I have been home for over a week now, trying to shake the jet lag and catch up from having been away traveling and speaking in different communities throughout the US for too long, at a very stressful time.  Traveling is not new, but this trip was both particularly stressful and uplifting.  It was stressful because it was hard to be away from home, my family, and Israel during a war, and not being home to help, and part of the overall national situation.  It was uplifting because albeit far from home, I was with many people, mostly Christians, who made me feel very much at home, and like family.

In my last update I wrote of my feeling of insecurity as an identifiable Orthodox Jew in the US because of a palpable feeling of tension and insecurity.  Since coming home there was a report of an Orthodox rabbi being shot to death while walking to Shabbat services in Miami.  The police were quick not to call it a hate crime which is perverse because they hadn’t investigated or caught the murderers, and this seemed to suggest that it’s not even a question when killing Jews that a hate crime is automatically ruled out.  Absurd.  As many wrote responding to my Facebook post, it must have been a love crime.

Nevertheless, it didn’t add to a sense of security living openly as a Jew even in the US.  I had written about how I considered masking my identity which was a fleeting thought that I was embarrassed to think.  I am glad I didn’t because it’d have been a betrayal, but also because by being identifiable as a Jew something wonderful happened.

I was waiting for a flight at the Dallas airport and speaking on the phone.  While I was talking, a man walked up in front of me and quietly whispered, mouthing, “We support Israel.”   I smiled and continued my conversation and walked away.  After I finished, I walked over to him and thanked him.  I told him he had no way of knowing it, but that I was Israeli and it’s been very hard to be away from home during the war.  I shared what I do, promoting Heart to Heart, and told him how meaningful his support of Israel was, and for me personally.  He shared with me that as a Christian, supporting Israel all the time is the only possible way to live.

I am so grateful that I kept true to myself, my identity, and my people and did not hide that for my own perceived sense of insecurity.  This was an incredible blessing.

The truth is as much as it was stressful being away; it has been very stressful being home.  A different kind of stress.  Nevertheless, I couldn’t be anywhere else.

I jumped back into life here, obsessively following news of cease fires made, broken, dusted off and made again, broken, etc.  Just to be clear, it was all Hamas breaking the cease fires and using these to hold over Israel the threat of more rockets as a way to extract concessions that are obscene.  Basically, what they’ve done is tried the traditional mode of terrorism through violence, and extort or hijack a lull in that to use for political gain.

I came home to learn stories of many widows, orphans, and grieving finances of the dozens of Israeli soldiers and civilians who were killed.  Nearly half were engaged to be married.  Many others were married with children.  For Israelis, there’s something very personal in each loss.  In most cases, we relate to and provide all kinds of support for surviving loved ones.  Any of them could be us.  Even how the army goes about informing relatives of casualties is done with the greatest sensitivity, and according to Jewish tradition.

We have heard countless stories of bravery, heroism and selflessness both among the dead and those injured.  This year, on Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) there are sure to be many deeply touching stories of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, those they left behind, and how they are getting along.  The stories are inspiring, and it says a lot about our country how we memorialize our victims.  But we’d rather not have to do so.

Just before I got home, my family was driving to the Galilee and were in traffic with numerous tanks and armored personnel carriers relocating from Gaza to the north along Israel’s main toll road as if it were as common a sight as a convoy of 18 wheel trucks along any major American highway.  Yet with rockets and the threat of rockets continuing, and the possible need to reenter Gaza, I wondered how fast a tank carrier can do a U turn.  That remains to be seen.

Cease fires have come and gone and stopped and started now with silly regularity.  However they always end with Hamas maniputively firing more rockets at Israeli communities. Israelis have been monitoring cease fires as we would check the weather report, as if wondering whether to bring an umbrella to go out for the day.  So it was no surprise that my (now) 9 year old son (happy birthday) woke up one morning and inquired about whether the latest cease fire held.  I replied to him that “only a dozen or so rockets were fired over night,” as if to put him at ease.  Then I realized how absurd that was.  No other country would accept a dozen rockets being fired in any one night, or at all, as being normal much less acceptable.

As we continue to live in a tenuous time, with the feeling that though dozens of terrorist tunnels were destroyed and the immediate ground operation concluded, but not knowing if all the tunnels were destroyed or when a ground operation might be required again, I try to pause and look at some of the miracles that have taken place recently.

  • The national tragedy of the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens brought Israelis closer together with a sense of unity that’s not felt here often.
  • Though Israel genuinely didn’t want to undertake a ground operation, and gave Hamas every chance to avoid it, that we went into Gaza and it seems exposed and destroyed many more tunnels than may have been known about was miraculous.
  • In destroying these tunnels, Israel uncovered what would have been a massive terrorist attack planed for a month from now, with thousands of terrorists pouring through dozens of terrorists, dressed as Israeli soldiers, on Rosh Hashanah, murdering and kidnapping thousands of Israeli civilians.
  • The Iron Dome has not only kept millions of Israelis safe, but the protection that Israel has as a result of this innovative system also kept Arabs in Gaza safe, because had the Iron Dome not been as successful, or not existed at all, Israel would have had to go into Gaza much sooner with a military response that’d have been much more harsh.

In fact, when thinking about how this keeps both Israelis and Palestinian Arabs safe, one might even suggest that the Iron Dome be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.  There have surely been less worthy recipients.

To forget that these miracles and many others are Divine, and not merely a coincidence, is impossible.  These things have a funny way of jumping out and saying “HELLO,” as if we need a reminder, and give us comfort, including this week’s Torah portion from Deuteronomy 7: 12-19: And it will be, because you will heed these ordinances and keep them and perform, that the Lord, your God, will keep for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers….. Will you say to yourself, “These nations are more numerous than I; how will I be able to drive them out”?   You shall not fear them. You shall surely remember what the Lord, your God, did to Pharaoh and to all of Egypt:  The great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm with which the Lord, your God, brought you out. So will the Lord, Your God, do to all the peoples you fear.