It is my brother’s birthday and I simply do not know what to say. How do you say Happy Birthday to someone in Israel when massacred bodies are still being recovered? When we are finding more horrors, and that people were tortured in front of their children, their eyes ripped out before being murdered?
I will send my birthday wishes by focusing on what brings hope.
Firstly, our family is more connected than ever. That is true too of Israel. Two weeks ago the country was fractured and fighting internally over political reforms. Today the networks that organised anti-government protests are sorting out food parcels and collecting clothes and shelter for people in need. They have formed cooking groups and are coordinating people to drive supplies up and down the country. People have opened their homes to over 200,000 residents who have been evacuated from border towns. Kibbutzim have taken in thousands, and so too have hotels.
Last week a quarter of a million Israelis rushed home from overseas. People are talking about 150% recruitment among the soldiers. Most of them came directly from the airport to the bases.
Druze, Bedouin, and Palestinian Arabs – who were also victims of the Hamas terror squads – are part of this united effort. There are Druze restaurants that have closed so they can cook full-time to feed the army.
There are many stories of bravery on that black day on October 7. There were Filipino nurses who would not leave the side of those they were caring for, who were killed alongside their patients. There were people who saved the wounded among the festival goers and went back to save more and were then gunned down. There was a father who drove down the country to rescue his family and stopped to save terrified children on the roadside, then fought off terrorists along the way.
There are so many examples that show humanity at its best.
One that will be remembered for a long time is the story of Inbar Lieberman, a 25 year old woman who was in charge of security at Kibbutz Nir Am. That morning she heard explosions which she recognised were not like the barrage of Gaza rocket attacks Israel is too familiar with. Inbar rushed to the armory and distributed guns among her 12 member security team. She ignored suggestions to be on standby and made sure the team were in strategic positions across the kibbutz. This meant they were able to ambush the terrorists when they arrived. She killed five terrorists, and her team killed another 20 over a four hour battle.
Hamas in Gaza are holding over 200 hostages, including women, children, and babies. On the northern border, the Lebanese Hezbollah army has over 150,000 rockets, aimed at Israel, supplied by Iran’s Islamic State. Hezbollah has the arsenal to fire four thousand rockets a day at Israel – a country about the size of Cape Reinga to Rotorua.
Like so many I am hoping for better days and that next year I can say Happy Birthday without a heavy heart.