I and the fighters by my side were determined to reunite as many children as possible with their families at home.” Camille saved herself and wheelchair-bound Nitza Hefetz, 95, at Kibbutz Nirim. She gave the terrorists all the money she had and convinced them not to harm “my best friend” Nitza.

Israeli volunteers and many from America and around the world—both Jews and non-Jews—are helping to comfort and strengthen Israelis. Thousands of Israelis living near Gaza and Southern Lebanon are displaced, reservists are away from their jobs and the whole country is traumatized.

Some Arab citizens feel more connected to Israel and are providing medical assistance and helping distribute food to displaced families. Many Israelis are volunteering on farms that are facing a shortage of 40,000 laborers. They are planting and picking fruits, including lemons, persimmons and avocados. A group of 10 Christian Zionist cowboys volunteered at a farm owned by a Christian family from Texas. Yossi Strein is a Christian from Montana: “The Jewish people have a right to live here, and so I’m going to do anything I can to support them.” About 12,000 foreign doctors, nurses and paramedics offered their assistance to Israel.

American cowboys volunteer in Israel, Nov. 23, 2023. Credit: Courtesy.

Israeli immigrants started an online school for children, provided soldiers with critical supplies, served meals to displaced families and raised money for orphans. Aliya Fastman from Berkeley, Calif., launched a volunteer-run community kitchen: “We aren’t Jews with trembling knees. I hope that people who are against us can see that we’re not willing to back down. Every day that we’re volunteering and giving back is our message to the world that we’re strong, but we’re even stronger when we’re united.”

There are many more untold stories of heroism from Oct. 7, and in the months including those by IDF soldiers who have died fighting against Hamas terrorists in Gaza. One online project gathers and documents stories for children to give them strength and create a sense of unity.

Points to consider:

1. The Jewish people are strengthened through unity.

The strength of the Jewish people lies in the unity forged when Jews and non-Jews stand together—in Israel, America and around the world. This unity is particularly evident in times of crisis, such as Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War, serving as a way to bring together communities, regardless of social and political differences. Israelis quickly pushed the pause button on their differences over judicial reforms in response to the Oct. 7 atrocities. American Jews and their allies are uniting against the endless flow of pro-Hamas activists threatening them.

2. Not all Zionists are Jews.

Many non-Jews support the right of Jews to live in their ancestral homeland. Despite the hijacking of the meaning of Zionism by anti-Israel activists, there are many American Christians and Israeli Muslims who call themselves Zionists. Israeli Arab Bedouins have a long history of volunteering in the IDF, and Druze and Circassians have been drafted since 1956. Druze Mayor Rafik Halabi, a former military officer and journalist, stated: “I am an Israeli patriot, although I am not a Jew.” There is no single description of what a Zionist looks like.

3. Israeli heroes reflect the country’s diverse society.

The heroes of Israel mirror the nation’s vibrant diversity, embodying courage and resilience that transcend religious, ethnic and cultural boundaries. Each individual is united in their commitment to the nation’s well-being. Their stories highlight the strength found in the fabric of Israeli society, a shared determination to overcome challenges during the nation’s 75-year history. Israel is the only Jewish state but also is committed to the “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants,” as stated in the Israeli Declaration of Independence.

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