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Turning rockets into rugelach

When the going gets tough, Israel gets resilient, compassionate, and funny

In a war that has lasted more than a month and despite over 3,000 rockets having been launched by the Hamas terrorist group, Jews and Israelis are, once again, finding new ways to demonstrate what a resilient, compassionate, and resourceful people we truly are.

The examples are numerous, but here are just a few.

Earlier this month, the IDF issued guidelines to soldiers for accepting donations with a gentle request to reduce the amount of donations pouring in from Israelis and pro-Israel organizations around the worldPeople are sending healthy snacks, candy, pizza, and all kinds of toiletries to support the soldiers. There is so much ‘stuff’ pouring in that the IDF started transferring donations to the needy.

The outpouring of support, the donations, the letters, the TV and radio spots offering ‘virtual hugs’ to soldiers in Gaza is nothing short of incredible.  Every soldier putting his or her life on the line in Gaza can not only feel the national support for their bravery, but also see the outpouring of love through the donation of food.

For us Jews, food equals love and the IDF had to ask us all to stop loving our soldiers so much.

Only in Israel.

Sergeant Sean Carmeli was a Golani fighter and a ‘lone soldier’ who immigrated to Israel from Texas on his own and joined the IDF.  He was killed in the fighting in Gaza.  Sergeant Carmeli was a fan of the Maccabi Haifa soccer club and after his family expressed concern that only a few people would attend their son’s funeral, the club posted the following message: “Sean Carmeli was a lone soldier and we don’t want his funeral to be empty. Come and pay your last respects to a hero who was killed so that we could live. This is the least we can do for him and for our nation.”

On Monday, July 21, 2014, police estimate that close to 20,000 people attended Sergeant Sean Carmeli’s funeral in Haifa.  Israelis came from all over the country, many of them draped in Israeli flags, to pay their respects to a fallen soldier – a hero who gave his life to defend the lives of others.

People came to salute him. They paid tribute to his sacrifice and thanked him.  They wrote poems and songs in his memory.  They wanted his immediate family to know that Sean Carmeli may have come to Israel as a ‘lone soldier’ but he did not die ‘alone.’  He will forever be remembered by his extended Israeli family.

Only in Israel.

Over the past several weeks, over 3,400 Jews from around the world have made the decision to make aliyah – to immigrate to Israel.  Israeli immigration and other government officials have been amazed by the continuing flow of immigrants coming to Israel despite the ongoing war.

So they decided to do something about it.

Earlier this week, a plane with 338 olim (immigrants to Israel) from the United States and Canada arrived at Ben Gurion Airport.  Over 100 of these new olim are slated to join the army in the coming months.  In a special ceremony held at the airport, the new olim were greeted by Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency, by Gideon Sa’ar, Minister of the Interior, and by Reuven Rivlin, Israel’s new President, among other dignitaries and officials.

All those who spoke and attended expressed their admiration and gratitude to the new olim for coming to Israel during such difficult times in order to make a new life for themselves and help build the country.

Imagine stepping off a plane in your new home country of Israel and being greeted and then personally thanked by the President and top cabinet officials.

Only in Israel.

Finally, as part of its attack on Israel, the Hamas terrorist group made a Hebrew song and music video called  “Carry Out Terror Attacks” and published it online.  In fact, the song is a remake of the song “Shake Israel’s Security” which debuted during the last war in Gaza in 2012.  The song has been a hit among Hamas supporters who have viewed the music video over one million times on YouTube.

I have watched the video several times.  It is absolutely ridiculous.  The lyrics are a mixture of modern Hebrew, old Hebrew, and Arabic with heavy accents, mis-pronounced words, and lines such as ‘Aim to make contact with Zionists. To burn camps and soldiers.  Shake the security of Israel. Reveal volcanic flames of fire!’

At one point in the song, there is an incoherent chant of ‘vulcanim’ which makes no sense in any language. There are terrorists in masks, rockets being carried by hand and then launched with people running for cover, automatic weapons being fired in all directions, and soldiers swimming under water with their guns.

It was intended to strike fear in the hearts of Israelis.  It was intended to send a menacing message to the IDF.  It was intended to mock Israelis.

The result? This Hamas song has become the number one hit in Israel this summer with many IDF officers using the song as ringtones for their mobile phones.

What’s more, Israelis have created their own satirical versions of this video in different genres and styles – there is an acoustic version, an a capella version, a dance version, a Road Runner version, a Smurfs version, a Hasidic version, and the list goes on. These versions are creative and clever and so well done.

The Hamas ‘intimidation music video’ has completely backfired  Israelis have used this pathetic and backwards attempt to intimidate a nation as a way to galvanize solidarity among all Israelis while exposing the ignorance of the Hamas terrorists.

Only in Israel.

The American writer and self-improvement guru, Dale Carnegie, popularized the expression ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’ as a way to encourage optimism and a can-do attitude in the face of adversity.  I would argue that this expression epitomizes our character and spirit, especially during these times of war.

In fact, based on the moments I am hearing and reading about, I would even argue that Israelis and Jews have found a way to turn ‘rockets into rugelach’ – transforming moments meant to destroy and intimidate us into sweet moments of strength and humanity.

Only in Israel.

About the Author
Barak Bar-Cohen is a dual citizen of the United States and Israel who grew up in Southern Israel and served in the IDF as a returning citizen. Mr. Bar-Cohen has over 17 years experience as an investor and senior executive in the telecommunications, digital media, and beverage industries working with both American and Israeli companies. Mr. Bar-Cohen graduated from Brandeis University with Honors in Economics and received his MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. Mr. Bar-Cohen is involved with several Jewish and Israeli organizations and currently resides in Princeton, New Jersey with his family who are all dual citizens as well.