On the 44th day of war in Israel 65 soldiers have died in combat. In addition, the IDF has raised the total number of young adults killed on October 7th at the NOVA Music Festival to 300, part of the total of 1,200 Israelis massacred that day.
While we now have operational control of Gaza, rocket barrages continue as well from both Gaza in the south and Lebanon in the north.
An estimated 30,000 supporters and family members of the hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza completed a five-day march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Shabbat. The families of those captured on October 7th pleaded with ministers to meet with them and said they felt their government has neglected them. However, they expressed gratitude for the thousands of supporters who provided them with food, drink, and shelter along the way. With the police blocking off sections of the highway, the families marched with pictures of their captured family members and waved Israeli flags. A meeting was held on Saturday night with senior government officials in Tel Aviv although the families walked away dissatisfied.
In a related story an Arab source with connections to Hamas said late on Saturday that Hamas was ready to release 88 of the 240 Israeli hostages in exchange for female and teen terrorists jailed in Israel along with security prisoners, fuel, and a 5-day ceasefire. In return for the convicted women and teenage terrorists and an unspecified number of prisoners, Hamas said it would release 40 Israeli women, 13 children, and 35 foreign hostages. There have been rumors of a hostage swap taking place in the coming days but with different numbers and terms. Today’s news talked about a staged release of hostages, a fixed number each day during the pauses in fighting but still nothing firm.
On the humanitarian side, with the cooperation of Egypt 140 trucks laden with humanitarian aid is entering Gaza each day. Two of those carry fuel. Israel is also now in control of Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City and has overseen the evacuation of patients who are well enough to be relocated while supplying medical equipment to those who must remain.
With 1,200 killed during the October 7th massacre and 65 of our troops dead on the resultant battlefield, once again we learn that the price of freedom is high, very high. We can take some small inspiration from a section of former Prime Minister Menahem Begin’s acceptance speech in 1978 when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize after completing the peace agreement with Egypt:
Indeed, there are days when to fight for a cause so absolutely just is the highest human command.…. Only in honoring that command comes the regeneration of the concept of peace. You rise, you struggle, you make sacrifices to achieve and guarantee the prospect and hope of living in peace – for you and your people, for your children and their children. Let it, however, be declared and known, stressed, and noted that fighters for freedom hate war. This is our common maxim and belief – that if through your efforts and sacrifices you win liberty and with it the prospect of peace, then work for peace because there is no mission in life more sacred.
Painful as it is to contemplate, there is no mission in life more sacred. May our troops return safely to their homes and may our hostages live to once again see the families who still wait for them.