Israel Survives and Its People Remember the Silver Platter
By Sarah Ann Haves
Commentary, August 5, 2014
As of this writing, Israel and Hamas are in a cease-fire, Israeli troops have withdrawn and are sitting on the Gaza border, and it appears that the IDF may be ending its current military mission — Operation Protective Edge.
From June 12, when three Jewish boys were kidnapped and killed by Hamas in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), until troops pulled out of Gaza today (the 9th of Av – commemorating Tisha Ba’ev), I have lived through the emotional upheavals of a majority of Israelis. Born Jewish, and a citizen of Israel living in the land for almost two decades now, I am still in the process of learning and absorbing. One understanding I have gained from this war is that there is something about the collective “whole” that unites Israelis in a tribal act of protection and survival.
Most of the time there are divisions in this society. But, during the last two months, there has been an incredible sense of unity that kept us strong as a people. Survival can do something amazing for the collective consciousness.
Our enemies continue to misinterpret and wrongly assess the contrasting opinions in Israeli society on a daily basis. They think they can divide and conquer this land over the often extreme statements of both right and left — conservatives and liberals — who voice strong opinions which can be at odds with the national consensus.
The last two months proved our enemies wrong, and will continue to prove them wrong. There is a natural way that human beings come together, in solidarity, when their lives are being threatened. That is what has happened here in Israel during this struggle from June to August 2014.
What I have discovered is that Israelis are trained as warriors. Generally, they know growing up in this society that they will have to fight for the existence of this nation, which they believe is, ultimately, keeping the Jewish People from becoming extinct. They instinctively sense that when they go to war, their bodies are the armor of protection for Israelis in the Jewish State. Parents understand that they may lose sons. Siblings understand that they may lose brothers. Wives understand that they may lose husbands. Girlfriends understand that they may lose boyfriends. And, “soon to be married ones” understand they may lose the love of their lives.
Young men and women joining the Israeli army are conditioned and educated at a young age and prepared to fight for the right to live and endure in this homeland. Long before the Inquisition, the pogroms in Russia, and the Holocaust in Europe, survival was ingrained into the Jewish soul. It’s a characteristic of the strength and ongoing determination of the Jewish People to have a homeland of their own as a secure dwelling for them. It is an integral part of Jewish identity and culture from generation to generation; a strategic goal in the minds of Israeli troops — to keep the homeland safe, shielded from the enemy on every border.
I understand why Israelis are called, “sabras” (hard on the outside, but soft on the inside). There is a fortitude and a toughness to fight until we win. There is the strength of a warrior built into Jewish people who immigrate to live in the Jewish State.
Many years ago, I learned about The Silver Platter. It is a poem that was written in 1947, by Natan Alterman and soon became part of the fabric of Israeli society. Today, August 5, 2014, the 9th of Av, marks the 100th birthday of Natan Alterman. Here are his poetic words:
And, the land grows still, the red eye of the sky slowly dimming over smoking frontiers
As the nation arises, Torn at heart but breathing, To receive its miracle, the only miracle
As the ceremony draws near, it will rise, standing erect in the moonlight in terror and joy
When across from it will step out a youth and a lass and slowly march towards the nation
Dressed in battle gear, dirty, Shoes heavy with grime, they ascend the path quietly
To change garb, to wipe their brow
They have not yet found time. Still bone weary from days and from nights in the field
Full of endless fatigue and unrested,
Yet the dew of their youth, Is still seen on their head
Thus they stand at attention, giving no sign of life or death
Then a nation in tears and amazement will ask: “Who are you?”
And, they will answer quietly, “We are the silver platter on which the Jewish state was given.”
Thus they will say and fall back in shadows
And the rest will be told in the chronicles of Israel.
This poem was interpreted by Israeli families during Israel’s Independence War as a willingness to sacrifice young fighters on The Silver Platter for the Jewish State. In April 2002, I produced a broadcast story about Israel’s military operation in Jenin. In that IDF mission, a number of Israeli soldiers were hit and killed by sniper fire as they exited the town. The military exit strategy was not planned well. The body armor IDF soldiers were wearing at that time had an open space near the back of the neck. As soldiers turned around to leave Jenin, snipers shot and hit that vulnerable area of their bodies and killed them. There were 23 IDF soldiers that lost their lives in that battle.
I interviewed a family that had immigrated to Israel from America. They were living in a kibbutz on the Israeli side of the border with Jordan. Their son had been killed in Jenin. After getting to know them a bit, and when the main part of the interview was over, I felt bold enough to ask them this question: In hindsight, had you known you would lose a son in battle in Israel, would you have done things differently? Would you still have immigrated to Israel with your son? Incredulously, they said they would not have done anything differently, and they would still have come to live in Israel permanently. It was hard for me to understand this kind of commitment to the Jewish State, a patriotism that knows no bounds.
