Two parallel emotions have dominated the horrific hours of October 7 and its aftermath --- Shock and fury against the barbarity of ISIS-style Hamas and pride and gratitude for the remarkable resilience of the People of Israel.
Today’s message is dedicated to a few examples of the unending displays of courage, love, and unity by Am Yisrael in the midst of an unprecedented crisis.
First, even before the IDF regrouped and arrived in 20+ besieged Gaza-Israel border communities, more than 2,500 Israelis were rescued by the bravery, fortitude, and ingenuity of resilient Israeli civilians.
Examples of personal heroism are emerging. The following are three among the many.
Retired General Noam Tivon spoke to a global Zoom audience, which we at MERCAZ Olami organized for a couple of thousand listeners. The General’s saga was incredible.
Age 60-something Tivon received a frantic call from his son and daughter-in-law and their children. They were barricaded into a safe room on their Gaza-border Kibbutz. Hamas terrorists were murdering fellow Kibbutzniks. Living in Tel Aviv, one hour away, General Tivon instinctively jumped into his car and traveled to the rescue. On the way, he shot and killed several Hamas invaders while bringing fleeing civilians to safety. Upon arriving at his family’s Kibbutz, using his military reputation, Tivon organized soldiers and redeemed his loved ones. Not for a moment did he consider his safety. A hero indeed!
Inbar Lieberman, age 25, the security coordinator of Kibbutz Nir Am, rallied fellow kibbutzniks to fend off and kill two dozen advancing Hamas murderers. She saved the lives of her neighbors and friends. Upon hearing the alarming sounds of violent intruders, Inbar had organized her 12-member security team, She coordinated their response and stopped the attack. The security team turned Kibbutz Nir Am into an “impenetrable fortress.”
Gil Troy records that “Omri Bonim, aged 41, and five others fought off dozens of terrorists for hours until help arrived, using the knowledge of their kibbutz, Reim, to fire from different positions. They made the marauders think many more defenders had actually arrived. ‘This was a fight for our homes. Our long-term friendships with one another gave us the most organic energy there is.’”
Ad hoc IDF veterans were jumping into the initial leadership vacuum.
Notably, “Brothers in Arms,” the very folks who had threatened not to “show up” for reserve duty,” put judicial overhaul aside, spontaneously launching into action. They grabbed handguns, pistols, and weapons of all types. They improvised, saving refugees from the Hamas slaughterhouse. As noted by columnist Gil Troy, “When Hamas attacked, when the expected [security] systems failed, [ironically] one of the most effective networks of battle-hardened veterans existed thanks to Israel’s judicial chaos. Political differences have now vanished. Patriotism and extraordinary military training triumphed. Hour-by-hour, “Brothers in Arms” shared information about where to get help and where to flee. They organized ride-sharing to get to reserve bases, to evacuate the wounded, and to reunite families. When historians reconstruct this war, many will credit this protest network with helping to turn the tide.”
Similarly ad hoc and effective was the “Student Protest Movement.” As Nadav Zalzberger commented, “ We decided we weren’t waiting for the authorities to get organized. We were just going to do what we can where we can.” This Student Protest network collaborated with other former protesting clusters, e.g., Building an Alternative, the Hi-Tech Protest, Hitorerut, One Heart, Common Home, and others. They proceeded to provide equipment for soldiers, provide psychological care, babysitting, and child care, run day camps as needed, and help host families from the South and the North.
The IDF ultimately mobilized and served with great courage.
The IDF called up 100 percent of the requisite number of reservists so that 70% would “show up.” Yet 150% arrived! Israelis from around the world flooded into airports. They came home to serve in their military units. Israeli hi-tech global leaders “diverted company resources – employees, money and the attention of their investors – to efforts to benefit the survivors of the massacres in the south and to logistical assistance to soldiers” [Jerusalem Post’s Assaf Gilead]. Everyone united in a battle for survival.
Israeli resilience translated instantaneously to all sectors of the Home Front.
For example, a religious response was provided by synagogues/kehillot. Members were urged – whenever possible – to attend [e.g., “to accompany”] funeral processions of victims of Hamas, whether or not they knew the deceased or the bereaved family. WhatsApp groups directed folks to participate in the shiva minyanim, offering words of “Nechama” [sympathy, consoling the bereaved mourners]. The rabbi of my son/daughter-in-law’s shul sent out instructions: “The participation at shiva is first and foremost being there and offering comfort. The grieving family must not feel that they are alone and must feel instead, they are part of Am Yisrael. Offer to assist with practical tasks like shopping, laundry, and so forth. Ask the mourners to share about their family member who was murdered. Follow up after shiva has concluded.””
My Family responds –
My daughter-in-law and granddaughters have been baking for the soldiers. My wife [Rita] has purchased food to be transported to “The Front.” Our favorite restaurants serve beverages for sale, but the kitchen is closed to the public, its staff preparing meals for the IDF. My grandson and the other 16/17-year-olds in his youth movement have been cleaning out and moving furniture into vacant apartments. They do so for Israeli refugees from the “Gaza” kibbutzim to have an interim place in which to reside [their residences having been brutally destroyed]. They also raised funds and posted Israeli flags prominently all around Modiin [boosting morale]. My son’s gap year 18-year-old yeshiva students [from the USA and elsewhere] have been cleaning out bomb shelters for public use in Jerusalem. I have spent my days researching, writing, and distributing “The Case for Israel.”
Additional groups have emerged to support the families of the bereaved, the 200 hostages, the wounded, the displaced and traumatized from the South and the North, and the loved ones of IDF soldiers
All Israelis concur that “Victory is Essential.” Israel cannot agree to yet another cease-fire that guarantees Hamas rearming and then renewing hostilities in one, two, or three years.
Signs abound all around the country – “Am Yisrael Chai/The People of Israel Shall live” -and “BeYachad NeNatzayach/ United We Will Be Victorious”
In Golda Meir’s words – “[We will fight until victory because] Our secret weapon is that we have no place else to go.”