Heroes of Israel provide hope to the nation during war – opinion

Opinion by BY YAEL ECKSTEIN • 

For thousands of years, Israel has been the land of our forefathers, the land of the Bible, the Promised Land. And these past nine weeks have made it clear that today, our ancient, miraculous land is still a land of heroes.

All my life, I have studied the biblical heroes of Israel: King David, Deborah, Joshua, and Caleb. I was raised on tales of our Zionist champions – Golda Meir, Yoni Netanyahu, and others who planted the seeds for our incredible, modern State of Israel.

But over the past few years, I have heard the same hushed, despairing worries over Israel’s future:

“Where have the Ben-Gurions gone?”

“Where is the spirit of Israel?”

“Where are the heroes?”

We have all wondered if this generation would drop its smartphones, tech jobs, and comfortable lives to crawl through the sand and mud to defend our land.

This war has shown that we’ve been blind to the heroes in every coffee shop, in every synagogue, in the cafeterias of every hi-tech hub, and in the spirit of every single person, young and old, in our beloved homeland. The spirit of Israel is more alive now than ever before, and the ‘tik tok’ generation is more motivated, passionate, and heroic than we ever imagined.

Hope through heroes

The entire world is finding hope in the heroes of Israel.

We’re finding hope in heroes like Amnon Ziv, chief security officer of the Hof Ashkelon region – not famous like Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres, yet no less a modern Israeli hero. The Fellowship has known Amnon for 10 years, and the security gear we’ve provided, including bulletproof vests and an armored vehicle, has already saved countless lives.

THE WRITER visits Moshav Netiv Ha’asara following the October 7 attacks.© (photo credit: AVISHAG SHAAR-YASHUV/IFCJ)

But on October 7, it wasn’t just Amnon fighting terrorists, putting his life on the line and acting heroically. The heroism of Amnon’s son, a tech professional in Tel Aviv, literally moved me to tears.

In Netiv Ha’asara on the Gaza border, I stood with Amnon inside a family home, frozen in the moment it was attacked on October 7.Former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, under whom Operation Opera was carried out, bombing Iraq’s nuclear reactor. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)© Provided by The Jerusalem PostFormer Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, under whom Operation Opera was carried out, bombing Iraq’s nuclear reactor. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, under whom Operation Opera was carried out, bombing Iraq’s nuclear reactor. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)© Provided by The Jerusalem Post

Walls were shattered by grenades.

A black bootprint from the terrorist that kicked in the door.

The charred ceiling is testimony to the carnage that ensued.

Broken glass from a family photo is scattered over scorched schoolbags.

SILENCE, UNTIL Amnon took out his phone and played me three voice messages from that day.

The first message arrived at 7:00 a.m. “Dad, I just heard about the terrorist invasion. I’m leaving Tel Aviv now, on my way to you.”

The second came an hour later. “I’m sorry, Dad. I’m not coming. I’m going to Sderot. There are even more terrorists there, executing women and children. I need to try to help them first. I’m sorry, Dad, but you’re on your own.”

An hour later, Amnon received a third message. “Dad, I’ve been shot. I have two bullets in my chest. I’m going to try to get to the hospital, but there are terrorists everywhere. I love you and I’m proud of you. Keep fighting and protecting this land.”

As tears streamed down my face, Amnon played the reply he sent to his child.

“My son, I’m proud of you. Be strong. As soon as my town is safe, I’ll come be with you.”

Both of those heroes survived. And both, like so many on October 7 and every day since, are living by the words of Amnon’s heroic son: “Keep fighting and protecting this land.”

The three sons of one of our board members grew up in London, yet they insisted on making aliyah and serving in elite combat units. They are living by those words.

My 17-year-old daughter who registered to be a combat medic “because the country

needs me” is living by those words.

And The Fellowship’s countless volunteers and staff who have distributed over $18 million in aid since October 7 are living by those words.

Yes, Israel experienced a tragedy that will stay with us for generations. But Israel is not a defeated people. Rather, we are a land of heroes.

We have looked to our biblical and national heroes. We have mobilized, despite our differences, to fight for this homeland in unity. We have come together for a new story of Israel, one of strength and peace, written by a new, prophetic generation.

For those who worry about the future of Israel, I look to the cafes of Tel Aviv and the synagogues of Jerusalem, to the tech hubs of Haifa and the nightclubs of Eilat, and see that the future is bright – because Israel is a land of heroes.

The writer is president and CEO of The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship), one of the world’s largest religious charitable organizations. The Jerusalem Post’s 2023 Humanitarian Award recipient and three-time honoree on the publication’s 50 Most Influential Jews list, she is a Chicago-area native based in Israel with her husband and their four children.

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