This evening at 8:00, a siren will sound across the land, ushering in Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day). And once again the nation will stand in respectful silence, honoring the memory of those soldiers who have given their lives to protect Israel. Without a doubt, it is the saddest, most somber day of year, because everyone is affected: Ours is a citizen’s army. The losses cut deep, but there is understanding that their sacrifices make the continued existence of Israel possible.
At the same time, the memory of those who have fallen at the hands of terrorists is also honored – those who have died for no other reason than that they were living as Jews in Israel, and were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Tomorrow morning another siren will blast at 11:00. People will flock to the military cemeteries, and community cemeteries, to pay respects to their comrades, their loved ones, and their friends.
Tomorrow night, at 8:00, there will be a sudden – extraordinary – transition, as the sadness morphs into a celebration of Israel. It’s of a piece: the grief over the sacrifices, and the stunning recognition of what has been wrought because of them. It begins with prayer, including the chanting of Hallel, psalms of thanksgiving. This is followed by fireworks, and music and dancing, and traditionally, the next day, barbecue. But I will perhaps return to this in another posting.
On my website, I describe myself as a “Passionate Zionist,” and I believe that this is an accurate description. Every day for almost 18 years now, I have thanked God that I am here in the Land and part of the miracle of Israel.
Precisely because I do care deeply, I have found the mess I have been writing about of late to be painful. I do not imagine that Israel has achieved some sort of perfection – I would be most foolish if I did. Oi! Are we not perfect!
In spite of this, there is a profound longing to see movement in the direction of how things should be. Yet reality is complicated, and there is often very little clarity.
I do not look away, even when I do not like what I am seeing, and I do not sugar-coat it. And I write, because I feel I must.
Now, as I look towards Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut, it feels to me (I could be wrong) as if focus on the ceasefire issues interferes with the honoring of these days. I want to do what I hope will be a final summary of the situation, for the present, and then let it go for some days at the least.
The bottom line is that the more I read, the less I know.
Arutz Sheva has picked up a report that ran in Haaretz (never my paper of record), indicating that:
“The Israeli government ordered the army to ‘achieve the necessary operational goals’ in this weekend’s fighting with Hamas before Independence Day and Eurovision…
“While Hamas and Islamic Jihad were said to be ready to reach a cease-fire on Sunday, [Haaretz] reported, the army felt it was important to show that it was willing to continue fighting despite the two events.
“At the height of the violence, a number of senior Israeli officials declared publicly that concerns about Eurovision would not deter them from hitting Hamas hard.”
True? I do not know, but recognize that this is indeed within the realm of possibility.
Avi Issacharoff, whom I cited yesterday, today writes that Hamas, perhaps because it was being hit hard, called for a ceasefire by Sunday, but…
“From the Israeli side, the message to the mediators, and the message that was sent to the media in all the various security briefings, was quite the opposite: Even if the confrontation continued into Memorial Day and Independence Day, even into Eurovision, Israel had no intention of stopping.”
This is all Issacharoff says on the subject, but it leads to a serious, bottom-line question: If our government intended to keep going, then why would we stop without significant gains? This looks like the same foolish pattern that has persisted in the past, and which must change: Hamas starts the hostilities, and Hamas decides when to stop.
Why would Netanyahu have acceded to a cessation of the bombing, when Hamas was urgently petitioning for it, without making demands of substance?
The most likely answer here is that Haaretz had a piece of the story that is missing from Issacharoff’s version. I.e., that Netanyahu, though playing hardball, was vastly relieved by the demand for ceasefire and glad to stop before Yom Ha’atzmaut.
Hamas, says Issacharoff, began launching rockets with the expectation that Israel would quickly cave and make major concessions – they hoped, for example, for a safe sea route from Cyprus to Gaza, but quickly recognized this was not going to be achieved. This is different from what I’d seen earlier regarding the key Hamas expectation being resumption of money from Qatar.
And what it all goes to show is how complex this all is, and how difficult it is to nail down the truth, such as it may be.
Issacharoff says things went back to the way they were, basically – we’re extending the fishing zone back to 15 nautical miles, etc. He says the border protests and incendiary balloons will continue – although elsewhere I read there was some other agreement on this, primarily a reduction in the demonstrations, as well as an agreement by Hamas to reign in Islamic Jihad.
The single biggest point is that Netanyahu is approving the transfer of some $30 million in funds from Qatar into Gaza (something he actually never refused to do, although presumably he is facilitating it more quickly now). You’ll be hearing more on this subject, as a great deal of Qatari money will be coming into Gaza and the PA over the coming months.
With regard to the transfer of those Qatari funds, Rabbi Rafi Peretz, who is Chair of the United Right Party, said this morning that the transfer must be conditioned on the return of the living Israelis and the bodies of the two soldiers held by Hamas. “Hamas must understand that holding the boys is a burden and not an asset.”
Right on! This is the sort of tough and sensible stance we should be taking. Instead of paying (via trades, as demanded) to get them back, create a situation in which Hamas will want to do it. I laugh when people complain that the United Right is “radical.” What I see is that they have their heads screwed on right and I am mighty glad they will be part of the government.
Of course, Netanyahu will not rock the boat by doing this now. I imagine he would see it as after the fact, in terms of what he agreed to. But what a pity he did not think this way.
Apparently the beginning of the Muslim month-long holiday of Ramadan, which began this week, was a factor in Hamas’s rush to reach a ceasefire. Presumably a time of introspection, etc., it is notorious as a time of increased Arab violence here; it requires full fasting during daylight hours.
Let us pray now that there will be no more casualties, either as a result of wars or terrorism.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.