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Day 10: Iron Swords War

By Leah Garber

Is there a more painful, horrifying, moving image than this collage showing the kidnapped and missing children, all being held hostage in Gaza?

Will these beautiful, happy faces ever smile again? Will the innocence that was stolen be restored? Will these broken souls ever heal? Who comforts them at night, when explosions and shouts in a foreign language are heard all around? Who exorcises monsters in the dark, not to mention real monsters that can’t be annihilated, even in daylight?

Two hundred Israeli hostages are in Gaza. An unimaginable number of civilians were kidnapped, literally dragged, from their homes—the elderly; chronically ill people in need of medication; children, including those with special needs, none of whom understands what’s going on; foreign nationals caught up in a bloody conflict that is not theirs, who nonetheless are paying an unbearable price. They all are.

We are now in the 10th day of fighting, waiting nervously for the ground operation to begin. It will be a tough, dangerous phase for our fighting sons and daughters and will mean sleepless nights for their families back home.

Israel evacuated towns and kibbutzim in both the south and north of the country, declared entire areas “closed military zones,” and is financing alternative residences for all evacuees. Israel also appealed to citizens of the Gaza Strip, also victims of Hamas, to evacuate, leave the battle zones, and flee for their lives. Israel has allowed a humanitarian escape corridor, which many of Gaza’s residents, 500,000 to one million people, have already used, saving their lives.

The Palestinian citizens left behind are surrounded by military bases the terrorists built—in the heart of their neighborhoods, in between hospital corridors, inside schools. Hamas uses its own people, including children, as human shields. The terrorists refuse to evacuate hospitals, are preventing the remaining Gazans from leaving, and have called upon those who have escaped to return to the hell Hamas inflicts on its people. These tactics will increase the number of casualties and victims, perpetuate images of suffering, and create a public relations win among their supporters, pro-Palestinians throughout the world.

Unfortunately, even in the face of the overwhelming global support for Israel, cruel voices are rising and making their way through headlines. Some Israel haters claim the country fabricated the events of the past week, and all the news reports are false. To those hypocritical, antisemitic voices, I suggest listening to Lucy Aharish, an Arab-Israeli news anchor or New York City’s Mayor Eric Adams.

In Judaism, human life is of the utmost value—as it is in any cultured civilization. By contrast, Hamas terrorists, like ISIS, have destruction as their goal, with no regard whatsoever for the value or beauty of human life.

With each day of fighting, the pain becomes more personal as we see and hear the names and faces of people we know. At the same time, love for my people and my country grows exponentially.

The volunteering and support initiatives, manifestations of peoplehood, are seen as never before. Above all, our soldiers, the best of Israel’s sons and daughters, are fighting like lions, motivated to defeat the oppressor, bring back security, restore peace, enable prosperity. Even the injured return to fight alongside their fellow soldiers before their wounds are fully healed. Such is the commitment, the essence of loyalty to our country and its people, the strength of belief in the righteousness of our ways and our right to live here. How can one not love these people?

The war is near.

We live in central Israel. Gaza is less than 50 miles away, and the echoes of the explosions are clearly audible.

While the soldiers await the ground operation, they cannot leave the base, so home comes to them.

Soldiers who were supposed to get married this week with parties at beautiful venues now are holding their weddings on the bases. Their fellow soldiers, brothers and sisters in arms, are the guests of honor. The Israeli flag is the canopy, and the joy is immense. The dancing and singing come from the bottom of their hearts and from the depths of their souls. What can better represent life than the union of hearts and the promise of a new family?

Love will prevail, life will be beautiful again, and, God willing, the children who smile in the pictures above, will smile again, and grow into adulthood, so that they too can walk under the wedding canopy with their loved ones, leaving the scars of the war behind.

Leah Garber is a senior vice president of JCC Association of North America and director of its Center for Israel Engagement in Jerusalem.

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