Israel is living through a horrendously dark time now – reeling from the unimagined horror inflicted by the Hamas massacre and coping with the painful loss of beautiful young men in the field of battle. Tens of thousands of people in the south are refugees from the rocket attacks of Hamas – living in hotels, shelters and quarters that have been opened to them in other people’s homes farther north.
As I write, we have now lost 17 soldiers inside Gaza, and one at the border.
Sadly, the numbers will continue to shift.
One soldier who fell was Second Lieutenant Pdaya Mark:
Pdaya was the son of Rabbi Michael Mark, who was killed by a terrorist outside of Hebron in 2016. And he was also the cousin of Elchanan Kalmanson, who fell fighting Hamas on the day of the massacre.
Because we are a small country, connections abound. One of my granddaughters, a young teenager at the time Rabbi Mark was killed, was friends with Pdaya’s sister. I remember how she ran to be with her when the tragedy struck. Our young people grow up very fast.
This is Israel. There is great sadness in every heart now. But we will endure. Not only endure, in the end unreservedly we will choose life.
I want to take time here, then, to look at a few of the many signs I am seeing that tell me that we will be more than all right.
Sometimes situations that are difficult still manage to fall somewhere in a gray area. But not now. The horror of the October 7 massacre was a watershed: it drew very clear lines between good and evil.
There is no half-way any longer. No tepid measures that we can remotely believe would be sufficient. We cannot bomb Hamas for a while and then, convinced that we have deterred them, accept a ceasefire. We cannot imagine that we can then give Gazans permits to work in Israel and allow money from Qatar in, and it will be all right.
Hamas is Amalek, and we are bidden to destroy it. The military, our political leadership, and the people are clear on this. Clear and determined.
It will not be true for every Israeli who was progressive/left, but October 7 marked a major turning point for many. There is Tzufit Grant, by way of example:
Tzufit, a well-known left-wing Israeli television personality, recently referred to an argument she had once had with Daniella Weiss, head of the right-wing Nachala movement…
“I remember saying to her, ‘How can you be so harsh towards Arabs? What, a Muslim woman has no mercy? A Muslim woman is not a mother?’”
Danielle answered her, “A Muslim woman is a mother who prefers for her son to be a martyr than anything else.”
Tzufit remembered that she had told Danielle, “Enough, enough, I can’t listen to this anymore.”
But, says Tzufit, “Today, I’m suddenly willing to recognize this.”
What happened to the survivors of the communities near Gaza that were attacked by Hamas is horrendous for them on this level as well. These communities, which bore the brunt of the atrocities, were in the main progressive communities that advocated for good relations with the Arabs on the other side of the border – indeed in some cases were working on projects for them. Now they must confront an overwhelming challenge to their ideological position, as they deal with the destruction of members of their families and their homes. It has got to be close to unbearable, and I feel only the greatest empathy for them.
But in the end, this will result in a stronger Israel as the electorate moves to the right. The transformation in our society will not be uniform or all-pervasive, of course. But we as a nation will be more clear-eyed in dealing with those who challenge us. We will hold up our heads with a stronger sense of our rights, our obligation to take care of ourselves. We will be less likely to be taken in by fantasies. And we will know who we are.
This change, as it comes, is to be celebrated. There are many important issues before us: application of sovereignty, the question of how to deal with the Palestinian Authority.
Much more on the PA will be coming. But here I wish to share just two highly revelatory happenings:
 “Fatah [the largest faction of the PLO] released a video in which terrorists of Fatah’s terror wing, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, are seen participating and bragging about their role in the October 7 slaughter of Israelis.
 Do you remember the little bitch (oops) Ahed Tamimi from the Palestinian Authority who slapped an Israeli soldier and served a bit of time (eight months) for having done so? She was in London this week and at a pro-Hamas demonstration she had this to say to Israeli settlers in Judea & Samaria:
“We will slaughter you and you will say that what Hitler did to you was a joke. We will drink your blood and we will eat your skulls.”
I read this and asked, Where does this venom, this obscenity, come from? Under no circumstances should it be ignored. She was not under the wing of Hamas, although her rhetoric dovetails with Hamas behavior. Having grown up in the PA, in a small village outside of Ramallah, she was educated and influenced by the PA. The PA, which has sensibilities no different from that of Hamas.
Today I was reminded about the horrors of the attack on the Fogel family of Itamar, in the Shomron, in 2011. The entire family of five were murdered in their beds, and the three-month-old baby was decapitated. When I learned this, I could not breathe. I had had to search privately to confirm the information after picking up rumors. It was not broadly shared in the media. The two terrorists, who declared themselves proud of what they had done, were from the PA.
Now, our government is doing something we have not done in the past. When there was a terror attack, we have always been reticent about describing details, out of respect for the dead and for the family.
But now is not the time for reticence, when supporters of Hamas deny our charges that they have committed atrocities. Information has been gathered, in the form of pictures and videos, and it is being shared broadly – to the media, to members of the UN. And, on Wednesday, to 47 members of our own Knesset, and their staff, from the government and the opposition.
Some broke down, some ran out, some got sick. A doctor was present to provide sedatives.
Even before October 7, we had not been in a good place: The country was rife with ugly political tensions.
But in the face of what we have confronted, those tensions are gone. There is incredible kindness, an enormous sense of unity. Everyone is eager to be of assistance to those who have fled the rockets in the south. And, of course, to our soldiers.
We even have one incredible guy who brought a row of washing machines and driers to the Gaza border, along with a generator, so the soldiers could do laundry:
After the screening of the video in the Knesset, MK Galit Distel-Atbaryan wrote: “Don’t hate each other, the monsters hate you enough. Hate the enemy, hate the monsters. Every instance of internal bickering is a crazy and horribly stupid waste of energy.”
I am praying that this sense of unity and national love will stay with us.
And lastly, we have this. Our fighting forces, even those who do not say they are religious, are looking towards Heaven.
Many soldiers decided that they would be better protected if they wore tzitzit (ritual fringes) in battle. Thousands of these soldiers are not observant!!
And so, a project started for tying the tzitzit for them, as they have to be knotted in a precise way.
Also fantastic is the fact that commanders are calling to God before going into battle. Hope to have a video of the Golani Brigade next posting.
And so, pray to Heaven for Israel, my friends. Pray for the safety of our boys and the rescue of our hostages, and the strength and wisdom of our leaders. Pray with a heart filled with hope, not fear.
We have Gaza City surrounded.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.