The New Heroes of Israel

Do not think that what was done was done for nothing. Those protestors became - for my children and, I am sure, for many other children in the world - the new heroes of Israel.

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For elderly Jews, there are the images of Jewish resistance fighters in World War II, of the founding of the State of Israel, and of the subsequent fight to protect our new nation. For a younger crowd, it is the Yom Kippur War. For my generation, it was Entebbe, Lebanon, and the destruction of the nuclear reactor in Iraq. These are moments of great Jewish pride, and for my generation, they are the memories that we pass on to our children. I have often wondered what my children would witness in their lifetimes, what Jewish moments they would be proud to remember. Just a few days ago, I had my answer.

It was a dark day for me, a horrible day. I sat in front of the television and cried. I walked around like a zombie as the Israeli army and police moved in to destroy the communities of Gush Katif. After a few moments of it, I could barely take it any more. I walked away to make breakfast, dinner, clean - whatever I could do to get away from the horrible reality. I called friends for support and solace. I prayed. It hurt horribly. But while I mourned and then peeked at the television and then mourned some more, my sons sat before the television nonstop in silence.

Instead of destruction and desecration, they saw something I needed them to explain, something I could only faintly see in the gloom of the day. They saw something that I could only identify once they had pushed me to see it in all its excruciating beauty.

As the Israeli government did the unthinkable and sent troops and cages to Kfar Darom's synagogue, I rushed from the room, my heart pounding, tears in my eyes, and feeling like my stomach had dropped on the floor. I should have been expecting it, but it was nonetheless shocking. I couldn't watch, but I couldn't not watch.

I stood outside the living room, catching my breath and trying to get my emotions in order when I heard my children call to me, "Look at them! Ima! Look at them! They are all in their tefillin and talit. They are praying!" They sat, transfixed to the television, with their eyes reflecting the orange glow of pride. "One man has been interrupted while praying Amidah!" my middle son reported, "and he is keeping his feet absolutely together even while they carry him away."

I was more likely to focus on the negative, "How dare they move him!" I said, exasperated. But then I stopped and looked at them. They were looking at the men, and they were witnessing the actions of the protesters with the same kind of pride that my generation found in the liberators of Entebbe.

If the young men and women who fought for Gush Katif want to know what they accomplished, they need to look no further than a group of young kids who sat before their televisions and radios, and who now see tefillah (prayer) as a courageous, heroic and beautiful act of strength in the face of adversity. It didn't matter what the television broadcasters said, it didn't matter what the politicians said, it didn't matter what I said - what mattered was the vision of men and women fighting to pray in a synagogue. That stayed with my children.

I know all the things that happened at that synagogue are not universally accepted. I heard reports that the demonstrators had "desecrated it" and shown it "disrespect". But I know that it was not the demonstrators, but the Israeli government that was showing disrespect and who intended the ultimate in desecration - to raze the synagogue and remove the people from the land. My sons know the same. In fact, when one reporter, who obviously never took the time to step outside his New York offices and actually talk to a Jew, reported, "They are saying a prayer that Jews say when they die." My sons erupted in disagreement with the television, "No! It is a sanctification of G-d's name!" they yelled back, as if the television reporter and the audience could hear them.

It was a sanctification of G-d's name that was both unbearable and, thanks to my children, beautiful to behold. Do not think that what was done was done for nothing. Those protestors became - for my children and, I am sure, for many other children in the world - the new heroes of Israel. There is nothing greater for this nation than a group of children who will now see prayer as the ultimate action, who will now see the sanctification of G-d's name as the ultimate heroism, and who will now see themselves as the builders of a renewed Israel.

Perhaps the prayers of our children and the protestors couldn't save the synagogue in Kfar Darom, but perhaps the protestors and the synagogue in Kfar Darom saved the prayers of our children.


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