It’s been nearly two months of fear and trauma. We have prayed together and mourned together. We have hidden in shelters and gone to war. We have given from our heart and soul, and then given some more. Our nerves were frayed, our tempers short, our children stressed, our summer plans forgotten. Our enemies reviled us while so-called friends condemned us and we found ourselves very alone. Except. That we. Were together.
As the hours quietly tick by in this Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, there is much talk and bewilderment and confusion. Did the war end? Did we win? Why did we pull out? What have we accomplished? After all, Hamas is alive and well, and is hardly likely to let bygones be bygones and move forward to peaceful coexistence with the very people whose eradication is their sole reason for being. So what gives?
I am hardly a war analyst, but here’s my take on it for what it’s worth: We’re not going to ‘eradicate’ Hamas so easily and not without tremendous losses of our own. They have tens of thousands of fighters scattered among the 1.8 million people in Gaza, and they have no uniform so they can easily blend in with the populace. What, then?
Realize that Hamas lured us into this war and they expected to get all sorts of benefits in return; prizes that they could show to the citizens to prove their supposed awesomeness. Perhaps they thought they could somehow make up for the sickening way they put people in harms way, cynically using women and children to allow – no, ensure – many deaths, thereby creating a PR nightmare for Israel, not to mention devastation for their own people. What have they gotten in return? Their tunnel network is decimated, they have used up thousands of rockets, their cities are in shambles and their people are disgusted with them. With all that, they have nothing to show for it (this of course pending final ceasefire discussions).
The world may be against us, but that is nothing new. That’s not to say it isn’t upsetting, and utterly unfair; but we should not be surprised. The venomous anti-Semitic vitriol being spewed forth throughout Europe, the United Nations, and, in lesser amounts but increasingly so, in America are alarming, but were not ‘caused’ by the war. Those who ‘chose’ to hate us hated us before this started. The war was simply the excuse used to release previously dormant feelings and frankly, I’d rather know they’re out there than delude myself into thinking everything is fine. Such delusions haven’t boded well, historically, for our people.
On the other hand there are many out there who do see the reality that we are dealing with here; the despicable nature of Hamas, and by extension, the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran, IS, and other Islamist jihadi organizations and governments whose goals of Islamic conquest and bloody means of attaining them most certainly should disturb anyone who places a value on freedom.
So we know where we stand in the world, and we realized that we don’t really care…as long as we know we are doing what we must. We learned that Hamas has been spending all of its resources to build terror tunnels instead of bettering it’s people. We thwarted a massive terror attack that was planned for Rosh Hashana. MASSIVE. The terror, the loss, the feelings of helplessness this could have inflicted would have been enormous. Somehow this was being planned under our noses, but for the war that never would have happened without the kidnapping and murder of three boys, it may have gone on as planned. Their lives saved countless others…not to mention the potential loss of morale, the guilt…it is unfathomable.
But we gained something else that is immeasurable. What these weeks of agony has done to bring us together, as a nation, as a people, is unparalleled. From the very moment that we knew that Eyal, Gil-Ad and Naftali were kidnapped we rallied together as though someone had stolen our shared family members. Because someone had.
We knew at the time that the unity was astonishing, and certain to be short-lived. And yet, here we are more than a month after we buried our three precious boys, and have buried 64 more during the course of a war that no one wanted. Who would have thought that Israel could actually fight a war and have 95% approval? We can’t agree on whether the sun is shining, let alone something as complex as a military campaign. And yet… It was mind-boggling. To me that was an enormous victory in and of itself. And I will relish in it. And celebrate it. And bask in it. Because the importance of unity – achdut – should not be underestimated. The warm, fuzzy feelings may not last; we’re certain to go back to our bickering and being ‘right’ (even if we’re left…) but the impact of our collective experience is forever. And that, indeed, is worth celebrating.