Today was exhausting but exhilarating. Eli Katz, Rav Rimon, several good Jews from Chashmonaim and I spent the day trying to give chizuk to soldiers and residents of Israel. The state of Israel is facing an unprecedented reality. From Eilat in the south, to Haifa and Nahariya in the north, Israeli citizens are being rocketed. This is a reality that never existed before. During the first Gulf War, Saddam fired thirty nine rockets. None of them made it as far south as Jerusalem. During the second Lebanon war, Hezbollah fired from the north. They did not reach much lower than Haifa; then one could travel to the south and feel secure. Now, throughout the land, sirens are sounding. Not only are the rockets so widespread on some days, Hamas fires more than 150 rockets in a single day. Yet, despite this sorry reality there is much to feel great excitement and confidence about. The spirit among the military is very strong. We met today with a senior officer. He made the following point – Imagine if New York or Washington D.C. would be under rocket attack. Israelis are demonstrating remarkable resilience. Sirens sound multiple times a day. Citizens respond by lying down, following orders and continuing with their day. There were people in the streets of Netivot and Be’er Sheva today. Life is continuing. This courage under fire from civilians is a display of enormous strength and power. The nation is not in a state of mass hysteria or panic.
In addition to civilian strength, the military is united and motivated. Soldiers told us, “We are defending our wives and children who are under attack. We are ready and willing to do what we must to help the Jewish nation.” One of our friends who is currently deeply immersed in the senior command told me that the air force and the military are performing at exceptional levels of efficiency. Thank God, Hamas has no successes. Much of this war is a battle of spirit. While we were in Be’er Sheva Israelis throughout the country received a text message from Hamas. In the text message, the Izzedin El Kassam brigades said, “Israelis, your government has not accepted the terms we set for it. Therefore, we did not stop our fire. We will keep firing. You will have to stay like mice in your sealed rooms and bunkers.” The Hamas is clearly trying to defeat the spirit of the people of Israel. They wish to frighten us. They want to suggest that we are mere mice. They are wrong. The nation’s spirit is strong. At the entrance to Netivot, a town that receives a few seconds of warning about incoming rockets due to its great proximity to Gaza, is a large painted sign. It states “Am Yisrael CHAI.” The Jewish nation LIVES. As we drove by Netivot in the late afternoon, there was a crowd at the entrance to the city. Jews were waving Israeli flags. They were screaming at the top of their lungs, the song, “Mi Shema’amin lo Mefached,” – He who believes does not fear. The nation is filled with faith. We are witness to so many miracles. Rav Rimon pointed out to the soldiers of the iron dome battery, that in Hebrew the name of Iron Dome, is kipat barzel. When we think of barzel, we think of iron. Many rely on iron. For us though we know it is a kipa, a religious article. It is due to the great kindness of the Almighty that Iron Dome works; it is intercepting and is keeping the nation of Israel protected and safe.
We were caught in one siren today. It happened in Netivot. We had sponsored care packages for the soldiers. Most of the soldiers at the front will receive a care package sponsored by our shul. In it is a new pair of undergarments, a sweat resistant shirt, special socks, a hat, and some goodies. All the materials for the care bags were purchased in Southern Israel, from businesses that now hardly see any traffic. In Netivot, volunteers packed the bags. While packing, a siren went off. We all ran to the next room, which was more sheltered. We quickly heard a very loud boom overhead which must have been the rocket interception. Yet in this same town, a few hours later, at the entrance of the town the residents were singing, “he who believes is not afraid.” Faith is the antidote to fear. Faith in the land of Israel is strong.
I wrote the following thought about fear and faith.
Fear and Faith
Imagine a sudden, loud, abrasive, and rising wail. It is the dreaded siren. Sudden horror might strike. One runs, finds shelter, and crouches. The heart beats quickly. Legs tremble. The heart races. But why? The statistics show that there is a greater chance one would die in a car accident in Israel then from a rocket attack. When we enter the car we do not fear; why the terror from the siren?
I think the answer is that our senses have a deep impact on our feelings, deeper than our knowledge. When we enter a car our senses have not been startled. We perform an act that seems pedestrian and simple. The rising siren though assaults our auditory sense. The picture before our eyes of frightened running causes the heart to race and the nerves to tense. Equanimity in the face of a siren is a challenge similar to the challenge of truly believing in the Almighty. King David declared, “Though I walk in the valley with the death shadows I fear no evil for You are with me.” What he saw were deathly shadows. The challenge of faith is to assert the mastery of the mind over that sight and to feel that all is in the hands of the Almighty, to feel that we are in His hands and dependent on Him. His love has not wavered. Our nation will thrive…
When we finally made it to the Gaza border with care packages we met with soldiers who were thrilled that we came. One young man commented to me, “Aizu achim” – “What brothers, “Asitem mitzvah gedolah” – “You performed a great mitzvah.” Rav Rimon shared a few words with the young men; I followed with a few words of my own. We then started to hand out items. The young men came over one after the other. Each wanted a bracha. Each wanted a hug. In the sand, hidden among the trees, is an army of men. They appreciate hugs from the other side of the world. They are singing and smiling. They show us that they have faith. With faith we will win.
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