July 14, 2016
Dear Friend of Israel
Ten years ago, on July 12, 2006, the Second Lebanon War began when Hezbollah terrorists attacked Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers patrolling the Lebanon border. Eight Israeli soldiers were killed, and two, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, were kidnapped. After two years of torturing their families with uncertainty about their fates – Israeli officials did not know whether the prisoners were alive or dead – the dead bodies of these two young men were returned to Israel in coffins, swapped for five terrorists held in Israeli jails, including the bloodthirsty Samir Kuntar, who was responsible for one of the most monstrous attacks in Israel’s history. This was Hezbollah’s perverse, twisted idea of a “prisoner exchange.”
The July 12 attack was a naked act of aggression that plunged Israel into all-out war. By the time a United Nations-brokered ceasefire was in place a month later, Hezbollah had fired nearly 4,000 rockets at Israel, causing great suffering and widespread devastation. One hundred and sixty Israelis were killed. Over 4,000 were injured, and hundreds of thousands displaced. More than one million Israelis were forced to live in bomb shelters, in some cases for more than a month. These bomb shelters had been unused for years, and were terribly run-down. Conditions in many were nearly unlivable.
World reaction was, alas, unsurprising. As Israel launched airstrikes and, eventually, a military ground campaign in an attempt to defend her people, critics decried the Jewish state’s “disproportionate response” to Hezbollah’s act of war. Reality was turned on its head. Sadly absent from the wall-to-wall media coverage of the Second Lebanon War was an honest depiction of the plight of hundreds of thousands of Israelis, many of whom lost their loved ones, homes, and livelihoods due to Hezbollah’s campaign of terror.
Much has changed in the Middle East since the Second Lebanon War, though the fundamental conflict between Israel and her neighbors remains the same. Wars and innumerable terror attacks have occurred since, and radical Islam has gained an even stronger foothold in the area. Gaza is now a radical Islamist stronghold, ruled by Hamas. Iran continues its aggressive pursuit of nuclear capabilities and its hostile rhetoric against Israel and the West. ISIS continues to sow death and chaos in Syria and Iraq, and to export its particularly ruthless brand of Islamist extremism around the region and the world. Hezbollah remains fully entrenched in Lebanon.
Still, as I look back at the Second Lebanon War and the pain it caused, I remember heartening things as well. I recall the indomitable spirit of the Israeli people – a spirit that I saw in neighbors helping neighbors, in people displaying courage under fire, in people showing calm when faced with unbearable circumstances. I also recall how quickly and generously Fellowship supporters responded to our calls for emergency assistance.
Because of this outpouring of compassion, The Fellowship was able to renovate thousands of public and private bomb shelters. We were able to provide for IDF reserve soldiers, purchase bulletproof vests and helmets for employees of local authorities, and purchase hundreds of toy boxes filled with activities to help children living in shelters pass the time. We were able to provide air conditioners, fans, and basic equipment for the shelters, and give extensive individual assistance to thousands of people and families in distress. Beyond this, tens of thousands of people joined us in prayer for Israel’s peace and security. Despite the terrible uncertainty we felt during a time of war, this outpouring of love for Israel and her people was a great blessing, and reinforced for all of us at The Fellowship the incredible commitment that our supporters have to Israel’s peace and security.
The Psalmist wrote, “Too long have I lived among those who hate peace. I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war” (Psalm 120:6-7). Many believe that a future war against Hezbollah may be unavoidable. As one expert, Tony Badran, put it, “the level of destruction during the next war with Hezbollah promises to be even greater than in 2006, as Hezbollah’s military infrastructure is dispersed in civilian areas, which will now be treated as military targets.” No one in Israel hopes for war. But let us pray that the next war, if it must come, ends with a decisive defeat for Hezbollah, and that Israel’s northern border will be peaceful once and for all
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President