Guest writer Sarah Paley shares the latest from her home front to yours.
Guaranteed, there won’t be many a dry eye.
Last Shabbat felt like a dream. Our entire family gathered together for Shabbat for the first time since October 7th. We enjoyed each others’ company, shared and listened to stories, sang together at the shabbat table and even shed a few tears as we recounted the life-changing experiences of the past nine weeks. You might recognize the feeling.
Avi finally had a well-deserved break after spending 75 consecutive days in the army, starting on Simchat Torah on October 7th, and enduring 44 days of intense fighting in Gaza. He had 72 precious hours to reconnect with friends and family, visit the family of Binyamin Airley hy”d; eat, sleep, and, despite his exhaustion, lead Friday prayers in the synagogue. It felt like a Yom Kippur prayer on behalf of all the soldiers. Not a dry eye in the room. On Friday night, Avi’s high school buddies, many of whom are combat IDF soldiers like him (with one recovering from an injury), dropped by. Hearing them giggle and laugh together, just like they did in high school, was music to our ears and a tremendous relief.
And then, all too soon, it was over. Avi had to return to the base in the Negev on after Shabbat on Saturday night. Thankfully, we were blessed with him having a few more days in Israel with relatively easy access to phone calls and FaceTime talks. Our oldest, Efraim, who has been grilling for soldiers with a group of volunteer friends since the beginning of the war, managed to pull off a BBQ for the unit.
We had one last late-night visit with Avi on Tuesday, bringing baseball gloves and wiffle bats for a quick catch and home run derby. He’s still a kid at heart, thank God. Then goodbye, again, which was accompanied by the traditional blessing of the sons and plenty of hugs, smiles, and strength. As we sent him back, holding back tears, our pride was renewed, albeit tinged with worry.
Word came that they are back in Gaza, this time down south. The paratroopers are already making a difference by uncovering significant arms caches in children’s bedrooms and entrances to tunnel shafts. Some of it you’ve read about in the news. The fight is far from over, and the challenge of protecting “civilians” complicates the battle against terrorists exponentially.
Please keep these messages in mind, and share with whomever has Israel in their heart: The soldiers are highly motivated and deeply connected to their mission. They don’t get distracted by media reports, criticisms, or baseless chatter, which often drives us crazy on the home front.
They want to encourage us to live our lives fully and also fight for our values despite the stresses of war. They ask to please keep up with prayers: they’ve experienced countless miracles and seen God’s hand directly.
The world needs to know that every house they enter has arms, rockets or weapons. There is no house that does not support Hamas. It challenges what we want to believe: in reality there are no innocent civilians.
Our boys (and girls) are not hungry. They’ve figured out how to carve out kosher options where they are, and use war rations to make “gourmet “meals- mostly grilled canned tuna and warmed canned corn. They are positive, focused, unified, and even find moments of fun.
So, my message to myself and to you is to keep thinking and praying for them incessantly. Carry out the tasks that God has given you in this worldwide battle between good and evil. Live and love life, be grateful for the good and beauty bestowed upon you and your family. Believe in a higher power, knowing that we are fighting for a greater good to sanctify His name every minute of every day.
Hug your children whenever you can and carve out time to have a catch with them.
Sarah Paley is co-founder of the Yes! Israel Project, leading its missions on the ground and coordinating political work in Israel and the US. She is also an occupational therapist and licensed tour guide for the State of Israel. Her love of all parts of Israel combines with a phenomenal knowledge of the Bible and history, to emphasize the Jewish connection to the land throughout the ages. A mother of six and a grandmother of three, Sarah’s dedication to the Jewish people and Israel knows few bounds.