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Day 255: Iron Swords War

By Leah Garber

Dad, dad, dad, dad come home!
With all the words in the world, and I have to say dad is not here,
Dad, dad, dad, dad, come home!
All the sounds in the world did not bring silence like this one.”

This poem was written by Nunu in memory of Major General Yonatan David Ditch. Yonatan was on holiday abroad on October 7. He flew back to Israel to fight and was killed on December 7, 2023. Yonatan left behind his wife, Moran, and baby, Ari, who was born after nine years of infertility treatments.

On Father’s Day, we were informed of the combat deaths of 12 soldiers, including eight who were killed together in a blast in southern Gaza.

Look at their beautiful, full-of-life smiles; see these young fighters, at the beginning of their lives. They went out to fight the enemy out of a commitment to their people and homeland. They left behind dreams for the future—still debating what to study at university, where to travel after their challenging military service, how to propose to their sweethearts. Dreams of young people, dreams that will never come true.

They left behind proud parents, who, when their sons fell, earned the title of bereaved parents. They left behind fathers who buried their sons on Father’s Day.

Eitan Koplowitz and Elon Weiss were older than the others. They enlisted as part of their reserve service. Eitan was a dad—abba to little Boaz, only eight months old. A baby whose first steps will not be into the safe arms of his dad and whose first word may be abba, but to a dad in a picture, a word of longing for a dad of memories and stories.

Elon Weiss volunteered to serve. Nearly 50, he didn’t have to go, but after October 7, he did, fighting with men years younger, near the border with Lebanon and down south in Gaza. Elon left behind seven children and one granddaughter. One of his daughters married two weeks ago, and another is supposed to get married in three weeks. Who will stand by her at the chuppah (wedding canopy), holding her hand, promising to always be there for her?

My words today are written with tears that refuse to stop flowing. Endless sorrow for new graves being dug, for our soil that can no longer contain the many dead and begs us to stop nourishing her with the best of our boys. She wants to feel them running barefoot from above with their children, not lying in her in eternal silence.

Even in this painful reality, life goes on. People fall in love, get married, and are eager to start families.

Last night I attended a wedding, but it wasn’t easy to be fully present. I was only partly there. It was hard to be happy. Joy was mixed with sadness, the war is always with us, and we couldn’t let go of the all-encompassing and unrelenting pain even for an hour to dance with the bride and groom on their happy day.

A relative of the bride was among those killed in Gaza earlier in the day. The rabbi, the bride’s uncle, betrothed the couple, but he was at the wedding without his wife, who was with her sister who was burying her son. Others came to the wedding late because they were at the funeral of another soldier killed that day. Many of the young men danced with their weapons close to them, reveling in the short break from fighting they were granted to rejoice at their friend’s wedding.

Amidst the celebration—with many of us only half present—we received notice that Tzur Avraham from our community in Modi’in had been killed. Despite the late hour, his funeral was scheduled for that night. We realized, sadly, we would not arrive in time for the flag procession that now is part of soldiers’ last journey, a new -old tradition since October 7 that ensures entire communities can express gratitude to the heroes of Israel.

Two-hundred-fifty-five days take a heavy toll—burnout, exhaustion, and fatigue along with a growing despair that has overtaken us all. One-hundred-twenty hostages are still in Gaza, with no hope and no deal in sight to release them. We are dealing with so much. A northern front that flares up every day, foreshadowing a harsh war that is yet to come. A hostile Gaza that exacts painful sacrifices from us and a government that is more controversial than any that preceded it. It is a government disconnected from the people, which, while soldiers are worn out in the longest reserve-duty service the country ever has known in its 76 years of existence, passed a law to exempt ultra-Orthodox yeshiva men from mandatory military service.

The protest organizations have declared the week as one of rage, a week of protests all over Israel, calling for elections to replace the Netanyahu government. This same government is still engaged in divisive legislation, while our soldiers at the front—Jews, Druze, and Arabs, religious and secular, from big cities and settlements—who fight and die shoulder to shoulder do not understand how the lesson has not yet been learned and how it can be that what was still remains.

We are incredibly blessed with the finest of people, rare and precious citizens who, despite the weakness of the government are determined to hold on to the values for which the State of Israel was founded. Hamas took advantage of the divisions that resulted among us over disputes around the Netanyahu government’s attempt to impose a judiciary reform during the year preceding October 7. We were divided, and it weakened us, but no more. We mustn’t give Hamas that advantage again. We, the people, will learn from our mistakes and will demand that our leadership also realize that we are one nation, one people without sectional preference or controversial reforms designed to serve only political interests.

My war blog has been painted in different colors since its first day. In my color palette, I used a lot of black for grief and rage, alongside the drabness of lingering pain, and I have interwoven a few spots of white for hope. But as the war continues and the number of casualties increases, while the hostages are still abandoned, the more my palette becomes cloudy and filled with growing cracks of despair.

Yet, I have no other country. We have no other country.

I have no other country
even if my land is aflame
Just a word in Hebrew
pierces my veins and my soul
With a painful body, with a hungry heart,
Here is my home.

I will not stay silent
because my country changed her face.

I will not give up reminding her
And sing in her ears
until she will open her eyes.”

Israeli singer Gali Atari with bereaved families following the October 7thmassacre
Lyrics by Ehud Manor

Somehow, because there is no other option, together, united, we will overcome.

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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