Tonight there was a major ceremony at the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem to mark this day that terminates the formal mourning period for the boys’ families.
It was incredible and powerful, because it touched not just the families, but all of us. We had taken these boys into our hearts.
What was stunning was the understanding that ran throughout of the intrinsic connection between the murders of the boys and the war we are currently engaged in with Hamas. It has been a process that we have witnessed, and now consider with a sense of certainty:
The boys were grabbed – they disappeared. An emergency phone call by one of them to the police was considered a prank, and so was not promptly followed up. This allowed the kidnappers/murderers to get away – although it was very quickly determined by authorities that members of Hamas were involved.
During the ensuing intensive search for the boys in the Hevron area, the IDF re-arrested members of Hamas who had been released during the trade for Gilad Shalit, and undermined the Hamas infrastructure in Judea and Samaria – altogether an excellent thing to have done, as Hamas was itching to take over in the Palestinian Arab areas of Judea and Samaria. This angered Hamas in Gaza, which began launching rockets into Israel. Ultimately, because the leaders of Hamas persisted with hardened hearts, it lead to the war in which we are now engaged.
A war, it turns out, which was very very necessary, even with the price that is being paid. For a network of reinforced tunnels had been dug that reached into communities in the south of Israel. They were going to be used – reportedly on Rosh Hashana – for a very major attack that would have involved – Heaven forbid – a massacre of many. The intention was to take over small communities in the south and bringing Israel to her knees.
There is not a religious person in Israel who does not see the connections within the unfolding of this situation – and the hand of Heaven.
So powerful is this situation within the consciousness of the people of Israel that the crowds were incredible. The Great Synagogue sanctuary is huge, but filled up very quickly. Although I arrived early with friends, we found ourselves in the spacious lobby, where chairs had been set up with large screens. And then, we were informed, there the crowds of people gathered outside. Thousands, they said. The police blocked off the entire street and large screens and loudspeakers were set up there, as well.
The people who came were of all kinds – young and old, religious and less apparently so, dark-skinned and light-skinned. They are the people of Israel.
There were several talks delivered during the evening. Touching, tasteful and meaningful. “We are united,” was the constant refrain. Yitzhak “Buji” Herzog, head of the opposition Labor party, spoke. There is no opposition now, he declared. There is no left and no right. We are one. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat – himself politically centrist – implored Prime Minister Netanyahu not to give in. Someone else assured the prime minister that we are all together behind him.
Both chief rabbis spoke, and there were meaningful words, again, of unity of the people and what this means, especially as we approach Tisha B’av (with more on this next week).
There were prayers recited. When the chief cantor of the IDF, backed by a choir, sang the prayer for the soldiers of the IDF, people wept openly. There were intervals of song.
The three fathers together recited the mourner’s kaddish for their sons. The parents throughout have been extraordinary models of strength and dignity and faith.
The message, then, is clear: We are the people of Israel, united. Do not underestimate us. Our prayers are for the blessings and the protection of Heaven.
The war? It is ugly, and, as I have indicated, necessary; it will not go away soon. Tomorrow will be time enough for me to write in more detail. (Sometimes I feel as if I would have to post hourly to keep my readers abreast of the shifting circumstances.)
In brief now:
After I had written yesterday, the death of five more soldiers was announced, bringing the total to 53. These soldiers had spotted terrorists who – again! – came through a tunnel into Israel near Kibbutz Nachal Oz.
IDF operations were then expanded. I noted in particular mention of Jabaliya, a name readily recognizable to me: When I did research on Hamas some years ago, in connection with my work on UNRWA, the name Jabaliya came up time and again – it is clearly a terrorist hotbed.
Earlier today, Mahmoud Abbas announced that he had convinced Hamas leaders to agree to a “humanitarian” ceasefire of 24 hours or more.
But once again, Hamas ended up saying there was nothing doing. For the first time since the beginning of the war, Mohammed Deif, head of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades – the “military branch” of Hamas – made a statement, broadcast on Hamas’s television network: The fighting will end, he declared, only when Israel lifts its blockade of Gaza. Deif is considered a major policy-maker for Hamas.
Tonight there was a barrage of rockets, once again fired upon Israel
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