We are a people of so much hope, so much faith, so much joy. Yesterday, 228 Olim (new immigrants) from North America stepped off of a plane and became Israeli citizens. In his speech to the new Olim, Nefesh B’Nefesh Co-founder and Executive Director Rabbi Yehoshua Fass called them heroes. They are heroes for coming at such a difficult time, at such a monumental time in Israeli’s history. And there is no time when we need the support, the love and the numbers more than we do now. He said,
“Today’s Aliyah flight demonstrates the great resilience of the Jewish people and its determination to build the State of Israel.”
In a pre-recorded speech to the Olim, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu said that
“You are saying to all of our enemies that you’ll never succeed. We are coming to stand up for our state, our people, our future. You’ll remember it all your lives.”
Chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and Prisoner of Zion, Natan Sharansky said
“That so many Jews from the West are joining us of their own free will is the best answer to those who still try to destroy us. This flight is yet another step in the ingathering of the exiles."
One of the Olim who got off the plane was Ilana Barta, 23, from Teaneck, NJ. She had in her hand her wedding dress, as she is getting married in a few weeks to an officer in the Paratrooper unit who is currently in Gaza. She hasn’t heard from him since the ground operation started.
In other news, yesterday Lt. Shai Witakovsky, a reservist in the Givati Brigade, asked his girlfriend to marry him when she came to visit between battles.
Finally, if you haven’t seen this video yet, it’s well worth a watch. About 12 years ago, Josh came to Israel by himself and attended the wedding of our close friend’s brother. The brother was part of an elite fighting unit and Josh recounted that he has never – never – seen the energy and joy that these boys exuded at the wedding. They dance like there was no tomorrow and with a zeal that often comes from seeing the darker side of life. Josh came home from the trip and said, once again, that we simply had to move to Israel; that there is nowhere else where the people rejoice the way that Israelis do and grieve the way that they do. There is simply nowhere that appreciates life and feels the intensity of life as do Israelis.
And it wasn’t until I attended my first wedding in Israel that I understood what he meant.
This video reminded me of a wedding. These are soldiers who have come out of Gaza for a break. They will soon be returning to the fight. But they are taking the brief time that they have to dance, to sing to Hashem, to sing about faith and hope and the future.
We are a truly special people. A people that shows up in mass, 20,000 strong, for the funeral of Sean Carmeli, a lone soldier; of a boy who came to Israel by himself to fight and to be counted amongst the Jewish people here, in our Land.
A people who responds in mass to a Facebook post that has been going around for the last day. It says, "The funeral for Max Steinberg, the lone soldier from Los Angeles, will be held tomorrow at Har Herzl in Jerusalem. His parents are arriving in Israel soon for their first time. Max has no family in Israel and we are worried that there won't be enough people at the funeral. Please share, post and recruit. This amazing brave young man deserves to be honored and celebrated."
Josh is heading to the funeral now. A funeral for a boy that he has never met.
We are a people who dance, love and sing together, and stand together in times of intense hardship.
And we are a people who arrive on the tarmac, brimming with hope for a better future – carrying wedding dresses for the promise of tomorrow – for the promise of a peaceful future in our Land.