I would like to mark the 100th day since the start of this war with this beautiful message by our President Yitzchak Herzog.
(translated from the Hebrew by Naomi Ragen, www.naomiragen.com)
A hundred days have passed since life stopped, the sky darkened, and we, all of us, were exposed to the seething, shocking heart of terror and bottomless hatred poured out upon us. A hundred days of a war of which there can be nothing more righteous and just, a war that has tested our entire nation’s courage, bravery, determination, righteousness, strength, mutual support, unity, and the commitment we have as a society to the values and principles that define us as a nation.
In these difficult times, we cannot help but reflect on the sacrifice of our sons and daughters who have fallen, non-combatants and soldiers in uniform. Their sacrifice, their courage, their love of life, and their dedication to the ideals we hold dear are a testament to the power that resides in our hearts. We must not and cannot forget, not even for a moment, the abductions and those held hostage. It is hard to imagine a more difficult and excruciating journey than that of the families whose loved ones are in the hands of Hamas killers. All of us carry the weight of Prophet’s Jeremiah’s words in our prayers: “Our sons and daughter shall return to their own borders.”
We will yet mourn the unrevealed splendor of heroism, holiness and devotion of the souls who perished in these heavy battles . We will yet weep over the monstrous and unbridled anti-Semitic violence. And yet we will also remember that even in the darkest hours, we witnessed the greatness of the soul, the bravery, the resilience and the compassion that has established us as a people; the infinite Israeli spirit that refuses to be broken.
We made a serious and painful mistake when we were not ready for our enemies. But the biggest mistake is theirs, the enemy whose “great heroes” murdered, butchered, raped and slaughtered toddlers, the elderly, girls and boys; who burned houses together with their inhabitants, committing unfathomable crimes against humanity. An enemy who brought destruction and disaster on his cities and his people. An enemy where Hitler’s book –Mein Kampf – occupies an honored place in the rooms of his home, and whose children’s summer camps are places filled with murderous brainwashing and blind hatred. An enemy who thought he knew us, but who knew nothing, underestimating the bravery of our sons and daughters until we forced him to open his eyes and behold a people “who like a young lion arose, like a lion dominated to devour its prey.”
The strength and heroism of our people erupted in an astonishing way. We have seen this “Tiktok generation” transform into “an ancient, rare generation, as in times of old” whose heroism will be engraved in the annals of Israeli history.
I met with the fighters, with the commanders at the head of the forces – cast from steel – eager to engage with the enemy, swearing “Never Again!!” We all see the greatness of the many evacuated communities and families, the bravery of our wounded in the hospitals, the faith and passionate pride of the bereaved families, the volunteerism, solidarity and mutual assistance in Israeli society – Jews and Arabs alike, the determination of our allies who stand by us – led by the United States, and the support of Diaspora Jewry which stands with us as one, with one heart, sometimes at their own risk. No one will be able to defeat a people whose sons and daughters they are; no one will be able to defeat our cohesive and united nation.
Although the war broke out in one of the most polarized periods in our history, and the enemy hoped that such a terrorist attack would deepen the rifts between us, weakening Israel’s cohesiveness, instead we chose life, we chose solidarity. We chose immediately to come together and to fight together, shoulder to shoulder, for the present and the future of our homeland.
Unfortunately, it is impossible not to see that there are still those who choose at this time to return to the hateful discourse that reigned here until the sixth of October. Any backsliding to those regions of polarization are a direct threat to our security, even our lives. While we are always allowed to criticize, and sometimes have to argue – it is a distinctive part of our DNA – now is the time to conduct the debates and discussions responsibly, to maintain our togetherness, to remember that we are one people and one country. Hamas must not be allowed to win the battle to destroy Israeli unity.
This is true for all of us, and certainly for the elected officials and the leadership. Leadership during war means responsibility for Israeli cohesion, which is the bedrock of victory. When our brothers and sisters sacrifice their souls on the front, we must rise above the campaigns, above the petty politics and the divisive and toxic discourse – both regarding the day before and regarding the day after – and listen to the cry of our children who demand: “Instead of blessing us to return home in peace, let us return home to peace – peace inside us.”
Despite the challenges we face, I have no doubt that we will emerge from the shadows of this campaign stronger and more determined than ever. Together, as one nation, we will overcome the darkness, rise from the ashes, build, plant and sow, affix mezuzot, turn every hell into paradise, as we have always done, creating a future of hope and prosperity for our people, our country and the entire region – one that will be worthy of the sacrifice of the fallen, uplift the spirit of the victims, and reflect our commitment to endure as a beacon of hope, for ourselves and for all mankind.
Our enemy was mistaken. The spirit of the people of Israel will always win, this time and forever.
Yitzhak – Bozhi – Herzog, President of Israel, January 14, 2024