This is my fourth War in Israel. The first, the Six Day War, was over before I quite absorbed what was happening. The two weeks preceding the war were the real nightmare. The war itself, over almost before it began, was one grand miracle.
The Yom Kippur War was shock and trauma from the first day. And it went on and on. Each morning I'd get up and say, "It must have been a bad dream. It's not happening." But it was.
The Gulf War was unbelievable, surrealistic, unreal. Even our ever-present gas masks and sheltered, mask-taped rooms seemed like Hollywood props. We followed security instructions but we walked with G-d. We were more curious than afraid. Even the media secular as always spoke of unending "miracles".
And now we are at war again. This year, the same as this time last year, the Nine Days leading up to Tisha B'Av, commemorating the destruction of both Holy Temples, all felt like Tisha B'Av itself, while the days after Tisha B'Av felt and still feel as though we are still in the midst of mourning and destruction.
Last year, after several years of daily miracles and thousands of katyushas, the horror of Katif turned out to be real enough. After heart wrenching months of incredibility, protests, refusal to accept the possibility that it would happen, it happened. A beautiful, pristine, hand carved piece of Eden was wiped off the face of the earth. For what? For nothing except to hide the sins of men and satisfy their ego. This Eden will be rebuilt; I have no doubt. But the price of its destruction was searing. And heartbreaking. And the suffering continues.
Now, a year later, at the one year commemoration of the destruction of Katif, the disengagement which was supposed to guarantee peace in the south, we are back fighting a war. In the north where we retreated from Lebanon, in the south where we retreated from Katif, and with a worrisome cauldron bubbling and boiling in the east.
We were riding to Jerusalem in the car the other day. Pastoral music was on the radio. Suddenly, the music stopped and an announcement filled the air:
Sirens are sounding in the north. Residents of Safed, Carmiel and Shtula are to enter shelters or protected areas immediately. I mean, here we are, minding our own business and riding peacefully along the highway while up north, forty minutes away, in half the country, a million and a half people are running to shelters! Rabbi Lau, the Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, said that this time we are not fighting "to protect our homes". For the first time, we are fighting from our homes.
One son just finished three weeks of Homefront Defense, pulling people from collapsed buildings in Haifa; another was called up to his artillery crew. His family is supposed to be moving in two days and his wife doesn't know how she will manage alone with the four kids underfoot. (It's summer vacation.)
The country is flooded with "guests" from the north. (Note: Arabs fleeing Lebanon are "refugees"; Jews fleeing northern Israel are "guests" to be welcomed into our homes) Many are in the homes of strangers who took them in. But how long can you be a guest in a stranger's house? A week? Two weeks? A month? And what about returning to work? And what about the people who could not or did not leave the north? If the grocery stores, banks, post offices, other offices, places of work are not functioning normally, how do you function normally? What is normal is this un-normal situation? And… the $64 question…. how long will it go on?
Israel, you see, has no strategic depth. The country is one long border, surrounded by frenzied haters who pray faithfully to Allah for strength to slaughter Allah's other children. The several thousand missiles which rained down on Israel since this war began four weeks ago were all aimed at civilian targets cities, moshavim, hospitals, schools, supermarkets, shopping centers. Purposefully, consistently and determinedly, not by accident.
There are deep wells of strength in the Jewish people. Especially here in the Jewish Land. Quiet faith and determination. Recognition is dawning that the Jewish State is somehow different, special, the world's eternal lamb targeted for slaughter. But recognition does not mean acceptance. The people of Israsel do not have the slightest intention of being lamb-like at this point in history, even as their barely elected government makes plans to lower the flag and turn a defeat into a PR victory.
All this does not make for cheerful reading or for happy-go-lucky living. If Shimon Peres thought (and probably still thinks) that his "new" Middle East will allow him the dubious luxury of eating humus in Damascus, the vast majority of Jews in Israel have given up that fatuous, inane dream. Instead, they have clenched their teeth and their fists as they rearrange their priorities and head off to their reserve units. And the women, once again, are on the home front with the kids although in this war, the fighting front and the home front are indistinguishable.
Nonetheless, if we withstood the Destruction of two Temples, the Crusaders, the Inquisition, the Cossacks, the pogroms and the Holocaust, we will without a doubt withstand Hamas and Hezbollah (hopefully, maybe we'll pulverize them as well), Syria, Iran, the U.N. and the EU. Let us just pray that we do not repeat the stupid, unforgivable mistakes of the recent past and that the price of victory is not intolerably high.
May the Good L-rd remember His promise to His people and His Land. May He bless us, guard us, cause His countenance to shine upon us and bring us peace His peace, not a "world opinion" PR peace, but a true and everlasting peace which will benefit the Jewish People, the Middle East and the World.
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JWR contributor Yaffa Ganz is the award-winning author of more than forty titles, including "A Different Dimension".
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