I have been writing about all the difficulties, but now I want to write you about all the truly wonderful things that I have seen and heard in the last few days.
I have seen soldiers sent to tear people from their homes welcomed like brothers. I have seen soldiers act like Jewish brothers and sisters, crying with those they were ordered to evict. I have seen soldiers and those evicted praying together, singing together, hugging each other.
All over the world, everyone has seen how Jews behave even in the worst of circumstances.
Yes, there was violence. Young men who physically fought and attacked the oncoming troops sent to remove them from the roof of their synagogue. But there were no serious injuries on either side. And they were universally condemned for raising their hands to their brothers in uniform.
I have seen dozens of volunteers, maybe hundreds, going to the hotels and other sites where shell-shocked deportees arrived, many with small children, without diapers, or changes of clothing. Meals were organized. My neighbor’s boys started day camps for the kids.
Toys and snacks were distributed. Shampoos, men’s white shirts were piled up for the Sabbath. Laundry was collected by volunteers and washed and returned. Whole communities collected funds and items to contribute. Hot lines were set up for people to volunteer their time, money, supplies, homes, meals…whatever our brothers and sisters from Gush Katif need in this terrible hour.
A reader writes me now: “My 15-year old daughter went to Ashkelon yesterday to help the residents of Ganei Tal rebuild hothouses. The trip was organized by Bnei Akiva and included a bus from Raanana.”
This past Shabbat, Rabbi Benjamin Ish-Shalom, a renown Jerusalem Rabbi, and a member of our congregation, got up to speak. It was the Sabbath of Comfort, that traditionally follows the 9th of Av. He told us the following: Why was Rachel chosen to plead to God for the return of the Jewish People after the Exile? The Talmud story is that all the patriarchs and matriarchs wanted that honor. But Rachel argued the following: You know that Jacob loved me above everyone. And I loved him. Seven years he worked for me, and I waited. When the time came for our marriage, my father decided to give him my sister instead. Despite the terrible injustice done to me, I overcame my jealousy and did not hate my sister. I cooperated with her and taught her all the secret signs so that she wouldn’t be humiliated. But you God, look how jealous You are of false, worthless Gods that you punish my children with exile.
And God said: I will listen to Rachel.
We should have no bad feelings in our hearts towards our fellow Jews, Rabbi Ish Shalom told us. We should not forget what our eyes have seen. All the things our eyes have seen, and from that place we should go forward as one family to build our nation in strength and love and commitment.
Even the left-leaning television reporters seem suddenly overwhelmed by the strength and love of the settlers as the last settlement, Netzarim, is destroyed. These settlers are right in the middle of Gaza. They need constant army protection, and have become very close with the soldiers assigned to protect them. There will be no violence in Netzarim. Soldiers and settlers will pray together for the last time in the synagogue, whose striking Menorah has already been taken down from the roof, and will be carried out with them, a reminder.
God bless the Jewish people who will care for each other, no matter the incompetence of their politicians and civil servants.