By the end of today, we mourn the loss of 25 Israeli soldiers that were killed since the ground operation began. We never get used to the pain; it’s always shocking, always heartbreaking. Israel is burying its sons. They are not anonymous Israeli men — they are now all our children, our heroes and our loss.
They were killed in battle in Gaza, while dozens were injured.
Over the past few days, Operation Protective Edge has escalated. The fight has become an intense ground war and there have been Israeli, as well as Palestinian, casualties. Rockets from Gaza continue unremittingly toward Israeli communities, and on Saturdaynight killed one Bedouin man and injured his wife and daughter.
The Israel Defense Force concentrates on destroying tunnels that operate as an underground city of terror. This warren of tunnels has the potential to reach from Gaza directly into Israel, allowing Hamas terrorists to transport weapons, rockets and other equipment.
This underground network could enable Hamas to carry out monstrous terror attacks on Israeli soil. Hamas has invested years — and billions of dollars, originally designated for the social welfare of Gaza citizens — into building these tunnels. Instead of improving the lives of Palestinians and building their communities, these funds were hijacked for the purpose of destroying the lives of Israelis.
Anti-Israel propaganda, which in some cases is blatantly anti-Semitic, blames Israel through the use of horrible pictures from Gaza as a proof of Israel’s immorality. I have said it before and will repeat again and again: Israel’s army is as moral and as human as an army can be!!
We did not choose to initiate this round of fights, but were dragged into it. We warn civilians before attacking, urging them to evacuate. We agreed to two cease-fire agreements already. We do not deliberately shoot at civilians. We do not hide weapons and terrorists under baby cribs, in schools and underneath hospitals. We held to a two-hour humanitarian cease-fire yesterday in order to allow for the rescue of wounded civilians, a cease-fire that Hamas violated immediately by attacking Israeli troops. Israeli doctors and nurses opened and operate a field hospital near the Gaza boarder to treat Palestinians wounded in this bloody conflict.
We were hoping to leave civilians out of this war, but their leadership, Hamas, has threatened to kill them if they evacuate. We try everything that we can to prevent killing civilians, but this is an armed conflict, so sadly it does happen. And when it does, we express our sorrow. Hamas is gaining from innocent civilian deaths, whether those deaths are Israeli ones or those of their own people, who they cynically use to serve their agenda.
Meanwhile, despite rockets and worries for the reservists being called into active duty, we try to continue our day-to-day lives. This doesn’t always work, and sometimes things have to change because of the challenges of the current situation. This happened yesterday when Sunrise Association, an amazing organization founded to provide day camp for children with cancer and their healthy siblings, decided to delay opening.
The founder’s vision for Sunrise is very simple: To provide a placewhere children fighting cancer can just be children. The organization, which is celebrating five years of operations in Israel, was planning to open yesterday a new southern branch in Beer Sheva. Thought of as Israel’s southern capital, Beer Sheva has been under massive rockets attacks from Gaza for 14 days now. The new Sunrise branch is meant to address the needs of Jews, Arabs and Bedouins and would accommodate some 100 campers. It was a very painful decision to defer the opening of the camp due to major safety challenges.
A sick child is a tragedy, period. It’s heartwarming to see Jewish and Arab professionals and volunteers come together to offer relief, escape, and a normal setting to children whose days are lived primarily in oncology centers. Sunrise shows coexistence at its best, as people of all faiths and backgrounds come together for a noble purpose and greater good. How depressing it is to learn such a program won’t open, because of security challenges and threats.
Sunrise resembles hope in many ways — hope for health, joy and life; hope for our future. If Jewish, Arab and Bedouin children who are ill can dream together for their joint recovery, if professionals, boards and counselors of different nationalities can work together and offer children the best summer of their very difficult young lives, it means that hope can live, even in the darkest places. It means that anything is possible.
JCC Israel Center
Watch this video of Israeli soldiers in a moment of brotherhood and prayer before going into Gaza