Once again, we have asked the men and women of the IDF to put themselves in harm’s way in order to end the scourge that has been plaguing our country for decades. With lopsided smiles and “yihiyeh b’seder [it’ll be alright],” they join their brigades, ready to face off against our enemies hell-bent on our destruction. Even now they creep through a hellish labyrinth of booby-trapped homes, tunnels, and streets, where unknown dangers are around every corner.
The news of young soldiers making the ultimate sacrifice for the safety of our nation is a heart-wrenching reminder that we are in a war not of our choosing, but one that has been imposed on us by an enemy who has sworn to kill us.
“Sworn to kill us.” Think about that phrase for a moment. We take oaths very seriously in our religion, as do many others. We go out of our way to avoid them, and phrases like “b’li neder” have entered our lexicon as a way to disassociate ourselves from even the suggestion of making an oath. Generally, we are commanded to take them, not on our honor, but on the honor of God himself, before testifying on the most severe of acts that can be perpetrated within the structures of our religious law. Even in this day and age, where attacks on religious dogma are seen as the right and responsibility of every ‘enlightened’ soul, taking an oath, or swearing, is still regarded as a word bonded by the highest authority under which one would deign to submit. By stark contrast, these homicidal maniacs have made a twisted pact with their god to kill, murder and rampage until our nation is destroyed.
During the Second World War, American families with deployed soldiers would hang a white star in their window, so people who were passing by would know that home had sent a boy off to war. When a fateful telegram would arrive, the white star would be quietly substituted for a gold one, and inquisitive children would be told that the soldier from that home had been “especially brave.” While gold stars are anathema in our culture, it is a poignant and moving sentiment – a simple, noble gesture that permits anyone to honor the fallen.
There are no words of comfort any of us can offer the families who have lost a son, brother, husband, father. The loss of that world, of that potential, is simply too staggering to comprehend while the image of flag-draped coffins fills our collective consciousness. And it is not over. Losing Eyal, Gilad and Naftali was painful enough. Now we are adding names to the list faster than we will be able to remember them.
It is up to our government to ensure that their sacrifices were not made for short-term gains. Ask their families; they would not have wanted their deaths to mean so little. It is up to us to persevere as a nation, as one family, bonded in grief but resolute in our commitment to our land, our people, and our God.