Rabbi David Fendel, head of the Sderot Hesder Yeshiva, shares with Arutz Sheva-Israel National News a message of both hope and defiance from one of the towns most heavily targeted by the Hamas invasion.
"We are strong. They're trying to turn us into a ghost town - we're turning Sderot into a capital of Torah and learning! They're trying to destroy - they can't keep pace with the building! They're trying to break our spirit - they don't realize it's thousands of years old. We will go from place to place and rebuild."
The Yeshiva, Rabbi Fendel says, has been fully involved in the fighting. "One of our guys killed a terrorist. One of our teachers was injured trying to give help to the injured. We know that our job is to give spiritual and physical strength. We have hundreds of young guys with a strong resolve to do good. It's a terrible moment of God hiding his face from us, but we will be there with all our strength and resolve to give more strength in the coming weeks."
Rabbi Fendel echoes the question that is plaguing many Israelis - how could this happen? "It's unbelievable. Where was the intelligence, the air force, the army?"
There is a bright side, he says, the war is sure to help Israel grow back stronger. "We know how to learn from our mistakes. Some of the things that were said on the eve of the holiday seem embarrassingly irrelevant now. We are recognizing that we are one nation and that they won't be able to divide us. Brothers in Arms has stated that we're all in this together. I spoke to one of the pilots who said he would not continue his reserve service, and he told me he had already been fighting for two days with all his strength."
Rabbi Fendel demands that the Gaza Strip be retaken as part of the war. "Mistakes need to be corrected. We demand the government correct the heinous crimes that led to the current situation. We have to go back and take the Gaza Strip. Start with the north part of Gaza which has become a launching pad for rockets fired at Ashkelon. We need to go back and rebuild those settlements. They care about land, not their children, not how many people are killed. We need to take back that land. We cannot allow this disgrace to continue - we need to go back and rebuild Gush Katif."
"We have great appreciation for all the settlements in the country. The commentaries on the Torah say that when you live in a border town, you need special energies, and special protection, and that's what we try to give to our students. We don't have the why, but we have the what - we know what we need to do, and we are determined to do it, and we learn and pray to merit the answers."