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Waking up in Israel



Double entendre intended.


It's quite an experience waking up in Israel, for those of this blog's readers who are not based here. Of course (and how easily we forget this) every waking up, every day, should be experienced as a blessing, a miracle. My kitchen window, where I sit pecking away at my computer, faces Mount Meron, which often wears a delicate kipa of clouds in the morning, and behind which the sun sets in scarlet splendor in the evening. This morning I woke up and compulsively checked my phone, moving from news site to news site. The left-wing news site, which need not be named, published an editorial written in consultation with various "experts in Palestinian affairs," with the essential message that Hamas can never be defeated; there are too many tunnels, too great a warren of streets, too many people just waiting to rise up and fight. The message was, more or less, that eventually Israel will have to give up. This made me angry and fed the creeping despair that is always trying to surface. While there were undoubtedly some elements of painful truth in this editorial and the analyses of the "experts" it quotes, it did not make any useful contribution. Despair is defeat. And the fact is, we will win.


After walking the dog, I looked at the phone again and saw that now the names had been published of eight more soldiers killed in the line of duty yesterday. Eight more young men, brave, holy souls with families and their whole lives ahead of them, joining all the others who have gone before.


Since initiating this blog I have been determined that it not be political. This is a language blog, about the joys, history, culture, roots, quirks and foibles of the English language, and the ways language can influence our thoughts, for good and for bad. So let me be clear. Israel defending itself against the monstrous acts committed against our people, is not political. The war in which we are engaged is not politics. It is decency, humanity, absolute necessity; a waking up. As families mourn their dead and wait for news of their loved ones who are fighting, we need to use our language to inspire, to remind, to strengthen hope in one another. Our hope sustains us and brings us together. Our unity gives us strength. Our strength will bring us to victory.


And so, a few quotations to contribute to our hope and unity.


I am reading a not-very-good novel by a well-known author. The best part of the novel is the quote with which he begins, taken from Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak:


And remember: you must never, under any circumstances, despair. To hope and to act, these are our duties in misfortune.


Ours is not a fight just for Israel, so that our people may live in peace, though of course it is primarily that. As goes Israel so goes the world. The West is buckling under the weight of its political correctness, gender politics, and loss of religion and the family. Here, despite all of our infighting, it means something to each of us to be Israeli. And though it will never be acknowledged, our victory will echo far beyond our modest borders. As Winston Churchill said,


If we win, nobody will care. If we lose, there will be nobody to care.


Screw your courage to the sticking place, wrote William Shakespeare, and we'll not fail.


And of course, that wise, imperfect poet, Leonard Cohen, in his famous lines,


There is a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in.


Do we all wish October 7th had never happened? Of course. Do we all fear, and hope, and mourn, and pray, for our brave soldiers? Of course! But these things did happen and are happening, and our job, we simple citizens, we young people and grandparents, is to strengthen the light that is even now shining in from the gigantic crack in the universe that was so brutally cleaved on October 7th. This light reveals itself as we raise our flag on the hilltops where so recently evil reigned, as we speak to one another with more patience, more kindness than we could muster a few short months ago, as we donate to the charities supporting our soldiers and first responders, and as we say to ourselves and to each other, every morning as we read the news, that G-d is with us and He will prevail. Hope is active. Hope inspires, intends and acts.


“Optimism and hope are not the same. Optimism is the belief that the world is changing for the better; hope is the belief that, together, we can make the world better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope an active one. It needs no courage to be an optimist, but it takes a great deal of courage to hope. The Hebrew Bible is not an optimistic book. It is, however, one of the great literatures of hope.” Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, To Heal a Fractured World.


Be strong and of good courage, my friends. Our hope, determination and unity, our never giving in to despair, these are acts of will, and they strengthen our soldiers and reinforce our collective national soul.


Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  (Isaiah 40:31).

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