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Sherri Mandell
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Is there hope for 2024?

It is not optimism or a good attitude, but a sense of purpose that you work at and build. We all can create hope
On November 28, 2023, members of the devastated Kibbutz Beri began planting their new wheat crop. (via Facebook, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
On November 28, 2023, members of the devastated Kibbutz Beri began planting their new wheat crop. (via Facebook, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

It’s 2024. A new year, a new beginning.

But here in Israel, it’s hard to feel happy and positive when there’s a war on many fronts and all around us things seem to be imploding and exploding. The loss and grief and pain can feel staggering. Every day, we see photos of our precious soldiers who died in war, photos of those taken hostage, photos of those who are fighting. Everyone in this country knows somebody who was murdered on October 7 or killed during the war.

But there is hope, there is definitely hope. Hope is not optimism, which some lucky people have because they are born that way, or because they just have a positive attitude. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks tells us that hope is something that you work at, that you create, that you build. All of us, even in these dark days, can create hope. We owe it to the soldiers fighting for us and for our country. We owe it to the hostages, and we owe it to those who have given their lives in this war.

In Hebrew, “hope” or tikvah is, of course, the national anthem. It is the core belief of the Jewish people. Hope means that we look at our lives as having meaning, and at our collective life, at our history, as having purpose.

In other words, we have a mission. Right now, our mission is to defeat Hamas.

We also have a mission to be the face of God in this world, to be a light to the nations. It sounds ridiculous now, when antisemitism is so overwhelming.

But hope is all around us, everywhere we look.

I see hope most of all in the Jewish people.

I see hope in two men I know, one who donated a kidney to the other in order to save his life, just a few years ago. Now they are both fighting in Gaza because they want to defend Israel. Of course, they could receive exemptions from combat, but it is more important to them to fight for what they believe in, protecting their homes and families, protecting our homes and families.

I see hope in the mothers of the soldiers. Many stay busy. Some cannot sleep and have nightmares. Some are taking tranquilizers. But they find ways to keep going without failing or falling.

I see hope in the wives of soldiers, like my daughter, who take care of large families by themselves — working, cooking, shopping, finding a way to keep their children happy while their husbands serve in the army. One wife of a soldier tells me she stays sane by imagining herself with her husband after the war, the way they will celebrate, the trips they will take.

I see hope in the sign that a 6-year-old girl drew and hung outside her home on my block — a drawing of the welcome home party that she and her family will celebrate when we have won the war and the soldiers come home.

I see hope in the soldiers who want to fight, who will not give up, who are willing to risk and give their lives because they believe in the enterprise of the Jewish people and the Jewish homeland.

I see hope in those who have faith and see God’s hand, even when it seems hidden.

I see hope in the prayers of the children and the mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and grandparents, and all of the people who are praying for Israel.

I see hope because we know that this war will be looked upon in history as a turning point, though we don’t yet know where this turning point will lead us or what it will mean.

I see hope in the thousands of people who volunteer on farms or work to help soldiers or donate money or bring survivors of the Nova rave together to heal. I see hope in the therapists who work with traumatized people every day, in the relatives who host their own families from the North or the South, displaced refugees longing to return home. I see hope in the way this country is unified in its goal to eradicate Hamas. I see hope when we refuse to play politics and instead unite to take care of one another and protect our country.

Because the enemy does not judge between us. The enemy is clear: we are not left or right wing, we are not religious or non-religious. We are Israelis. We are Jews. God promised us this land, and God will not forsake us. That is our greatest hope. We are part of a purposeful history, and we will not be defeated.

About the Author
Sherri Mandell is co-director of the Koby Mandell Foundation which runs programs for bereaved families in Israel. She is the author of the book "The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration." Her book, "The Blessing of a Broken Heart," won a National Jewish Book Award in 2004. She can be reached at sherri@kobymandell.org
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