Today, Israelis are still sacrificing their loved ones on The Silver Platter for the survival of the State of Israel. It is mostly Israeli husbands, sons, brothers, and fiancée’s who are giving up their lives in order for Israel’s enemies to be kept at bay. Why? Because they want the Jewish People to have a secure homeland to live in.
During this recent war, I spoke to an elite IDF commander that had been wounded in battle and was recuperating from his wounds in the hospital. He explained to me that the Israeli people had to be strong as a nation. With a smile on his face, he shared with me the secret weapon that Israelis hold over their enemies. Again, I heard the words: determination and resilience.
In an Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) report by Amos Yadlin (August 4, 2004), he writes about Israel’s strengths during the recent war. He mentions where Israel excelled over Hamas:
(1) stamina; (2) economic power; (3) military might; (4) a resilience of Israeli society that was not deterred by the casualties sustained, and which provided remarkable support for the IDF and the Israeli government.
What Yadlin did not mention is that many Israelis reported they had experienced miracles during the war, especially those citizens who were under rocket fire. Another point worth mentioning is that the unity that caused almost 90% of the country to support Operation Protective Shield helped the Israeli government to push ahead with the IDF ground operation. Otherwise, the population could not have sustained the deaths of 64 Israeli soldiers; or, the rocket barrage that took the lives of several citizens during Operation Protective Edge. And, what about the hundreds of Israelis who are still receiving treatment for their injuries? Or, the collective guilt over the thousands of Gazans that died, as well as those that were injured?
The unprecedented unity among Israeli citizens during Operation Protective Edge, clarified to Western politicians and diplomats alike, that Israel could not be persuaded to retreat its troops from Gaza until the IDF and the Israeli government felt like certain goals had been achieved. At one point, the IDF had taken control over a swath of land that Hamas had used to build cross-border tunnels in order to infiltrate Israel. Had Israelis been divided, and world pressure succeeded, the IDF would have had to withdraw before finishing the job of blowing up the Hamas tunnels. However, because of solid nationwide public opinion to stay in Gaza until the tunnels were destroyed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could overcome world pressure in light of the constant demand to retreat. Therefore, Israeli troops were able to stay in Gaza through several important stages in the IDF’s military operation.
During the times I have experienced sadness over the past two months, I have continued to ask Israelis how it is possible to lose a loved one in war and carry on with normal life. One man told me that Israelis press each other to forget their troubles and find joy in the midst of their sorrows. One could conclude from that comment that citizens here live in a perpetual state of denial.
Yet, some excerpts from a soldier’s testimony (Jerusalem Post August 5, 2014), convince me that there is much more to the Israeli soul that I realize:
“On a personal level, the paradox of the past month is that in the face of heartbreaking pain, and the violence of war, my experience has been one of unparalleled love. The Hebrew word for “love” is “ahava” – the root of which is “hav”, which means “to give”. When you love someone, you desire to give to them – and, when you give enough to someone you come to love them.”
“All I know is that I would happily give my life for any one of my fellow soldiers and I don’t doubt for a moment that they would do the same for me. Together, we would not hesitate to give our lives for you.”
“Israel is in danger and when Israel is in danger, every member of the Jewish family is in danger. Today, Jews around the world are experiencing the greatest fear and insecurity since the Holocaust. The masks are coming off and it is increasingly clear that this is not a war against Israel, but a war against the Jewish People.”
“…we are here fighting this war to protect your home for when you should want – or need – to return. So, to our Jewish brothers and sisters around the world – thank you for feeling our pain – for crying as we cry. In the poetic words of King David, ‘He who sews with tears reaps with joy.’ ”
These excerpts from an article by Ari Abramowitz has contributed to my understanding of how Israelis think about war and how they absorb their losses in this war culture we live in.
These words from Isaiah 61:1-3 seem appropriate to remember during this time period:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”
This is what we can do for Israel now, as described in these biblical verses. We can help God’s Chosen People in the difficult times ahead, hoping that they will eventually be able to overcome their losses and be healed from their wounds. We can stand, in faith, that they will remain strong as a nation.
As revealed in Israel’s national anthem Hatikvah, we can pray that the Jewish People will continue to return to their homeland and become the planting of the Lord, displaying His splendor on the earth:
As long as the Jewish spirit is yearning deep in the heart,
With eyes turned toward the East, looking toward Zion,
Then our hope – the two-thousand-year-old hope – will not be lost:
To be a free people in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.
I end this commentary with words I hear often on the streets of Jerusalem: “Am Israel Chai”, which we now declare: The Nation of Israel Lives!
(c) 2014 Messianic Vision all rights reserved. This article is not reproducible except with permisson from Messianic Vision.
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues in Israel and the nations.