From the Kidnapped Boys to the War in Gaza: A Nation United as a Protective Edge

With every descent we have suffered has come an even greater ascent.

We are all anxiously following the developments of Operation Protective Edge in the South. We are going through tense times, in which the wailing of the sirens, the sounds of explosions and war, and our children, the soldiers, who are at the front and are prepared to protect the homeland, cause the entire nation to lose sleep. The events of the last month, beginning with the murder of our teenage boys up to the firing of rockets on Israel and the war in the South, occurred with such dizzying speed that it was difficult to keep up with them. Nonetheless, I want to touch on a common factor between the events.

3 Murdered BoysThe evening prior to the beginning of Operation Protective Edge was also the last evening of the Shiva of the Frankel, Schaer and Yifrach families. That night, I visited the home of the Schaer family and was privileged to participate in a Seudat Mitzvah ending the Shiva. During the meal, Gilad’s grandfather stood and said, “I want to say thank you to HaKadosh Baruch Hu! Thank you for returning our boys to us one week ago. Chazal instituted the blessing ‘Hatov v’Hamaytiv’ in Birkat Hamazon in recognition of the fact that the Beitar martyrs were able to be buried. We must thank Hashem for the kindness that he has bestowed upon us.”

The emotional strength of these noble families comes from this place of unconditional gratitude to God, no matter what the situation. The strong faith that they radiated to our society gave us all strength and fortitude, and restored a feeling of love and solidarity to the nation.

This unique spirit is now being reinforced by the residents of the South. In numerous interviews with these beleaguered souls in the media, one sees again and again people who are living in the line of fire yet who express no fear, instead demonstrating strength and steadfastness against the danger hovering over us. At the moment of truth, after years of abandonment to repeated attacks, they exhibit uprightness, firmness and courage, reminding us all of who we are, whence we came, and where we are going, as a continuation of the lesson that we were given by the Frankel, Schaer and Yifrach families.

Total solidarity with the IDF and the residents of the South accompanies us this month, from one end of the spectrum to the other; all of the media, together with the opposition leaders and politicians from the Right and Left, express unqualified support for Operation Protective Edge. This unity and solidarity are the sources of our strength.

The words of Rabbi Eliezer Hakapar in Masechet Derech Eretz Zuta are well known:

Love peace and hate dissent. Peace is greater, as even when Israel worships idols, if there is peace between them, Hashem says that he has no desire to harm them. As it says (Hoshea 4:17), ‘[Even if] Ephraim is worshipping idols, leave him alone.’ If there is an argument between them, what is said of them? ‘Their hearts are divided; now they will be found guilty.’ (Hoshea 10:2)

Precisely because of that, the challenge of our country’s leaders is twofold. They must not only cope with the murderous terror of Hamas, but also with empowering our spirits and strengthening societal solidarity.

Protective Edge SoldierWhen the tribes of Gad and Reuven request to remain on the east side of the Jordan River, Moshe Rabeinu opposes them with uncharacteristic sharpness, not because of the illegitimacy of the request, but because of the demoralization of the nation that is likely to result: “Why do you dishearten the Children of Israel?!” (Bamidbar 32:7) Rashi comments that the significance of the word תניאון (dishearten) is that you will sway their hearts against crossing, that they will think that you are afraid of war and of the strength of the enemy’s cities and country.

This is not the time to speak about a ceasefire, before anything of significance is achieved by the operation. Talking about this now might create cracks within the unique spirit surging within our society, out of a feeling of inability to cope anymore with the continued threat of terror, and the knowledge that another round would inevitably follow. The Ibn Era translates תניאון as “You will break them”. There are certain issues about which the mere raising of them in the public discourse are capable of breaking the spirit of the nation. The danger in the premature statements regarding a ceasefire arose not necessarily from a security standpoint, but rather from a social standpoint.

After the pogroms of 1939 in Hevron, Rav Kook published an essay called “Return to Bitzaron,” (Maamarei Hari’aya, p. 360) in which he wrote:

Anyone who traces the development of the Yishuv from its inception until the present can see that with every descent that we suffered in the enterprise, came an ascent and even greater development; a leap ahead followed every crisis. …Every descent involves the hiding of The Redeemer and every ascent that follows, His revelation.

Despite the great difficulty and extreme stress that we are experiencing today, we pray and believe that good will come out of the challenges that we are facing.

The Government of Israel came to a courageous and complex decision to move forward in order to complete the military campaign in Gaza, and it is incumbent on all segments of Israeli society to support this decision. At the same time, our leaders must work to strengthen our national unity, to listen to the unique spirit evident within our society and to act with firmness and faith toward strengthening the peace and security of our state.

We thank G-d for all the manifest miracles that He has been providing for the citizens of our country. The fact that hundreds of rockets fell on over two thirds of Eretz Yisrael with minimal casualties is not inconsequential. We continue to pray for the well-being of our soldiers and the residents of the South. May Hashem send blessings and success to the soldiers who are protecting our land. May He give them strength and rout out the enemy beneath them, and, with His help, we will succeed in uprooting terror and evil.

“Be of good courage and let us be strong for our people, and for the cities of G-d, and the L-rd do that which is good in His eyes.” (Shmuel 2, 10:12)

Rav Ronen Neuwirth #1Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth is the Executive Director of Beit Hillel and the Rav of Congregation Ohel Ari in Ra’anana. He served as Director of the Overseas Department of Tzohar and as the Rabbi of Bnei Akiva of North America. He also served as a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and is a former captain in the Israeli Navy Special Forces.


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