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Israel is at war.

It’s still being called an “operation” but, truthfully this is a war. Israeli civilians are being bombarded by a constant barrage of missiles. Towns near Gaza are under threat of infiltration by Hamas terrorists who have dug attack tunnels from Gaza in to Israel, for the sole purpose of attacking, killing Israelis and possibly taking hostages so they can be ransomed for terrorists imprisoned in Israeli jails.

Israel went to extreme measures to avoid a ground incursion in to Gaza. Multiple ceasefires were offered and broken by Hamas. Hundreds of targeted airstrikes were not enough to convince Hamas to stop their attacks. Missiles continue to rain down on Israeli towns and multiple terrorist infiltrations in to Israel are being discovered and stopped by the IDF – leaving Israel no choice. Ground troops had to go in to Gaza.

The Golani Brigade has, so far, paid the highest price in defense of the Israeli nation. Too many of our beloved soldiers have laid down their lives for our freedom but the hardest blow was 13 members of the Golani Brigade killed in a single day.

The symbol of Golani is the olive tree. Olive trees are tough. They survive in poor soil, putting down roots and practically pulling nutrients through rocks. They often don’t look very impressive but they are strong and they provide the olives (and oil) that are significant to the Middle Eastern diet. Strong, tough survivors, providing rich fruits in a barren land. What could be more IsrGolani symbolaeli?

The Golani Brigade isn’t the largest or most important part of the IDF but it is one of the more noticeable – for their accomplishments but even more for the people that belong to the brigade and for its atmosphere.

The IDF has elite units that are looked up to, admired from a far. They are the pinnacle of society, the height of physical and mental perfection: first and foremost are the IAF pilots and then come the elite commando units.

Golani is not in this category. They are family, the every-day, hardworking, regular people. It’s similar to being a fanatic sports fan. They sing their unit song “My Golani,” they have bumper stickers, flags and even kipput (yarmulkes) with the brigade symbol. Golani is addictive. It becomes a family tradition to be part of Golani – son enlisting after father, younger brothers following the eldest son. There are other units that are similar in these aspects but Golani can be singled out as the most noticeable.

The commander of the Golani brigade, Col. Rasan Eliyan is an Arab (Druze). This too is very Israeli. Although we are often accused of racism, in Israel anyone can advance to prominent positions, based on their merits. Race, religion and gender make no difference. Work hard enough, prove yourself and anyone can succeed.

On Sunday, Col. Rasan Eliyan was injured during the fighting in Gaza (byCol. Rasan Eliyan commander of the Golani brigade shrapnel, including in his eyes) immediately after his initial treatment he began insisting that he has to get back to his soldiers. The doctors told him he needs to rest and heal, the army found a replacement for him but there was only place he wanted to be – with his Golani soldiers. As he promised, this afternoon he went back to Gaza, to his soldiers.

Many of the wounded soldiers are only concerned with the condition of their friends and are insisting on going back in to battle as soon as the doctors allow them. Battling with terrorists hiding behind women and children, in urban territory, is dangerous and frightening. The thought of friends being there and not being able to help them, protect them – is worse.

Well-meaning friends and relatives from abroad have suggested this might be a good time for me to take a vacation. It is stressful here. And heart-breaking. But where would I go? Especially now. It would feel wrong to be elsewhere. As difficult as it is here now, there is no place I’d rather be.

On July 20th Sean was killed along with 12 other Golani soldiers. Sean had been defined as a “lone soldier” because his parents were in Texas while he was here in the army. He could have avoided the draft by simply staying in the US but he didn’t want to. He enlisted and served in the Golani brigade. When his unit was called to the fighting in Gaza he could have avoided it – he had a sprained ankle. He could have been excused from this round of fighting but there was only one place he wanted to be – with his friends.

Sean’s friends were afraid that his funeral would be small so they posted a message via social media asking people to attend, to show solidarity.

Sean’s parents landed in Israel around 6pm. The funeral was at 11pm, in Haifa. Lenny and I decided to attend. We couldn’t fight instead of our soldiers, heal the wounded or stop the missiles. We could stand for Sean.

