I've been writing a lot about the war in Gaza - the bombings, the tunnels, the rockets, and the human shields, not to mention the political intrigue - but one important topic seems to be getting lost in the shuffle, and that is the remarkable nature of the people of Israel.
After 2,000 years of exile, during which time only a remnant had the privilege to live in the Land of Israel, albeit under adverse physical conditions, the Jewish people have come home from the four corners of the Earth. Two thousand years of dwelling in other peoples' lands led to an enormous ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity in today's Israel, often leading to serious internal conflict on issues such as the military draft, defining acceptable social norms, and developing a Constitution that could possibly be made acceptable to all.
Despite all this, when the people of Israel are under attack, everyone bands together like a family in crisis. All other issues are put to the side and the success and welfare of our soldiers in their valiant struggle for Israel's survival becomes paramount. Teenagers spend much of their summer time performing volunteer projects, total strangers visit families that have lost children in the war and terrorism to comfort them, and neighbors inquire about the boys that they may know who have been wounded in the battle. The sense of caring beyond the call of duty is palpable among pedestrians in the street, in the bus stations, and on the train.
Much of the world is unaware that Israel is a tiny nation of eight million people, in a land barely the size of the American state of New Jersey, so the sense of family is still strong and the desire to help and to do good in times of crisis is paramount. From where does that sense of idealism derive? Perhaps it's a protective reaction or a rebellious streak, responding to a world that has been trying in vain to destroy us for thousands of years. Perhaps it's the optimism of our Torah, which says that we should always be trying to improve ourselves and to improve the world under G-d's leadership.
In any event, the behavior of the average Israeli in wartime is indeed a positive example for the entire world. The evil Israeli portrayed often by the Islamic propaganda machine around the world is a perverse caricature of the real Israeli, whose kindness shines through in difficult times.
These average Israelis are represented among all of the soldiers at the front, who are fighting the good fight for freedom against the Islamic tsunami, a tyranny that threatens not just Israel, but all of western civilization. We just happen to be on the front lines. If we are successful, this too, will be a light unto the nations.
May we merit a speedy and complete victory!