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Reflections on War

So now we have a cease-fire. Yet even as I watched Olmert and Barak on T.V., announcing our one-sided truce, the media split the screen and showed Ashkelon and Beer Sheva getting hit with rockets! And all day Sunday, rockets continued to land in our Southern cities. Time will tell how effective this agreement will be, but meanwhile, at least our boys can get out of Gaza and go home.

I don’t have a son in the army. My husband wasn’t called in for reserves duty. But for the three weeks of fighting in Gaza, each time I woke up in the morning, scared to turn on the news, when I walked around all day and said my prayers at night, my stomach was clenched, my heart heavy and my tensions frayed. My country was at war.

I admit I had been waiting for this, yelling at my government officials on the TV screen for their inability to act, to take charge, to strike back. And when they did, I was torn. When the war started, and the attacks were solely from the air, I cheered. But I knew deep down that we would have to go in. In order to get the job done, our boys would have to go in to Gaza. And when the headline finally read, “Troops invade Gaza”, I pictured the faces of the boys who waited, proud, strong, young, and scared, to get their chance to defend. Because they are not one faceless group of khaki-clad soldiers. They are our sons, our brothers, our husband, neighbors and friends.

I work with Estelle in the CFOIC office and her son Doron was fighting in Gaza throughout the campaign. I watched her coming in every day, bravely saying, “It will be okay… It will be okay,” refusing to watch the news, insisting on keeping her routine as normal as possible so she wouldn’t break down. But reports and bulletins filtered through to her—even if just from some well-meaning friends who called each time there were wounded to say, “Have you heard anything? Is he alright?” Each time it forced reality upon her, forced her to play out the worst scenarios in her head. I so admire her forced positive outlook and know that her attitude helped other mothers of soldiers deal with their fears. I ached for her when I saw her jumping for her cell-phone every time it rang, the few seconds until she could answer and be reassured- a lifetime of uncertainty.

I drove my friend Dafna home from our local mall last week. She slumped into the front seat of my car. I said, “Who do you have there?” She told me her 22 year old son Itzik was there. She was hurting so. She admitted she couldn’t be too far from a bathroom because the situation was eating away at her insides. She turned to me, her eyes wide and blank, “People who never lost a child don’t know what it means to send a child into battle.” Dafna’s 21 year old daughter died two years ago from cancer. “People just can’t understand,” she whispered.

Jeanette could. My friend Jeanette lost her 15 year old daughter Rachel six years ago when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside our neighborhood’s pizza store, killing Rachel, and two other teenagers. I spoke to Jeanette. She had a son in Gaza. There’s a compassionate law in Israel that states that a family that has lost a child in war or to terror, is relieved of sending another child to serve in the army. But Jeanette told me that her son told her in no uncertain terms that there is no way he was not going to fight and defend his country. She told me how hard it was to sign the release form that told the army that- yes, they could have her son.

There is a beautiful phrase in Hebrew that states, “All of Israel is responsible for and connected to one another.” We have an internal e-mail in Karnei Shomron and every day of battle an updated list got sent out to let us all know which of our boys were down there fighting. The names appeared before us on our screens, allowing everyone to take a few moments to pray for them, to say a few verses of Psalms in their names.

And then it hit home. Last week, a boy from Karnei Shomron was wounded critically. His name is Aaron, like Moses’ brother, the Holy Priest. This army officer- merely a boy– is also holy. He was married less than two weeks ago. The Sabbath before his wedding was interrupted when he was called back to lead his troops. He came back two days before his wedding and by the morning of his celebratory Sabbath with his new bride he left again to go into battle with the boys he had trained. Two days later he was gravely injured when he walked into a booby-trapped Palestinian home. His wounds are life-threatening. We are praying for G-d’s mercy…for a miracle. His father, Rabbi Karov, a very holy man, was interviewed on Israeli television. He is the principal of the local religious high school for boys. I remember taking a Bible course that he taught a few years ago. He radiated holiness, spirituality, inner peace. And that’s what I saw when he was interviewed at the hospital where his son lay in an enforced coma. He explained that he has mixed feelings He feels a definite spiritual uplifting, knowing his son took part in defending our land. But he aches for himself and his family…and the new bride…who are having a hard time understanding why.

We are an amazing people. I was proud, but more than a little frustrated, when I heard that our army sent out leaflets and flyers into Gaza to warn them when there would be attacks so innocent civilians could find shelter. We are a merciful people and sometimes I wish our compassion didn’t have to put our soldiers into danger, as they go house to house searching out terrorists, not wanting to harm blameless civilians, setting themselves up and jeopardizing their own lives in order to protect those of people who only want us obliterated. And it is so frustrating to hear where the world’s sympathies lie. The Palestinians are the downtrodden and Israel must stop her inhumane attacks?! Blessedly, there are bright sparks of editorials, rallies, interviews on the media that show that there are people who DO see the truth. Who DO stand with us.

We are an amazing people. At the beginning of the war, four of our soldiers were killed accidentally by friendly fire. That night, after they were buried, I saw their mothers and fathers begging the army generals and the media to find out- right away- who fired the offending shells! They wanted to tell those devastated soldiers that they loved them. That they feel no rage, not a touch of anger towards them. That they should not destroy themselves with pangs of remorse. That they understand that when a people are at war there are casualties. In the midst of their own pain, they thought of those horrified, guilt-stricken boys, and wanted to reach out and offer comfort.

Laurenz, a wonderful woman I met through my work with CFOIC, is a refugee from Gush Katif. I heard her being interviewed on the news. She had a son fighting in Gaza and she was saying that it was just and right that he was fighting for the land he loves on the soil of the land he was thrown out of. So many soldiers, who lived in Gush Katif and were fighting down South, mentioned what a surreal feeling it was to finally be allowed to set foot on the land they were forced out of, just a few years ago.

I had a dream last week. That when this war would end, and the Hamas and their Palestinian people realized their case was lost…when the fires in Gaza settle and all that is left is ashes…we will rise up. From the Golan, from Ashkelon, from Jerusalem the Shomron and Tel-Aviv, and we will return, with the thousands of Gush Katif refugees, dancing with them, carrying building materials with us in one hand and our sacred Torah Scrolls in another. And we will return. We will rebuild.


Shira Schwartz
Christian Friends of Israeli Communities