Driving to the cemetery we saw streams of cars. Lenny kept asking: “Are they all going to the funeral? Could it be?” The roads, normally empty at that time of night, were full. Instead of driving to the cemetery parking lot we went around, to park across the way but it was full there as well. We parked where we could and joined a stream of people walking to the cemetery. On the other side of the road we could see thousands of people heading in the same direction.

I don’t know how many people came. The police estimate it was twenty thousand.

A call went out and the people answered…

The people of Israel came together as one. Orthodox religious Jews, moderate Jews, boy scouts, football fans (soccer for you Americans) from the team Sean loved, teenage girls, grandmothers, husbands and wives, soldiers and police in their uniforms (who, at 11pm, could have come in civilian clothes but chose to wear their uniform out of respect for Sean and to show that they are standing for the protection of the Nation and not just for the individual being laid to rest).

Thousands of people packed in to the cemetery, so many there was no room to move. I have never seen so many Israelis so quiet. Most of them never knew Sean or his family. They knew the love of a family for the son they will no longer have, everyone honored the sacrifice. Each soldier belongs to all the people of Israel. Each soldier strives for the freedom of our country. Each death comes instead of the death of an Israeli civilian.

The people of Israel stood together for Sean. For solidarity. For love. With sorrow and with hope that one day we will not have to make these sacrifices.

Before the ceremony began the funeral director announced on the loud speaker: “Please note that in the case of air-raid sirens everyone is to lie down on the grass and cover their heads.” If missiles were thrown at us there would be no place to go, no protection.  One woman standing next to me said to herself “Oh my God!” but even she didn’t move. There was nowhere else to be except with the rest of the people, standing for Sean.

Together we listened to the eulogies. We prayed with Sean’s father as he recited the ritual prayer for his son, Kaddish, the parting from the deceased. The people raised their voices together, sending strength to Sean’s family, trying to tell them that Sean wasn’t alone, that they aren’t alone in their grief. It seemed like the voices of the people helped Sean’s father complete the prayer. His voice broke as he moved from one line to the next, but the strength of the people helped him continue to the finale’: “To God who makes peace in Heaven, may He make peace for us and for all the Nation of Israel.”

And twenty thousand people answered him, “AMEN!”

There are many beautiful, peaceful places in the world but there is no place I’d rather be but here, in Israel, with my people.

Forest Rain:

This isn’t new, it’s just become more sophisticated. Why doesn’t the world cry out to stop the abuse of the Palestinian children?

Originally posted on writings from Israel...:

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Is there any chance the world is beginning to understand??

Listen to the Egyptians discuss Hamas, their abuse of the Palestinian people, using them as human shields and their corruption – stealing for themselves money meant to benefit the people of Gaza.

Don’t believe or understand Israel? Maybe you should listen to the Egyptians…

This morning I woke up to news of one soldier killed, 4 wounded. 9 terror-attack tunnels were found during the night. The air-raid notification on my phone was going off – Hamas is bombarding our southern towns with missiles.

Yesterday, before the IDF went into Gaza, a soldier was injured and his combat dog was killed uncovering an attack tunnel. This means that the dog saved the life of his soldier friend and they prevented the other soldiers in their unit from being hurt. They prevented future terror attacks.

What is being done now in Gaza is crucial but the toll is terrible…

Our soldiers are our fathers, sons and brothers, our friends (and sometimes our daughters and sisters). Each one is a world, is someone’s everything. There are parents across Israel terrified for the lives of the children while, at the same time, full of pride that their sons are protecting the people of Israel. We are all both sick with worry and full of pride… Each life is so precious.  

Thank you dear ones for protecting us. For protecting our nation. May you be protected in your duties, do what is needed and come home safe and sound.

Heroes don’t wear capes and masks. They don’t have super powers.  Heroes are regular people who do what needs to be done in unbearable, impossible situations.

This video shows heroes under fire. Faceless people, “just” doing what was needed – doing everything possible to save the life of Dror Hanin who was hit by a Hamas mortar, his body riddled with shrapnel. With the area still under bombardment, the paramedics didn’t think about their own lives – they wanted to save Dror.

