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Heartbreak, Courage - and Unity

Rabbi's Commentary

Heartbreak, Courage - and Unity

July 29, 2014

Dear Friend of Israel,

The news from Israel has been heartbreaking. Ten more IDF soldiers were killed yesterday, five while fighting Hamas terrorists who crossed into Israel through tunnels. To date we’ve buried 53 soldiers who died protecting the country they love.

What Israel has discovered in her efforts to destroy the network of terror tunnels that reach into Israeli towns and neighborhoods has also been truly shocking – including a plot by Hamas to send terrorists through the tunnels to launch a murderous attack in September on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Had this plot succeeded, it could have resulted in thousands of Israeli deaths and cities held hostage by terrorists.

In the past few weeks, we have felt that much of the world is against us – the United Nations, certainly, and the Arab world. There are western governments (not to mention the press) that have joined in this chorus of harsh criticism. And around the world we’re seeing a drastic rise in anti-Semitism. In Paris and Belgium, in London and Berlin, Morocco and Turkey, there are violent anti-Israel demonstrations. Synagogues have been attacked, and Jews attacked on the street.

Despite the sobering realities, I have been heartened and touched by our strength and resilience in the face of terror. The people of Israel have really come together, more so than I’ve seen in any other war. Perhaps this is because everyone knows that this war was forced on us, and that we need to defend ourselves against missiles being directed at our civilian population and against the terrorists who enter our country to kidnap and kill. No nation concerned for the welfare of its people would shirk its duty by simply sitting back and letting those cowardly attacks happen.

One moment stays in my mind: Last week, as I came back from my visit to towns along the Gaza border that have taken the brunt of Hamas’ ruthless terrorist war, I passed an IDF patrol that checks on people and cars coming in and out of Israel. There was a soldier passing out flowers to each passenger car, thanking us for our solidarity with the soldiers. People are coming out of the woodwork, bringing everything – food, candy, flowers, chocolates, toiletries – to help the soldiers who are out in the field.

It’s a somber time as we are seeing the funerals of so many young men. We’re such a small country to be experiencing so much loss. And yet, we are truly hopeful. Even as we fight against terrorists, unfair criticism from some governments, and unfair treatment in the media, we know we’re fighting for the free world – for the values of liberty, freedom, and Judeo-Christian values that are the cornerstones of democracy. We know we’re at the front lines of the war on terror that must be fought by every free nation, and we do not intend to lose. All the while, we’re praying together that this war will end soon.

Thank God that during this crisis we have had our Christian friends with us, helping Israelis in their time of need by supporting the work of The Fellowship with overwhelming generosity, praying for us, speaking out on our behalf. In this staunch, unfailing support I see the embodiment of the biblical verses that tell us “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10). Thank you for being by our side during this time of crisis and war – how good and pleasant it is, indeed, when brothers live together in unity.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein