top-10On this, the 10th Day of “Operation Protective Edge” I’d like to humbly offer my personal list of the Top 10 Winners (so far!) of Israel’s defensive military operation against the Iran-funded Hamas terror organization in Gaza.

My Top 10 Winners (in no particular order)

1) The Iron Dome – The success of American taxpayer-funded Iron Dome defense has been a wonder to behold and the gratitude most Israelis feel towards America for most (but not all) rockets and missiles being destroyed mid-flight by the Iron Dome system can’t be underestimated. G*d bless the USA!

2) Breslov Chassidim – No group has demonstrated more seemingly insane disregard for danger or complete refusal to admit such a thing as despair might exist than the Na-Nah’s, that sect of Breslov Chassidim whose approach to spirituality is through the arousal of joy and simcha and whose battle cry of “Na Nah Nach Nachman M’Uman” sends a chill down the spine of Israel’s enemies just as it gladdens the hearts of Israel’s soldiers. They drive their simcha-mobile straight into the most dangerous parts of the front to bring bouncy, joyous hope to soldiers, just as they take to the streets of the embattled cities of the South to cheer the war-weary populace. Rebbe Nachman’s words and Torah are getting a big boost. Prediction: After “Operation Protective Edge” is over, many IDF soldiers will don the big white Na Nah kippah and learn to dance.

3) Grass-Roots Civilian Activists – Out of the proverbial woodwork they came, from the very hours of the very first day, and continue to stream towards the front, towards army bases and military installations, bearing pizzas, clean underwear, socks, towels and other necessities of life for IDF soldiers facing battle. Individuals rose up and took the initiative – religious, secular, from every walk of life. Even musicians. The outpouring of donations and the volunteering of regular folks to bring supplies to soldiers has been growing daily.

4) Artists, Musicians and Creatives – An unbelievable amount of original music, art and multimedia creativity has been produced and shared online and in real time/real life by Israelis during this crisis. The outpouring of creative energy has been stunning in both its spontaneity and its quality. Keep it coming!

5) Families in Crisis – Thanks to social media and the ability to quickly connect, families in the South of Israel facing the crisis of constant danger and bombardment have been able to connect with families in the North and be welcomed as guests during this precarious time. People are opening up their homes and discovering this important truth: a stranger is only someone you haven’t met yet.

6) Religious and Secular Relations – One of the most delightful side-effects of this stressful time has been the almost complete disappearance of the usual bickering between religious and secular Jews over who does what for whom. Suddenly the “Ultra” Orthodox are seeing first-hand what the “Secular” Israeli is sacrificing for Am Yisrael on a flesh and blood level, while at the same time the “Secular” Israeli is witnessing the revelation of what those who have devoted their lives to Torah study, prayer and spiritual intercession are really doing for Am Yisrael. Hopefully when this whole thing is over we’ll remember how much we really suddenly “saw” each other, some for the very first time, as part and parcel of one another. May the “Ein Tova” prevail.

7) “Ahavat Yisrael” – To paraphrase the Grateful Dead: “Strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hand / Everybody’s playing in the Heart of Gold Band”. The most outrageously wonderful level of Jewish unity seen in the lifetimes of many, especially those under 50. People are being NICE. On purpose. Without an ulterior motive. Kindness is breaking out all over the place in the most endearing ways. Stories of unusual random acts of chessed too numerous to aggregate in this space. Again, it should only last when things go back to whatever the “new normal” turns out to be once this crisis has passed.

8) PTSD Awareness – Suddenly, everybody – yes, even people who live in Tel Aviv, “gets it”. Until you almost piss in your pants at the reverberating “Boom! Boom! Boom!” of the Iron Dome exploding a missile overhead as you take shelter under the stairwell or in your safe room, you won’t really have empathy for the thousands of Israelis who suffer from PTSD. Now you do. No longer will people in the Center and North of the Country be able to say of the Southerners “they’re used to it”. Now EVERYBODY understands there’s no such thing as getting used to it… and that NOBODY should EVER have to accustom themselves to living under a daily barrage of rockets.

9) Interfaith Dialogue and Cross-Cultural Activism – Almost counter intuitively and yet completely organically, a few brave people from “both sides” are attempting to reach across the political and rhetorical divide to connect and find common ground. Some Jews and some Arabs are finding they’ve simply run out of patience with the stereotypes and dogma, and are taking important (baby) steps towards attempting to see each other as actual humans. I’m limiting this category to the segment of society not currently on the government payroll (either “government”). Just regular people hoping their small, tentative efforts to find a common humanity with “The Other” will lead to the humanization of that which has been demonized. These individuals risk being ostracized (or G*d forbid worse) by their respective religious/cultural groups but they understand that without risk there is no reward.

10) Babies Due in April – Crisis creates connection. Connections create intimacy; intimacy is what leads to mixed dancing which leads to making babies. While no specific data is available right now to verify the (mostly anecdotal) amount of coupling going on during these high-tension times, I stake my reputation (for whatever that’s worth) on a surge of babies being born between Purim and Pesach of next year.

I hope I’m not making a “Top 20” list in 10 days, G*d forbid! May we see peace and safety for all people of good will, everywhere – and may the haters be destroyed by their own hatred! #freegazafromhamas