As painful as this war is, it’s introducing us to some of the great people in our small nation. Two months ago, the heroine du jour was Rahel from Ofakim, the Arabic-speaking grandmother who cleverly fended off terrorists who entered her home by chatting with them and even feeding them lunch. When President Biden made his famous wartime visit, he was introduced to Rahel. Are you nervous, she was asked.”Nervous about meeting Biden? Last week, I nearly met G-d.”
I don’t know where Rahel is now–I hope she’s well, but her stay in the news cycle is over. This week our eyes turned to another heroine Iris Haim the mother of Yotam Haim, the Oct 7th kidnap victim who amazingly escaped his Hamas captors only to be shot and killed by the IDF. This was a tragedy at its peak, yet rather than descending into bitter anger, Haim took the high road. She reached out to the IDF soldiers who caused her son’s death with words of unbelievable, almost superhuman love.
“I wanted to tell you that I love you very much, and I know that what happened is not your fault; it is the fault of no one except Hamas. May their names and memory be erased from the earth,,.Take care of yourselves; do not hesitate for a moment if you see a terrorist. You need to protect yourself; that’s the only way you can protect us, all the people of Israel,” If that wasn’t amazing enough, here was how she signed off.
.“You are welcome to come visit us; we all want to see you with our eyes, hug you, and say, as painful as it is sad, what you did was probably the right thing for that moment.”
To honor Haim and the memory of her son, thousands of Israelis traveled to the small town of Shoeva in the Judean Hills to attend the shiva. Prime Minister Netanyahu was there, as was Knesset member Aryeh De’eri’s wife Yaffa and many other dignitaries and obscure ordinary folks, who arrived from every corner of our small and beleaguered land. I was there too.
Like me, most of the crowd didn’t know Haim personally. We came because her words touched our hearts.
By showing up we confirmed our membership in a remarkable nation that includes people like Rahel of Ofakim and Iris Haim.
I dont know much about Haim Someone in the crowd said she worked with the dying. Perhaps that realization that life is finite helped her to cope with her own tragedy. Her willingness to put aside what could have been a considerable axe she could have ground against the soldier who mistakenly killed her son is nothing less than nobility.
Before this war started, our society was coming apart at the seams. Judging by external sources, most of the Shiva visitors came from the Dati-Leumi community while Haim appears to be secular. It’s likely that they probably dont vote for the same parties. It’s likely that they disagree about judicial reform and the nature of our Jewish State, but they make the trek to acknowledge Haim’s gesture and reach out to her as a member of our family/ nation.
May we draw strength from their example, and with Hashem’s help, may it lead us to become our best selves and conquer the evil forces threatening to engulf us both inside and outside our borders.
Am Yisrael Chai.