Watch the video: saving lives under fire

Dror was bringing care packages to the soldiers protecting Israel. He told his wife, “How can I not go to them?” He wanted to show his support, to cheer up the soldiers. Dror was a serial volunteer, everywhere he felt he could help, he was there. Was. Despite heroic efforts, including a complex field operation – WHILE UNDER FIRE – Dror died.  Dror had a wife and three small children.  Now it will take heroic effort on the part of his wife to keep their kids world from falling apart. Being normal, creating a normal life will be her act of heroism.

Again we are hearing news of negotiations for a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. The world media seems jubilant. I am not. I don’t want a ceasefire.

I want peace. Real peace.

A ceasefire means ceasing to fire. It makes no mention of putting down weapons, or taking a step further and “beating swords into plowshares”. Ceasefire is a temporary pause in warfare that can be resumed at any time.

Moreover as, in this case, we are talking about a conflict between a law abiding sovereign state and a terrorist organization guess which side will break the agreement and resume fighting?  Actually, there is no need to guess. We have seen this cycle before. We know what the outcome will be.

In 2000 Israel withdrew from Lebanon. The logic was that if the IDF withdrew from the security zone in Lebanon, Israel would have a clearly drawn border in the north and would have international legitimacy in responding to any violation of that border. The whole point of the security zone was to keep Hezbollah rockets out of range of the Israeli civilian population and prevent attacks on northern Israel. At the time I didn’t understand the logic of withdrawing from the security zone. The terrorists were still there; if the IDF was not there wouldn’t they just come closer to the border, putting all of northern Israel in range of their missiles? The answer was, of course, yes. Withdrawing from Lebanon meant that soldiers no longer got killed inside Lebanon; instead Hezbollah crossed into Israel to kill soldiers, stole their bodies, taking them back to Lebanon for ransom. In 2004 they were returned to Israel in exchange for 436 convicted terrorists. In 2006 it happened all over again. Soldiers were again killed and taken for ransom. Hezbollah rained missiles down on the entire north of Israel (2006 Second Lebanon War) – suddenly the civilian population was on the frontline of war (see War in Haifa).  The war ended with a UN ceasefire that banned bringing arms into southern Lebanon. Hezbollah has since rearmed with over 100,000 new missiles pointed at Israel.

In an attempt to appease Arab violence, in 2005, Israel implemented the “Disengagement Plan.” Thousands of Jews were evicted from their homes, the lands that they had cultivated and the towns they built, in hopes that removing all Israeli presence from the Gaza strip would convince the Palestinians to be peaceful.  Instead of peace, we got missiles bombardment of southern Israel. Attacks from Gaza on Israeli civilians are what led to Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. Each Operation was brought to a close with a ceasefire – the first a unilateral ceasefire on Israel’s part, the second by a negotiated ceasefire with Hamas. Now, in 2014, we are in the midst of Operation Protective Edge and again there are discussions of a ceasefire and how “that is what is best for both sides.”

Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas in 2006 and held hostage in Gaza for five years. Israel paid for his safe return with the release of 1,027 terrorists. They were greeted with open arms and celebrations by the Palestinian leaders. Rather than expressing regret for their actions, many are on record expressing their pride in the murders they committed and their desire to continue in the same vein – including 24 year old Amra Muna, who spent weeks instant messaging with 16 year old Ofir Rahum, for the sole purpose of luring him to Ramallah where he was murdered by her friends while she watched.

The dramatic release of 1,027 convicted terrorists in exchange for a single Israeli is what motivated the Hamas to kidnap Eyal Ifrach, Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Frenkel last month. If Israel was willing to release so many terrorists for Gilad Shalit, how many would she release for three teenage boys?

As I write, my phone rings with notifications of air-raid sirens in Israeli towns. Now in the south. Earlier it was also in the center of the country. Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and even northern Haifa are under threat of missiles from Gaza.

Earlier today Israel prevented an enormous terror attack when 13 terrorists infiltrated Iweapons left behind by terroristssrael via a tunnel dug from Gaza under the security border. Discovered, the terrorists abandoned the weapons they had brought to kill Israelis (see image right) and dove back into their tunnel. The tunnel was bombed but it is not clear if or how many of the terrorists survived.

Two days ago Israel agreed to the ceasefire proposed by the Egyptians. The Hamas laughed. Today the UN asked Israel for a humanitarian ceasefire so that they could try to help the residents of Gaza. Israel agreed. Hamas continued to fire missiles.

