My heart is heavy tonight, with the news that seven more IDF soldiers were killed today, bringing the total count to 27 – including two civilians. On the TV and radio, there are interviews with friends and families of the fallen – some of them fathers already, who leave behind widows and orphans; others, young men who were just starting out on life’s adventure and who have now been cut down and will never have children of their own. And all this, because of a war that could have been avoided, had the international community put as much pressure on the terrorist Hamas government of Gaza to stop its rocket attacks on Israeli civilians as it does on Israel to make more and more concessions which never seem to bring peace any closer. Particularly moving was the funeral of lone soldier, Texas-born Nissim Sean Carmeli, whose parents live in the US. Sean was one of the 13 Golani fighters killed in Gaza on Sunday. As a lone soldier, there were fears that only a few mourners would attend his funeral. Accompanying the dead to their final resting place is considered a mitzva (a meritorious deed) in Judaism. Members of the Maccabi Haifa football team, of which Sean was an ardent supporter, urged their fans to attend the funeral, a campaign was hastily organised on Facebook, and – according to the report I just heard on TV – 40,000* mourners from all over the country are, at this very moment, accompanying Sean to his final rest.
If I had any lingering doubts as to the necessity of the ground offensive, they are receding with each discovery of a terror tunnel under the houses in the Saja’iyya district of Gaza. Even as I write these words, the kibbutzim in the Gaza Envelope are on high alert, as there is fear that, once again, terrorists have infiltrated Israel through this vast network of tunnels, many of which have exits no more than 200 metres or so from one or other of the kibbutzim. Only this morning, two teams of terrorists (fifteen in all) managed to sneak in near one of the kibbutzim and were confronted by our soldiers, who undoubtedly prevented a major terrorist atrocity.
So much for the darkness. But I don’t want to go to bed in tears. I want to end on an optimistic note. Earlier this evening, I was watching the news. In the top corner of the screen was a Code Red Alert notice for Ashdod and Ashkelon, and at the same time, the newscaster was broadcasting an item about a large group of several hundred new olim who arrived from France yesterday and who, today, moved to their new homes – in Ashdod and Ashkelon. Questioned by journalists if they weren’t afraid, they replied that in France, they were afraid. In France, the rising tide of antisemitism makes them fearful of leaving the house. In France, there is no-one to protect them. Here in Israel, they feel safe. They are not afraid of the rockets. They are not afraid of the war. Here in Israel, we have an army to protect us. And they began to sing Hatikva (The Hope), the Israeli national anthem. This is my people. I am proud to be a part of them.
* UPDATE: I am hearing from other sources that there were “only” 20,000 participants, but even so, that is impressive and heartwarming.