Rachel Gottlieb

Israel at War: The Victorious Generation

October 22, 2023 (Photocredits: Author)

Meet Soldier A. He’s an avid traveler who enjoys taking quick weekends abroad. He particularly enjoys skiing, but is always down to just be outside. He loves his nieces and nephews to pieces and is a fabulous uncle. He’s also funny. Very funny.

Meet Soldier B. He’s a runner and a climber. He’s got an incredible wife and three amazing kids, the youngest of whom will make you melt because he’s just that delicious. This soldier cares deeply about the future of the Jewish people. He also can’t handle a certain someone’s trash talk, which makes it a thousand times funnier.

Meet Soldier C. He got married about six months ago. He’s a quieter personality, but wickedly sharp once you get to know him. He’s the kind of person who emanates strength, and he does what he can to protect the people he loves.

Meet Soldier D. He’s your classic absent-minded genius. Because he’s really, really smart, but also sometimes he’ll forget to tell his mother where he parked the car when she’s coming to pick it up and it’s exceptionally aggravating when he goes off the grid for a couple of hours.

Meet Soldier E. He finished his army service about three months ago, but as soon as war broke out, he volunteered to come right back. Because all he wanted to do was join forces with his brothers in arms and do his part in avenging and protecting the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

Meet Soldier F. He’s not even an Israeli citizen. He’s a medic, though, and he served in the Israeli army back in the day as a non-citizen, because he recognizes what it means to belong to something greater than himself. It’s the way he was raised. So it was never a question that he would come back now.

Meet Soldier G. He’s a gentle personality in general, but he is also fiercely, fiercely protective of his people. He loves hanging out with friends and family, especially if it involves the great outdoors. And he’s always down for a beer. Or a whiskey. A good whiskey. (Or anything alcoholic, really; he’s not that fussy.)

This is just a tiny snapshot of a small handful of guys who are off fighting. If you’re counting, this small handful doesn’t even add up to all of the guys on my list. And it doesn’t even come close to capturing who these people are. They’re so much more than that. So, so much more. I’m not looking to paint a picture for you, or to capture their personalities in one post, or even to capture the personality of one of them in one post. But sometimes we lose sight of the trees for the forest. And when we’re talking about a whole army, that’s usually one of those times.

It’s easy to talk about the army as a whole. As if it’s a monolith. The army is doing this. The navy is doing that. The air force is doing the other thing. I got that feeling today as I was watching footage published by the IDF, with an audio overlay of some message from some someone to the troops. (I have no idea who it was, if you can’t tell.) The end of that message (or at least the way it was cut), which was generally intended to motivate the soldiers, said, “אתם דור הניצחון, you are the victorious generation.”

And they are. We are. I’m beyond proud of my soldiers for putting their lives on hold and walking straight into nightmares. I’m beyond proud of us for the way we have rallied around them, whether it’s the physical support or the emotional support. I’m beyond proud of us as a people for the fact that we have come together, united as one, because, frankly, there is no other way to respond when we are attacked. I am beyond proud of the ironclad knowledge—not belief, knowledge—in the indomitable, triumphant spirit of the Jewish people. We are the victorious generation, following in the lead of our army.

But that army isn’t a monolith. Yes, it is one. Yes, it is formidable. But it’s composed of a lot of individuals. It is built on the backs of guys like Soldier A. And Soldier B. And C and D and E and F and G and I can keep going and going and going because it’s an army that’s made of hundreds of thousands of individuals who have lives and families and friends and hobbies and interests and fears and hopes and dreams. And we can never forget that. We can never lose sight of that.

I was on the phone with a friend yesterday, a friend with whom I have not spoken since before this war broke out. He’s been knee-deep in this war since day one, and although we’ve messaged back and forth very regularly, this was the first opportunity we’ve had to speak. (And it was really good to talk. Keep your people close. You need them and they need you.) In the course of the conversation, he expressed his fear for his people who are in Gaza right now, and how that fear is always accompanied by guilt because every soldier is someone’s someone. Honestly, I was relieved to hear him say that, because I’ve been feeling the same way. And I’m sure many of you have, too. That moment of panic when you see a notification about a soldier who was wounded or, God forbid, killed, and then the relief when you see that it’s not a name on your list, and that’s immediately followed by guilt that you’re feeling that way followed by your heart breaking for the family who didn’t get that relief because that soldier is theirs.

I remind myself, as I remind you, that I am only human and I only have so much capacity to care. If nothing else, our limit as humans for the people we keep within our inner circles is about 150 people at maximum. So I do not have the ability to care to the same extent about every single soldier the way that I do about the ones I know. I know this. Intellectually. But I still feel that pang of guilt, because that soldier is in someone’s inner circle. Someone cares about that soldier the way that I care about mine. And someone is in pain. And my heart breaks for them. Every. Single. Time.

And again, I say this as a reminder. Those of us who have soldiers on the front lines are not losing sight of them. It’s impossible to do so when we are living with the pain and the fear and the anguish of the indefinite radio silence. But we also cannot lose sight of the rest of the trees for the forest itself. We are the victorious generation, but it is a generation composed of thousands of someones who are near and dear to someone else, and even though there is a limit to how many I can keep within my inner circle, I can expand my outer circle to contain all of you and all of your someones. I will care about them because I care about you.

And I hope and pray that your someones and my someones and all of our someones make it back, safe and sound, and that we all feel that relief that it wasn’t our soldier because it’s nobody’s soldier, because all of our soldiers are okay and that they can enjoy the fruits of their labor and bask in the sunlight of what it means to be the victorious generation.

Please continue to pray for us, and for the following soldiers, especially:
עזרא צבי יוסף בן אריאלה פנינה
יעקב זכריה בן אריאלה פנינה
אליהו סִינַי בן ביילא רבקה
נַתַּן בן דבורה אסתר
דוד אלכסנדר בן דבורה אסתר
אלכסנדר בן שרה אלישבע
ראובן אליעזר בן אביגיל אסתר
בועז כָּלֵב בן יפָה מרים
יצחק אייזיק בן פריידא
אהרן בן רחל ברכה
חובב בן דבורה אסתר
שמחה בן הינדא ברכה

כי ה׳ אלקיכם ההולך עמכם להלחם לכם עם אויביכם להושיע אתכם. ה׳ ישמור צאתך ובואך מעתה ועד עולם

About the Author
As a combination logophile and Israel-o-phile, Rachel's fingers itch whenever something needs to be shared about Israel, particularly as it relates to the Diaspora. Her credentials include a Master's in English and many years experience as a high-school English teacher, which covers the writing part, and being a card-carrying member of the Jewish nation, which covers the Israel part. Although she currently resides in Suffern, NY, her heart has long since been stolen by Israel herself, and her mind is constantly preoccupied with the capital of the Jewish people.
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