Israel has received much criticism for its continuing military operations in Rafah. I cannot stress enough that Israelis hate being in this position. We hate being at war. We hate losing and traumatizing our children; we hate the moral injury of killing others.
But today we brought back our family. Two older men, who have been held hostage, starving, in dark, wet, freezing underground tunnels for months. Our strong young boys found them, shielded them from terrorist gunfire with their bodies, and brought them home. Reunited them with their families.
This is why we still fight. Because we do not leave each other behind. We do not abandon our people to rot away slowly in the hands of those who hate them. We are a family. We love each other intensely, and we will be there for each other without reservation. We fight not from a place of hatred of those who gleefully massacre us, because hate is not who we are. We fight for love. For the type of love that never forgets, that is willing to take any odds, any risk, to bring us home.
Unconditional love like this is healing. It is the balm that we Jews can offer one another for the soul pain of being misunderstood and hated by so many. It is our answer to having been abandoned by those we trusted time and time again. We are showing up for ourselves. We do not abandon each other.
Our years of being the target of genocide has not made us genocidal, no matter what motives others presume to ascribe to us without knowing us. Our years of trauma has not made us hardened to the trauma of others. But it has strengthened our resolve to stand up for every soul in this nation.
My heart weeps with gratitude for a country of people who carefully raise their children not to hate or blame or live in the past, but to remember it to do better next time; to love each other fiercely and move forward into the future they wish to build. After this war, we will be faced with more uncertainty than ever; there will be internal conflict as there already is. I put my faith in the young people to continue to put that love of each other alongside the tremendous pressure to achieve security for ourselves.
For the Palestinian people, I wish them healing. I wish their Arab brothers to support them the way Jews support each other; for Egypt to open their borders to provide innocents refuge from the war. I pray for the Palestinians to prioritize the future of their children over their vow to destroy this Jewish country; to have leadership that looks out of them the way ours looks out for us and is willing to work alongside us toward peaceful co-existence. It is the only way forward, and it is in within their power.
But the behavior and decisions of the Palestinians is outside of our control, as is what others think of us. We can only respond in a way that is consistent with our values. We value life, safety, and each other, and we will continue set boundaries which are consistent with these.
We cannot stop standing up for each other or for ourselves; for our right to live without fear in our ancient homeland and around the world. Nor can we cease consulting our consciences about the ugly quagmires and moral injuries of war – a war which we did not ask for, initiate, or deserve.
But today, after months of dragging grey days, we take a breath and celebrate the loving embraces of those hostages and their families. We celebrate the courage of our young people fighting to bring their family home. We allow ourselves to feel the healing of knowing that after centuries – millenia – of being abandoned by the world, we will always come for each other.