By Shmuel Katz
In the 8+ years that I have been chronicling our lives here, I have shared the many ups and downs. But from almost the day we got off the plane, we have had the benefit of some incredible, seemingly coincidental, events in our lives.
Remember that first month? It was the month of the war in Lebanon. The war wreaked havoc upon the shipping lines, with everyone’s lifts being dropped in Greece instead of Israel. Many of our friends had to pay storage and other charges because of the war.
The Katzes, though, had a major housing problem. The house we had agreed to rent was not ready on time; we had nowhere to live and nowhere to have our furniture and other belongings delivered. So we were torn between our desire to get our stuff and our panic over not having anywhere to put it.
Our shipping company had delayed bringing over their customers’ containers. Faced with angry customers, they paid the storage/carriage fees for the unexpected Greek vacation of our container. We were only able to find a new housing solution at the end of August, a month or more after our lift was scheduled to arrive.
The end result? We got our lift, fee-free (while all our friends paid hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in overage), and the war delay kept it out of the country long enough for us to accept delivery on the day after we took possession of the house. Everything worked out perfectly.
Goldie’s medical issues in year one are another example. They still don’t know what caused her initial issues—but her first unrelated symptoms probably saved her life. As did the fact that, through networking with our friends, we were quickly able to catch an error in diagnosis that dramatically changed the prognosis and treatment.
Over and over, we experienced incredible “coincidences.” We happened to bump into someone who helped us get Chaim into the yeshiva that worked out perfectly for him. We happened to bump into someone who worked at a school we were considering for our girls who ended up convincing us to go with our other choice—it turned out to be a terrific decision for us. Health. Work. Kids. I could continue the list, but it is too long for the scope of this article.
I have always used these “coincidences” to demonstrate that we never know what Hashem’s plan for us really is. We have had our share of issues, whether personal, professional, financial, etc., many of which did not work out the way we expected or wanted. However, many of them have turned out to be for our benefit in the best way possible.
Where am I going with this?
Well, the fighting continues. Or maybe it doesn’t. Who knows what the exact status will be as you read this? Our troops have, by and large, left Gaza’s urban areas and it was pretty quiet for a few days last week. Yet the terrorists seem to feel that they have the right to make demands, with the “or else” consisting of them continuing to shoot rockets at us, while we return fire (with occasional 72-hour breaks for negotiations).
I am not in any way hopeful that we will get a long-term solution right now. We might get a better deal than we could have expected six weeks ago when the fighting was only days old, but I don’t think the world is ready to force the full demilitarization we need in that area. So, if and when there is a “deal,” we’ll probably be back there in a couple of years, whenever Hamas again thinks that they might actually be able to do something effective against us.
Yet we still might achieve a lull. Thinking about that gave me a chance to reflect on the last month of our lives. Looking back, it has never been clearer to me that we do not understand anything that happens to us.
We went through a month of terrible losses. Tragedies. Starting with the murders of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali, H’yd, and continuing through the losses of our precious chayalim, we have been in pain on an ongoing basis. The loss of life on the Gazan side is also painful; it is never easy to see civilian deaths, no matter how hard we try to safeguard civilians and how hard the enemy tries to put them in harm’s way.
Yet if you followed the “behind the scenes” stories, it is clear that much, much worse could have occurred. Think about the terror tunnel attacks that seemed to be the straw that led our government to make the final decision to send in the ground troops. If you believe the published reports (and I have no reason not to), one of the tunnels opened into a wheat field. That field would normally have been full of wheat at that time of year—wheat that could have helped hide the terrorists.
Yet there was no wheat there. A group of chareidim preparing for the Shemittah year had to harvest double the amount of wheat needed for preparing shemurah flour for Pesach and found that very field to harvest for the second year. Any other year and that field would have been filled with wheat, potentially camouflaging the terrorists and helping them execute their attack.
Then there is the Iron Dome battery that was reported to have gone offline with a computer problem, meaning that there was a section of the country unprotected from rockets. Technicians worked frantically for hours to get it back online. Amazingly, no rockets were fired in that direction until literally minutes after the system was restored.
With more than 3,500 rockets fired, there were bound to be some Iron Dome misses. Yet almost all the direct hits were on empty houses, or, in one instance, on a house where the family emerged from their bomb shelter unscathed. What are the odds that with so many rockets, we’d see so few casualties? (Of course, even those were too many.)
The world was lining up against us. Even our U.S. “friends” seemed to be tossing us under the bus. We faced huge pressures, and it seemed like we were not going to be able to fight the battle through the end.
Yet we stand today with our military having announced that they are basically done with what the ground troops went in to do. Almost all the tunnels are gone (it is nearly impossible to guarantee 100%). We’ve killed hundreds of Hamas fighters. All their bravado about unleashing the gates of hell and having tons of surprises for us seems to have been mostly bluff or simply ineffective.
We won. And look at the benefits.
We humiliated Hamas militarily. In this region, that is a big plus. We destroyed a huge number of tunnels. We seem to have gained the backing of several of our Arab neighbors, specifically Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, who all (while obviously not openly supporting us) have blamed Hamas outright for the casualties on both sides. Even the U.S. government, one that has been pretty negative toward us, seems to have no other choice but to play things our way, especially after they appeared to be totally clueless in dealing with the situation.
We have had losses. No losses are acceptable. But look at what the loss of precious chayalim and the three young boys brought us. If reports are true, those terror tunnels would have hatched such a massive terror attack on Rosh Hashanah that the toll would have been unimaginable. Thousands.
Would we have found them all? Would we have been on alert for such an attack? Who knows? The only thing I can say for sure is that there is no question that things could have been worse on many fronts. So when we remember our fallen, when we thank them for paying the ultimate price in our defense—in our place—we must remember to thank them as well for being the vessel through which Hashem helped us avert an even greater disaster.
When we sum it up, the tragedies we suffered, the agony we felt over the loss of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali, H’yd, painful as it was and continues to be, almost certainly saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives. It initiated a wave of action and reaction that, without a doubt, led to the destruction of many, many terror tunnels intended to be used to kill mass numbers of other innocents.
I have no idea what the grand plan is. No person does. But sometimes we can convince ourselves that perhaps we have a glimpse of understanding.
Every year, I join a group that goes to the Kotel for Eichah on Tishah B’Av. After we finish, we sing “Im Eshkachech” and “Ani Ma’amin” together. This year, we added tefillot for the chayalim and sang “Acheinu.” To see a video (apologies for the shakiness; I let a kid do the filming), go to http://youtu.be/-JHuL4kjv6I. ϖ
Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (www.migdalhatorah.org), a new gap-year yeshiva. Shmuel, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July of 2006. Before making aliyah, he was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at email@example.com.