We live in a small country indeed. You would have a hard time finding someone who has not been touched by loss in our armed forces. In Israel everyone knows an IDF soldier; whether past, present… or future. Even the new oleh (immigrant) just starting a family expects that along with his child’s first steps, kindergarten, after-school soccer, adolescence and college, service in the Israel Defense Forces will be a natural step along the way.
For most people here it is an incredible honor and an awesome responsibility to play his or her part in protecting and defending the land of Israel and the people of Israel. With that responsibility and commitment is the sobering knowledge that some soldiers, in defense of their beloved land, may one day pay the ultimate sacrifice. It is something we all know and yet we naturally push those thoughts to the farthest recesses of our minds believing that statistics are on our side.
The problem with relying on statistics in such a small, close-knit country as Israel is statistics are rarely on our side. In a tiny country where two-degrees of separation is the norm, every loss hits each one of us like a ton of bricks. All the more so when it is your neighbor, your cousin, your student, your friend.
Wednesday two heroes were killed on Israel’s northern border in a surprise attack by Hezbollah. We all braced ourselves waiting to hear the names. Before they were even made public there was whispering in Gush Etzion — one was one of ours. Right away I realized exactly who he was and just how connected he was to some of my children. Eight of my extended family members stopped everything to attend the funeral. Even my youngest son, a 6th grader in the school Maj. Yochai Kalangel attended as a child, was affected. Though he had never met him, he reported, while holding back tears, that one of Yochai’s former teachers eulogized him at a school ceremony, remembering his smile and how he had touched people even then. I was holding back tears as well…
Israel is a land. Israel is a country. Israel is a nation. But perhaps, above all, Israel is a big family. It’s not just that all of our children will be soldiers; it’s that all of our soldiers are our children. All of them. While they are putting their lives on the line to protect and defend us, we never – for even a moment – take them for granted. And we will never – for even a moment – forget the sacrifice of those who gave their lives.