Ubiquitous Signs of Unity

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Signs of unity can be found throughout Israel in the aftermath of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. Photo credit: Aaron Troodler

It was by no means a normal trip. Despite having been to Israel many times before, my recent journey was uniquely impactful and inspiring.

I felt the difference even before arriving in Israel. After the pilot reviewed the standard safety instructions on the public address system prior to takeoff, he referenced the current situation, stating that “We stand in solidarity with the citizens of Israel and the security and rescue forces … wishing all of us better and more safe and peaceful days ahead.” The words resonated with me, and I contemplated them during the lengthy flight.

As I walked down the long corridor in Ben Gurion Airport that is familiar to many of us because of the large “Welcome” sign that adorns the wall on the far side, I noticed a new addition – there were posters of the hostages kidnapped by Hamas lining both sides of the large hall that stretched as far as the eye could see. It was a jarring reminder of today’s challenging times.

There were signs of unity everywhere. Israeli flags and signs expressing solidarity were ubiquitous – they were hanging on light posts, highway overpasses, large office buildings and residential homes. The country was a veritable sea of blue and white as Israelis of all backgrounds joined together to proudly and publicly convey their support for their Jewish homeland in the aftermath of Hamas’ heinous attacks.

Photo credit: Aaron Troodler

A personal highlight of my trip was celebrating the engagement of my son, who moved to Israel just days after Oct. 7. After he proposed to his now-fiancée, we gathered in Herzliya to celebrate with family and friends. Several of my son’s friends were there in their army uniforms, one of whom had come straight from his army base to take part in the celebration. It was yet another reminder of the fact that our young men and women are putting their lives on the line to keep our Israeli brethren safe.

The conversations I had with friends were very telling in terms of comprehending the mood of Israelis three months after the Oct. 7 attacks. One friend, who has a son in the army, only wanted to talk about “regular stuff” as opposed to the war and its impact on their lives.

As another friend spoke about how many young men from her son’s high school were killed over the past few months, she asked “When will things be normal again?”

Israelis yearn for a return to some semblance of normalcy, but the reality is that the world changed on Oct. 7 and it’s unclear if and when things will be “normal” again.

There is a new normal in Israel. An Israeli friend of mine who had been in the U.S. and returned to Israel immediately after Oct. 7 to join his IDF unit as a reservist, told me that he spends his days off from the army going to the funerals of soldiers who were killed in the current conflict and making shiva visits to families who lost loved ones. His breaks from the army consist not of rest and relaxation, but rather grieving together with the families of fallen soldiers.

Photo credit: Aaron Troodler

One of the most poignant moments of my trip was when I traveled to the city of Ra’anana to visit the family of an IDF soldier who was killed in Gaza.

Cpt. (res.) Shaul Greenglick, of the Nahal Brigade’s 931st Battalion, was just 26 years old. Several weeks before his tragic death, Greenglick appeared on HaKokhav Haba (The Next Star), a popular Israeli television program. The winner of the competition will represent Israel in the 2024 Eurovision Song Contest. Greenglick, who auditioned for the program wearing his army uniform and dedicated his song to his fellow IDF soldiers, wowed the audience with his melodic voice and earned high praise for his performance. No one could have imagined that that would have been his final song.

The shiva house was packed. Greenglick’s aunt, who I know, introduced me to Shaul’s parents, Ruti and Zvika. Despite their grief, they welcomed me, my wife and my children with open arms and big smiles. Ruti was so appreciative that we made the effort to come to the shiva house all the way from the U.S. Zvika, who wore the shirt from his son’s army uniform at Shaul’s funeral, gave me a big hug, thanked us for coming and made sure to wish us “mazal tov” on my son’s engagement, which he had heard about from his sister, our friend.

The love and warmth that I felt during that shiva visit, despite the underlying pain that was palpable, was a testament to the incredible resilience that we possess as Jews, which has defined our people for millennia.

The unity that I witnessed in Israel was heartwarming, especially considering the discord that pervaded Israel during the months prior to Oct. 7, when mass protests enveloped the country and strife trumped solidarity. While there are fissures in that national unity beginning to emerge as the conflict drags on, I left feeling optimistic that Israel will ultimately prevail and persevere so long as the spirit of unity remains relatively intact.

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