From the Diaspora, with Love: “No Good Deed…”

I’m not a fan of movies that give up their ending before the lights go down in the theater. Rave reviews and countless pop culture references couldn’t lure me to the theater to see “Titanic.” Beautiful love story? Feh! I knew they all died in the end.

And so it was with great trepidation that I went last year to see a war movie called “Lone Survivor” – despite outstanding reviews, a favorite actor in the lead… and a screening taking place at a dollar theater. After all, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how this one ends.

In a nutshell, the plot revolves around four US Navy SEALs (elite forces) inserted into Afghanistan to track and capture a Taliban leader responsible for killing several Marines, along with villagers and refugees aiding Americans. The team is discovered by an elderly shepherd and two teenage goat herders. After heatedly debating the danger vs. the inevitable backlash if they kill the three, the soldiers release them – knowing all the while that the three will certainly reveal their location to the Taliban.

The team is soon ambushed by Taliban forces. All but one of the SEALs is killed. The lone survivor barely escapes and is helped by villagers until he is rescued by American forces.


As the IDF operation continued in Gaza, I felt like I was watching “Lone Survivor.” Again and again.

It all comes under the heading of that old saying, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Just as a “good deed” was the catalyst to the disastrous outcome in “Lone Survivor,” so, too, it is Israel’s ethical approach to protecting innocent life that is behind the loss of Israeli soldiers in Gaza.

What army tells the enemy it is coming? What army tells the enemy when it is coming? And where it is coming?

An army that holds itself to a higher standard. An army that values life to the extent that it concerns itself with the well-being of civilians in the line of fire, even at the cost of its own safety.

This is what so many people don’t get. Probably because nowhere else could this happen, never in war does this happen. Probably because this behavior so completely defies logic that some cannot conceive of it. So, to them, it’s not real.

To us it’s very real.

It’s real because it’s cost us precious lives of soldiers. So many, so young. Our future. It’s real because it’s at the core of who we are. And G-d help us if we ever forget that.

Many things about the current situation in Israel make me angry. The loss of life, of course, among Israel’s military. The danger to innocent civilians – Israeli and Palestinian. The incessant bombings that gave Israel no choice but to take action. The fact that Israel has invested in building schools, hospitals and industry, while Hamas has been building underground tunnels to stage a horrific attack against Israel.

What makes me more angry than anything is what brought Israelis together in their resolve: the kidnapping and murder of three young men making their way home from yeshiva. From learning Torah.

But right up there with the rest of those things that make me angry is the complete disregard for the unbelievable lengths the IDF goes to, to save Palestinian lives.

Indeed, as the saying goes, “No good deed goes unpunished.” And, yet, I believe, other deeds will not go unpunished. Because, despite the pain we feel in the here and now, as innocent people are dying, the ultimate punishment comes later. And it comes from a Place that matters so much more.

May the memories of those we’ve lost be for a blessing. And may the danger be eradicated, once and for all. So that Israel can live in peace and security.


About the Author
Ellen Roteman is Director of Marketing Communications for the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh
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