News commentators (including Israeli commentators) sit in their news rooms blithely discussing the possibility of a ceasefire and how “of course Hamas tries to commit numerous and more spectacular attacks just before the ceasefire is implemented so that they can feel victorious.”

I don’t want a ceasefire agreement.

I want my Prime Minister to stand up and explain to the terrorists, the people of Israel and the rest of the world:

“To all those who have misinterpreted our behavior, seeing our restraint as weakness, you have made a dreadful mistake.

For years I and the Prime Minsters before me have led a policy of restraint.  We have reached out with multiple peace offerings only to be refused each time. We have signed multiple agreements which, each time, have broken with acts of violence against the citizens of Israel. We have even agreed to various appeasement plans in hopes that giving in to Arab demands might bring a semblance of peace.

We gave land for peace. We released terrorists from prison for peace. We ignored acts of violence against us, both small and large. The Israeli people have been very patient. Up till now.

Restraint is strength, not weakness. Unfortunately the neighborhood we live in has a hard time understanding this. We have not agreed not to act, we have only agreed to decide when and how to act. Our strength is in our morality, our dedication to each other and our deep desire to protect innocent people.This too seems difficult for others to understand – not just our Arab neighbors but also people in Europe and other countries around the world who bring accusations against Israel when she is doing nothing but defending herself. We do not attack. We fight back when we are attacked. We do not conquer – except when we win wars. We do not destroy, unless we are destroying terrorist infrastructure. We never hurt innocents – unless it is by accident, unfortunate tragedies that occur during times of war.

I am responsible for the safety of the people of Israel. It is up to me to stand up and say, enough is enough! We are done. There will be no more appeasement attempts. No more land for peace. No more terrorists released as a gesture of ‘good will’. The only thing we will accept is peace for peace.

Israel will not negotiate with terrorists.

To the leaders of Hamas I say, loud and clear, in front of the whole world – lay down your weapons. Stop all terrorist activities immediately, for the good of the Palestinian people.  There are many amongst the family of nations who will gladly support the Palestinian people financially, help them prosper and live productive, comfortable lives. Israel is first in line. We will facilitate the prosperity of the Palestinian people, but this can only be done when there is no more terrorism directed against us.

To the leaders of the world I say, as leader of my country I have a heavier burden than most of you. I am responsible of the welfare of my people, for their safety as well as the continued existence of our nation. All countries have their complexities however I don’t think there is any other nation on earth that survives and even thrives under constant threat of annihilation. The Jewish people have risen from the ashes of the Holocaust to come back to our historical homeland and make sure that all Jews have a safe haven in this world. My job is to preserve that.

The nations of the world were silent while Jews were being exterminated during the Holocaust. Afterwards all announced NEVER AGAIN but today, when we are threatened, the nations of the world demand we appease our would-be murderers, “practice restraint” and at the first chance accept whatever ceasefire is offered.

This is unacceptable. This endangers my people, my country and our future. I will not agree to this anymore.

The ONLY acceptable offering is peace.

Israel always has her hands extended in friendship and peace. We are happy to assist anyone in need, anywhere in the world. We have a long history of providing medical support, aid, rescue, technology and innovation to people across the globe. We will continue to do so. The Palestinian people can benefit enormously from friendship with Israel.

To the Palestinian people I will say, it is up to you to choose. Do you prefer the route of the terrorists? That way leads to poverty, anger, misery and death. You have the power to reject the terrorists who live amongst you and choose to live a different way. It is up to you.

Israel will not accept any violence against her. All terrorism must stop immediately. Those who do not stop, we will stop. If anyone, anywhere in the world has a problem with that, I can accept that. I am responsible for my people, not for making others happy. I am not looking to you for legitimacy. I am looking for the survival of my people.

Winston Churchill said that “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile – hoping it will eat him last.” One day, hopefully before it is too late, the nations of the world will understand that Israel’s battle is not against the Palestinian people but against Islamic jihadist terrorism which is a threat to the entire world – not just Israel. In the meantime we will not allow ourselves to be “fed to the crocodile” or go meekly to the slaughter.

Don’t offer us any more ceasefires. The ONLY acceptable offering is peace.”

 

 

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