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July 23, 2014 0

More Reflections from Israelis:  Mourning two American-Israeli soldiers 


Overflow at the July 23, 2014 funeral of Sgt. Max Steinberg

Over­flow at the funeral of Sgt. Max Steinberg

16 Days into Pro­tec­tive Edge oper­a­tion, the list of fallen sol­diers grows longer and longer. In the last 48 hours, two names of so-called “lone sol­diers” whose fam­i­lies live out­side of Israel were added to the list: two young Amer­i­cans who moved to Israel and served in the IDF – Sgt. Sean Carmeli, who grew up in South Padre, Texas, and Sgt. Max Stein­berg, from Los Angeles.

On Mon­day after­noon, when the funeral of Sgt. Sean Carmeli was announced, there was fear that not that many peo­ple would attend as he does not have imme­di­ate fam­ily Israel.  The Mac­cabi Haifa soc­cer team, of which Sgt. Carmeli was a fan, called on the pub­lic to pay their respects to the lone sol­dier.    Par­tic­i­pa­tion went far beyond all expec­ta­tions: around 20,000 peo­ple from all over Israel came together to pay their respects.

And, today, the peo­ple of Israel embraced the fam­ily of the lone sol­dier from L.A, Sgt. Max Stein­berg. As a Jewish-American orga­ni­za­tion, ADL Israel staff felt the need to attend the funeral and pay our respects to this young American-Jew who came to Israel and fought in his com­bat unit shoul­der to shoul­der with his Israeli friends.   On an extremely hot day, tens of thou­sands flocked to the ceme­tery  – esti­mates runs between 30,000–40,000 peo­ple – the vast major­ity of whom did not know Sgt. Steinberg.

The funeral started with the almost sur­real announce­ment by the Home Front Com­mand instruct­ing atten­dees what to do in case a siren went off dur­ing the funeral. Even dur­ing this emo­tional and tragic moment, this reminder served to rein­force the frag­ile nature of the cur­rent Israeli reality.

The eulo­gies deliv­ered at the funeral brought to life Max’s char­ac­ter and the strong con­nec­tion he felt for the State of Israel and the IDF. His insis­tence on serv­ing in the Golani com­bat unit, and doing so with excel­lence in the var­i­ous courses dur­ing the train­ing process, reflect his spe­cial com­mit­ment and strength.

As Israelis, we felt that join­ing the impres­sive atten­dance at the funeral was our way of express­ing our sor­row at the loss and our deep­est grat­i­tude for an indi­vid­ual who was will­ing to sac­ri­fice his life in a just war, in order to pro­tect our lives. Many brought Israeli flags and waved them proudly. Max’s emo­tional father ended his remarks with a prayer for peace, and a stir­ring: ” Am Israel Chai” – the peo­ple of Israel live.

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July 22, 2014 0

More Reflections from Israelis: This is Our Home

Phyl­lis Ger­ably, Direc­tor, ADL Israel 

On Thurs­day, the day Israel expanded its oper­a­tion in Gaza to include ground forces, as I drove back to Hod HaSharon, a sub­urb of Tel Aviv, I heard over the radio that sev­eral sirens were heard all over the country.

Thurs­day evening is usu­ally a hor­ren­dous drive tak­ing close to two hours.  The ride this time was under an hour with most Israeli fam­i­lies stick­ing close to home. aliyah-nbn-2014-b-272x125

As I was dri­ving, I recalled other times that we were at war.  The clos­est to my heart, was dur­ing the Yom Kip­pur War, when my son was born.  It was amaz­ing to me at the time to see how every­one came together like one big fam­ily.  I couldn’t help but think about all the women now who are giv­ing birth and their hus­bands who are being called up to serve.  Forty-one years later and we are again in a war that no one wants but that leaves us no choice.

You have to be here to wit­ness the small sto­ries that illus­trate what Israel is all about:  a col­league today told us she was order­ing chal­lah for the Sab­bath from a bak­ery in Sderot in order to give them the busi­ness in these dif­fi­cult times.  Sev­eral fam­i­lies in the North have opened their homes to fam­i­lies from Beer­sheva and Sderot so their chil­dren won’t spend most of their sum­mer hol­i­day in shel­ters.  And the story of the first Israeli casu­alty in the con­flict:  a man who insisted on vis­it­ing IDF sol­diers and bring­ing them sweets who was killed by mor­tar fire.

Pres­i­dent Peres met with chil­dren who said, “Of course we can make peace, the Amer­i­cans are help­ing us”(Iron Dome)!   Even with the backup of the Iron Dome, it’s hard to imag­ine any kind of peace­ful set­tle­ment when Hamas con­tin­ues its attacks on Israel. Even after the Israeli gov­ern­ment agreed to a cease­fire for sev­eral hours to allow human­i­tar­ian aid to Gaza, the Hamas rock­ets fell on Israel.

