Today as we celebrate Tu B’Av, the Jewish festival of love, anyone who has spent this past month in Israel will be able to relate. As the Jewish homeland faces yet another round of what Daniel Gordis refers to as, “The war that may never end,” the people of Israel have demonstrated an elevated form of Ahavat Chinam (“selfless love”). Rabbi Kook famously stated:

“The Second Temple was only destroyed through “Sinat Chinam” (causeless hatred – between Jews) and will only be rebuild through “Ahavat Chinam” (selfless love).”

The outpouring of love and admiration for our soldiers of the Israeli DEFENSE forces is felt throughout Israel. It knows no boundaries. Religious, secular, new immigrant, veteran Israeli, tourist everyone has a tremendous sense of hakarat hatov (appreciation) for these young boys and girls who selflessly put their life on the line so we may live the two thousand year old Jewish hope to, “be a free people in our land.” This love manifests itself in many ways from a seemingly endless flow of packages of supplies sent from the heart all the way to, “Chesed shel emet” (“the true kindness”) of tens of thousands of fellow Jews attending the funerals of Lone Soldiers.

Rarely in recent memory has Israeli society been so unified. From the left to the right everybody understands that this is a “milchememet ain breira” (“a war without choice”).  It is a war for hearth and home.  It is a war for our very existence, an ongoing continuing chapter of the War of Independence.  Incredibly, there are virtually no political games. Almost all-political arguments are on the backburner as the country presents a solidly united front behind our democratically elected Prime Minister. As Eitan Chitayat wrote in his powerful op-ed in the TOI today:

 For anyone else reading this from afar…Jews and non-Jews alike, don’t feel sorry for me, my family, my friends. Don’t feel sorry for us. We’re fine and we’re not afraid.”

In Israel one can feel a common kindness, a sense of “one nation one heart,” a sense of community that is almost impossible to put into words. One has to be in Israel to really understand the tremendous unity, mutual love and elevated sense of mutual care to fully appreciate how “Operation Defensive Edge” has transformed Israeli society to focus on what we have in common and not what divides us. The challenge is to keep this sense of love, community and respect after the current defensive war is over.

The best way to try and understand Israel right now is to be in Israel right now. As Gal, the sister of the late Sean (Nissim) Carmeli z”l, a lone soldier from the Golani Brigade who fell during the current war, so passionately stated:

Although Sean was considered in technical terms a lone soldier, he was anything but – he was always surrounded by an abundance of love from an enormous number of people.

I don’t think that the many people who showed up at his funeral came just because he was a lone soldier, but also with the nation’s desire to feel united again, to be grateful from the bottom of their hearts, to show their deep recognition for all the heroes of Israel, both dead and living, and to connect to us in the most sincere manner possible.  And for this, I will forever be grateful.

 

Sean was a man of love, harmony, freedom and an abundance of life. I feel Sean’s spirit inside all of us, and I hear his voice saying simply, “This is awesome.”

 

I would like to take this opportunity to challenge the world to come to Israel, and see for yourselves what this country is really about. What it stands for.  Its tolerance, its beauty, its harmony, its happiness, its energy, its spirituality, but most of all its longing for peace. For the first time in my life, I can now call Israel my home.”