Opinion Articles

Nowhere else I’d rather be than Israel during war

“Despite the ongoing war in Israel, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be but Israel, right now, fighting for Western civilization, not just for our lives and the Jewish future”

As American Jews celebrate Thanksgiving, they may not feel very thankful. We lost so much – so many wonderful people, so much faith in the world, that delicious October 6 sense of security.

It’s easy to fall into the Jewish trauma vortex, our go-to-grotto evoking millennia of suffering. I keep sharing Gershon Shaked’s searing 1980 essay in my Zionist Ideas anthology. The Israel-Prize-winning literary critic recalled hiding under the piano as a nine-year-old in Vienna, on Kristallnacht, 1938. Five Nazis looted his apartment.

Soon, “they noticed the child clinging to one of its legs. They worked him over with their boots; they said and did things that the boy does not want to remember. When it was all over, the boy curled up within himself, surrounded by the bare walls of the now-empty apartment. He could not turn on the lights because the raiders had taken all the bulbs. Huddled in that darkness, mortified and alone, the boy discovered his own private kind of Zionism. How different it was from the Zionism of those pioneers in the sunny fields of the Jezreel Valley.”

Shaked’s raw ein-breira, no-other-choice political Zionism groaned: They hate us, they enjoy persecuting us, we’re lucky to flee and be here. He quoted the depressive, Zionist pioneer, Yosef Hayim Brenner, who shortly after making aliyah in 1909, declared life in Palestine “impossible.” Still, he proclaimed, “there is no other place.” Tragically, in 1921, Arabs rioting in Jaffa slaughtered Brenner.

Shaked continued: “I too lost the foundations of my existence. Yet despite my own ambivalences – the longings for the West, the love for and aversion to the Eretz Yisrael of today – it seems to me that the commitment must be unequivocal.” Because “identity depends on consciousness… a person has no choice but to decide. And if one has fled the ruins of Sodom, there is no other place but here.”

That Shaked survived the unspeakable to live another 67 productive years, should inspire every hostage family, each October 7 survivor. Jewish resilience trumps Hamas’s evil. We must, therefore, live radically, executing the Jew-Jitsu, making negatives positive. That’s why, while still fighting to free every Israeli from even the shadow of Hamas and Hezbollah barbarism, we must already start recovering and rebuilding.

It’s illogical that 200,000 Israelis abroad ran back toward a war zone. It’s insane that visitors keep coming – and that those of us who could leave nevertheless stay.

Thankful to be in Israel

But every day, I experience something that confirms “there’s no other place but here” – and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be, right now, fighting for Western civilization, not just for our lives and the Jewish future.

If I weren’t in Israel I wouldn’t have paid a shiva call – with countless strangers – to honor Rose Lubin, Atlanta’s 21-year-old lone soldier, murdered by a teen terrorist. Her father, David Lubin recalls landing in Israel, being hugged by some stranger. Squeezing hard, the hugger-turned-brother says: “You’re home now. Your daughter was a hero of Israel. We will take care of you.” David adds, “my daughter did not die in vain… we didn’t want this, but she died protecting Israel.”

I WOULDN’T have attended other shivas commemorating one fallen soldier after another. These kids loved life, oozed values, and sacrificed themselves to make us safe. I’m moved by these never-to-be-forgotten creations of amazing families and an extraordinary country that raises such heroes.

I wouldn’t have heard of the 3,230 births in October in Jerusalem alone – twice the number of those murdered.I wouldn’t have seen the beaming faces of the high-powered attorney or up-and-coming nurse living their 1967 moment, standing with the Jewish people and for humanity, having dropped their regular, over-scheduled American lives to volunteer here, distributing medical products and cleaning bedpans.

I wouldn’t sit with the rabbis and educators who came to hug us – or deliver much-appreciated supplies, once they finished shouting at customs officials for 90 minutes to let the stuff in – Israel at war is still Israel.

I wouldn’t have witnessed our blue-and-white flag transform instantly from partisan flashpoint to unity cry, or watched an empty lot near my house fill with boxes and boxes of donated toiletries for soldiers.

I wouldn’t have appreciated how municipalities forfeited billboard revenue to flash reassuring solidarity messages, including the morally clear proclamation: BeYachad NeNatzeach – Together We’ll Win! Unlike some Jewish snowflakes, we speak of “victory” over our “enemies.” We must crush them. We’re not afraid to fight.

I wouldn’t have superhuman countrymen like the two brothers who ran into the firefight – neither survived; the 22-year-old who calmly threw back grenade after grenade from his shelter; the concertgoers who could have saved themselves but returned to save others; the cop who saved 500, the farmer who saved 120, the Bedouin driver who saved 30.

I wouldn’t have been able to salute my children as they volunteer with displaced children, protect our borders, hunt terrorists, analyze information, and work round-the-clock defending us.

I wouldn’t know what it’s like to watch your solider-kids hanker to enter Gaza, confront Hezbollah, not because hopes of glory delude them, but realism guides them. They know that unless we kill these cancers now, they will metastasize – as they have for decades.

And my wife and I wouldn’t have been here to hear our kids thank us for moving here.

Yes, we’re mourning. We’re paying an unfathomable price. But there is no other place. And my fellow Israelis exude heroism, volunteerism, altruism, and sheer goodness. That’s why there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

Published by Jerusalem Post