There is a Facebook page dedicated to memorializing the fallen IDF soldiers of Operation Protective Edge. Each day as I click my way through posts of cats, BDS vitriol, the saga that is the US election and various offerings that range from the ridiculous to the sublime, I am hit with the faces of young men smiling or looking, pensive as they pose for the camera in their uniforms, all of them emanating pride and strength. “Hit” is a fitting word, it is a battering blow to the heart when viewing these faces and reading the captions below their pictures, “May your memory be a blessing” “He who gave his life in Gaza”. “We honour your sacrifice”. The 64 brave warriors who gave their lives for the State of Israel are not just names on some sort of macabre list. Reading about who they were and how they were killed brings them back to life if only for a moment and reminds us of the promising young men that they were. Most of us in North America, reading these stories, did not have a personal relationship with these soldiers, but the tiny snippet of information that their mothers, fathers, wives, girlfriends and friends share about them, gives us a forum to proclaim that we recognize their service and sacrifice and that they will not be forgotten.
Just as it is incumbent upon all Jews to remember the sacrifice of the fallen soldiers of Operation Protective Edge and the sacrifice of every IDF soldier who has lost his life defending Israel since 1948, so too should we remember those who survived the battle but are struggling to come to terms with the loss of their IDF brothers taken much too soon, and how the survivors must now live with the memories that continually hover just below the surface. These are battle scars that are not visible to the outside world and, more often than not, to even those who are the carriers of those wounds.
Human beings are phenomenally resilient and are able to bury even the most nightmarish of memories and experiences. We know enough about psychology to recognize that this is a defense mechanism – a way to cope with things that are just too painful and difficult to confront. However, it is critical that we pay attention to the young men who come back from the battle with emotional and psychological scars so that we can help them to heal and reach their fullest potential. We cannot allow Israel to suffer a double loss – the loss of those who are mortally wounded during war and those who are psychologically and emotionally wounded from the battle. Like Jews have done for thousands of years, we must encourage and help our discharged soldiers defy adversity, face the pain of loss and find comfort in the knowledge that they are not alone. It is said that it takes a village to raise a child. It can also be said that it takes a global village – Israel, Europe and North American Jewry to recognize the suffering of the IDF’s discharged soldiers and to facilitate the healing of these brave young men who have fought not only for Israel but also for all Jews in the Diaspora.