In a journey marked by profound encounters and revelations, my visit to Israel with the World Jewish Congress was a testament to the enduring spirit of a nation and its defenders. Amidst the backdrop of conflict and a world grappling with rising antisemitism, the young soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stand as beacons of optimism and resilience.
Our delegation had the opportunity to visit Palmachim Airforce Base, where we hosted a BBQ for IDF members. The mood was unexpectedly festive, a celebration of life and solidarity rather than a somber reflection on the challenges they face daily. The soldiers, diverse as the country they serve, shared their stories and dreams, painting a picture of unwavering hope in the face of adversity.
One soldier, whom I’ll call Avi, whose family made Aliyah, expressed his gratitude towards our delegation. He acknowledged our efforts in defending Israel in the media and carrying their truth to the world. In response to his appreciation, I found myself saying, “Your fight is our fight.” This sentiment echoed the collective feeling of our group – a deep-seated connection to Israel and its people.
“Rachel,” another soldier I spoke with, shared her aspiration to open a café in southern Israel, in the very region ravaged by recent conflicts. Her determination to rebuild and start a business there was not just an entrepreneurial dream but a bold statement of hope and defiance.
Then there was “Tamir,” who left his family and work to rejoin the forces. The stress of returning to active duty was immense, yet he remained steadfast. His sense of duty and commitment to the country’s defense was both humbling and inspiring.
These encounters revealed a remarkable aspect of the Israeli character – an inherent optimism and a refusal to be defined by victimhood. Despite the heartbreak and loss, these young men and women of the IDF look towards a future where their dreams are not just possible but are waiting to be realized.
Their resilience is a lesson for all of us, particularly for us in the diaspora, facing an unprecedented wave of antisemitism. The spirit of these young soldiers reminds us to hold onto our pride, to be vocal in our communities, and to firmly believe in a brighter future.
The diversity within the IDF, mirroring the country’s population, adds another layer to their stories. Each soldier brings a unique perspective, shaped by their background and experiences, yet united by a common purpose – the defense of their homeland and the preservation of their way of life.
For those like Tamir, returning to active service meant putting their lives on pause, a sacrifice made willingly for the greater good. The enormity of this choice and the weight it carries for each individual and their families cannot be overstated. Yet, in their voices, there was no regret, only a steadfast resolve and an unwavering belief in the cause they serve.
This trip was not just a series of meetings and visits; it was a journey into the heart of Israel’s strength – its people. The young soldiers of the IDF, with their dreams and ambitions, represent the future of not just a nation but of a people who have faced adversity time and again, only to emerge stronger.
As we in the diaspora witness and experience the rising tide of antisemitism, the stories of these soldiers serve as a reminder of the resilience inherent in our community. Their optimism in the face of ongoing conflict and their unwavering commitment to their nation and its future are sources of inspiration.
In conclusion, the greatest takeaway from my interactions with these brave young men and women is the undying spirit of hope that permeates their lives. It’s a reminder that though Israel has been victimized, its people refuse to be victims. It’s a call to all of us, wherever we may be, to stand proud, to speak up, and to look forward to a future filled with promise and peace. As diaspora Jews, we share in their struggles and triumphs, reminded that our collective future is indeed bright and worth fighting for.