430 new immi­grants arrived in Israel on Wednes­day.  The Jerusalem Post reported that one immi­grant, Eric Azizi, who came with his wife and three chil­dren said, “Our com­ing does not depend on the war, but [is] because of our chil­dren; Even if Israel is burn­ing, we will be there.”

Last Sat­ur­day, we cel­e­brated the birth­days of my two grand­sons.  About half an hour into the cel­e­bra­tions, the siren was heard.  We all ran to the safe room in their house.  Three gen­er­a­tions of our fam­ily in a small shel­ter.   The kids played on the floor on mat­tress with their toys until we heard the boom of Iron Dome doing its job.

I heard sev­eral times on Israel radio sto­ries of peo­ple who refused to leave their homes despite ongo­ing rocket attacks.  One woman said, “The ques­tion of leav­ing isn’t even an option.

This is our home.”  I guess that sums it up for all of us – this is our home.

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July 11, 2014 0

Amid the Crisis, Israel Carries On

By: David Waren, Direc­tor, Edu­ca­tion Divi­sion, ADL National


I was in Jerusalem this week as the first mis­siles landed in the area – lec­tur­ing at an extra­or­di­nary con­fer­ence hosted by ADL’s part­ners at Yad Vashem.  In reflect­ing on my expe­ri­ences there, I’m reminded of Yossi Klein Halevi’s descrip­tion in his recent book, Like Dream­ers, of Israel in the sum­mer of 1967, imme­di­ately after the war.  He writes:

That sum­mer Israel was pos­sessed by mes­sianic dreams of whole­ness.  There were those who believed that peace had finally come, and with it the end of the Jews’ exile from human­ity (per­haps only Jews could con­ceive of a nor­mal national life in mes­sianic terms.)  There were those whose long­ing for whole­ness was soothed by reuni­fi­ca­tion of the divided land and the divided city, which some saw as pre­cur­sor of the immi­nence of the mes­sianic era, end­ing the frag­men­ta­tion of human­ity itself.

He then talks about his father, a Holo­caust sur­vivor, for whom “the dream of whole­ness was ful­filled by Jew­ish unity….when we were united, he reas­sured me, no enemy could destroy us.”

Halevi goes on to expli­cate the frag­men­ta­tion in Israeli soci­ety fol­low­ing the Six Day War.  It was and remains intense – so dis­tant from mes­sianic aspi­ra­tions of ele­va­tion, unity and peace.

And yet, pre­cisely in the midst of Hamas’ lat­est fero­cious vis­i­ta­tion of ter­ror­ism, there was a pal­pa­ble whole­ness amongst Israelis vir­tu­ally united in sup­port of Israel’s mil­i­tary response and in unbri­dled deter­mi­na­tion to carry on daily life with a degree of nor­malcy that would be deemed any­thing but nor­mal in any other coun­try.  Work­places remained open, roads, shops and cafés in Jerusalem were bustling.   That deter­mi­na­tion was infec­tious – man­i­fest even by the vig­or­ous par­tic­i­pa­tion of hun­dreds of edu­ca­tors and schol­ars from around the world at the Yad Yashem Inter­na­tional Con­fer­ence on Holo­caust Edu­ca­tion.  Despite the threat of rock­ets, vir­tu­ally no one can­celed or left early.

Whole­ness was man­i­fest as well in com­pas­sion – step­ping aside to make sure oth­ers reached shel­ters first, open­ing homes and busi­nesses to any­one need­ing pro­tec­tion, hang­ing on to every word about the lat­est devel­op­ments – not nec­es­sar­ily because of poten­tial per­sonal impact, but because broth­ers might be in harm’s way.

Israelis, vir­tu­ally all, have expe­ri­enced a degree of trauma this past month that most of us won’t expe­ri­ence in a decade or even a life­time.  The kid­nap­ping of three yeshiva stu­dents united the coun­try in prayer and hope.  Their mur­der united Israelis in grief –as if it was their sons that were laid to rest.  The sub­se­quent mur­der of a Pales­tin­ian boy at the hands of Jews united Israel in revul­sion, con­dem­na­tion and introspection.

And now Israel is expe­ri­enc­ing unity in the face of unremit­ting ter­ror.  Dur­ing World War Two, Britain’s famous slo­gan was “Carry On.”  Well, Israelis are car­ry­ing on – in extra­or­di­nary fash­ion.  But, I believe it’s not just a cop­ing mech­a­nism.  Its goes to the very essence of Jew­ish peo­ple­hood and a belief, grounded in Jew­ish his­tory and artic­u­lated by Yossi Klein Halevi’s father, that as long as we are united, no enemy will destroy us.

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