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Day 32: Iron Swords War

By Leah Garber

The wall that has surrounded the Old City in Jerusalem since the 16th century has protected it from invaders for hundreds of years and, together with its eight gates, is one of the most prominent, beautiful symbols of the city.

The wall’s stones tell Jerusalem’s story, the story of the Jewish people. Since the original wall was built by the Canaanites 4,000 years ago, it has been built, destroyed, and rebuilt by various conquerors of the city.

It protects the residents of the Old City, radiates strength in the face of a continuous threat, and demarcates the past, like a hidden secret—all while gazing at the western, modern façade of the new city.

These stones have seen wars, misery, and death. They have seen renewal and joy, too, but never did they imagine a day would come on which they would present the faces of 240 hostages held captive in Gaza.

The pictures, happy, smiling faces from better days, are a silent reminder of our enemy’s satanic evil. Two-hundred-and-forty faces look straight at us, begging to be rescued. Now. Immediately.

As Israeli poet Yossi Gamzu wrote: “There are people with a heart of stone, and there are stones with a human heart.”

“Generations have dreamed of coming to Jerusalem, we have the honor of protecting it,” said 20-year-old sergeant Rose Lubin in a border police soldier’s speech she gave at a Friends of the IDF fundraiser. These words now serve as her testament. A lone soldier who moved to Israel from Atlanta two years ago to join the army, Rose was stabbed to death yesterday by a 16-year-old terrorist near the walls of Jerusalem she vowed to protect.

Rose lived on Kibbutz Saad, one of the kibbutzim near the border with Gaza that was attacked on the morning of October 7th. As the terrorists advanced into the kibbutz, Rose grabbed her weapon and ran to the entrance gate with members of the standby squad to fight the terrorists.

Thanks to her bravery and determination, she and other members of the squad prevented the terrorists from entering the kibbutz. But Rose didn’t stop there. She continued to help rescue the wounded from nearby kibbutzim, all under fire, risking her life.

Two days later, she reported for duty at her base in Jerusalem, where she is a fighter in the border police, devoted to protecting the city she loved.

In God’s garden in heaven, where the finest of our soldiers lie, petals bow in honor of Israel’s heroine, Rose Lubin, who lived and died for her people. Another beautiful flower in an ever-growing flower bed, another dream cut short, one more scar engraved forever in our journey of suffering.

As I have written several times, this terrible war, unfortunately, has arrived at your doorstep. Hate knows no bounds and is not limited to the battlefield. It spreads like wildfire and sweeps away those who choose to hide under its cover of lies, disseminating poisoned hatred.

Nowhere is safe. The October 7th massacre ignited the biggest wave of antisemitism the world has seen since World War II.

Sixty-nine-year-old Paul Kessler was beaten to death with a megaphone by a pro-Palestinian protester in the northern suburbs of Los Angeles, California. What began as a verbal confrontation between the two escalated suddenly and ended with Paul’s murder. Paul, a loyal friend of Israel was another victim of the war—not killed on the battlefield but in the brutality of conscience. May his memory be a blessing and may he be the last overseas victim of hatred.

The fighting in Gaza continues to intensify and, unfortunately, to take a terrible toll as our soldiers advance toward the terrorists’ strongholds in hospital basements. Meanwhile, in the north the army is protecting the border from Hezbollah terrorists who continue to fire missiles at Israeli cities, which, like their sister cities in the south, have become ghost towns.

Throughout it all, the holy work of identifying bodies continues, with more and more horrific sights being discovered every day.

Who could ever have believed that archaeologists, trained to uncover fascinating artifacts from glorious cultures of the past, are now being called upon to identify charred, disintegrated bodies, waiting in silence for their turn to be named, regain their identity, and be buried in eternal rest? What dentists could imagine that instead of giving patients bright, white smiles, they would identify bodies that would never smile again?

From layers of ash, charred soil, and car chassis, archaeologists are being asked to locate bone fragments and personal items to help complete the terrible puzzle. “In normal excavations, you don’t smell, you don’t have blood, and you don’t know the people who were there. After all, 2,000 years have passed,” says Dr. Ayelet Dayan, an archaeologist at the Israel Antiquities Authority. “But here we are facing a holocaust in a place that was once a paradise, just a month ago.”

Just one month. A month since our world went dark. A month since the sun shone.

It has been the most horrible month Israeli society and the Jewish people have known since the Holocaust.

A month marked today with a minute of silence across Israel, although no Israeli needs an official moment of silence to commemorate the disaster. We are all immersed in it 24 hours a day. Thirty days of crippling silence.

A month in which I am unable to lift my head, unable to stop my eyes from tearing.

A month in which it is impossible to answer the question: “How am I doing?”

A month of abysmal sadness that takes over my soul. A month of immense concern for my family members who are fighting. A month of nightmares at night—and during the day.

A month of prayers of hope for the kidnapped.

A painful, black, oh-so-gloomy month.

A month in which the only thing that nourishes my broken heart is the love I have for my people.

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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