On the eighteenth of January 2016, a Palestinian youth entered my home town and stabbed my beloved wife Michal, who was five months pregnant at the time. One young terrorist brought us face to face with the pain, danger and hatred that has accompanied our return to Zion. A few days of mortal danger for a beloved woman and an unborn child clarified the moral obligation we have to defend ourselves without compromise.
On Friday, October sixteenth, I published my first post calling on the people of Israel to take action against the horror taking place just beyond our border in Syria. Thousands of Israelis responded, creating the largest crowdfunding campaign in Israel, raising millions of shekels for humanitarian aid — aid that was transferred by the Israeli Flying Aid organization to the real victims of that war: The suffering children in Syria.
Thousands of Israelis who did what no other nation did, not even Muslim countries. Thousands of Israelis who, with donations large and small, chose to be on the right side of history. This was done despite the bloody history between the Syrians and Israelis, despite the current situation, which is full of hate, despite the uncertain future between us. Or, in the words of one of our donors: “My husband and my brother were killed in Israel’s wars with Syria and my donation is the way I choose to do honor them.”
This is not my personal story; it is the story of Israeli society, a small example of the strange existence that is our reality. Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav said that the whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the important thing is not to be afraid. To live the true reality of our lives we must achieve a delicate balance in crossing this bridge, without falling into either side of the abyss.
On the one side is an abyss of surrender to those who want to destroy us; an abyss that they have tried to throw us into in the past; an abyss that they hope will swallow us in the present. On the other side is the abyss of focusing only on our own existence, of drowning out everything and everyone else.
But despite our enemies’ hopes that we will either fall into one abyss and disappear or descend willingly into the other, and despite their accusations, we, the Jewish people and Israeli society, are carefully traveling across this bridge. We refuse to fall into the abyss. We refuse to lose ourselves and our identity as Jews in the Land of Israel. We also refuse to lose the image of God within us and our responsibility to others, even when they are our enemies.
There is so much pain in this world, and so many people who are purposely inflicting that pain. And it saddens me that the United Nations has chosen again and again to focus on Israel, a nation that is walking a very narrow bridge. We’ll continue on the path we have chosen because that is who we are. We will continue to exist as we are, because that is what is right and what is true. We will continue to exist as we are, because it is the righteous way to defeat those such as the BDS movement who are against us.
This week, four years ago, my father passed away. Menachem Froman Z”L was a rabbi, a resident of Judea and Samaria, and a peace activist. My father taught me that we were born with two hands. One hand with which to defend ourselves, and a second hand to extend in peace, compassion and caring for others. He taught us that our lives should be the clapping that happens when these two hands come together. Our lives should be an ongoing encounter between these conflicting motivations.
So let us raise both hands. Let us honor those two tasks — for the people of Israel, for the State of Israel, for our right to exist in our homeland, for our constant desire for peace, for the Israel Defense Forces and those who stand up for Israel, for Israelis who are engaged in acts of humane compassion, wherever they may be, for all those sharing our prophets’ vision of making the world a better place.
This is our story.
This post is adapted from a speech delivered at the United Nations in New York on Wednesday March 29, 2017.
Shivi Froman is an Israeli human rights activist and cofounder of “Just Beyond Our Borders,” a crowd-funding initiative that provides humanitarian aid for children in Syria.