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We Mustn't Waste This Hour

11/02/2023 05:05:53 PM

Nov2

Rav Yosef

Coby is still in Kibbutz Zikim, a mile or two north of the border with Gaza. He and a small handful of men remain, while the other 800 members of the kibbutz have been evacuated to two sites further north. Coby is here to milk the cows, and to keep an eye on the place that he helped found more than 50 years ago with his “gar’in” of Shomer Hatzair. He’s never going to leave. Zikim is his home, his contribution to the nation.

No terrorists entered Kibbutz Zikkim on the morning of October 7th in part because, when the sirens went off, Coby and the others took their positions just inside the security fence. “I didn’t kill anybody”, he said. “But four terrorists were dead.” (The Israeli navy may have also intercepted some of the invaders.)

The setting in which we sat and talked with Coby was surreal. Untouched by the violence, the kibbutz is still beautiful, pastoral and green, but the place is a ghost town. The songs of the birds in the trees are continuously interrupted by the booms echoing from Gaza.

Coby is not leaving, but he realizes that many of his fellow kibbutzniks will likely make a different decision. “I myself have only so much time left here. But if you have a young family, you're going to be making a different decision. People are traumatized. Not to mention the people who escaped the kibbutzim that were totally burned and destroyed….” His voice trails off as his eyes seek a point somewhere in the sky.

The rabbis of Sderot, whose population of thousands is being temporarily housed in 18 sites throughout the country also don’t know who or how many will ever return. Some are more hopeful. Others don’t see people coming back unless their security can be guaranteed. The communities of the Gaza Envelope have come apart. They have been viciously and mercilessly torn limb from limb.

At the same moment and catalyzed by the same events, there is something wondrous and moving and inspiring that has come together. You can see it everywhere.

It is there when you join for a meal on an army base, where everyone implicitly understands the meaning of all wearing the identical green uniform with the simple acronym צהל printed over the breast pocket.

You can hear in the pained but steady voice of Rabbi Shmuel Slotki, two of whose sons fell on the morning of October 7th, having driven from their homes near Be’er Sheva to confront the terrorists whom they had heard had entered Kibbutz Ilumim. Incredibly taking the sweeping view, he said, “We know historically when it is that calamities befall us. It is when we turn against one another. When we hate one another. God has given us this opportunity now to fix what we have done and to save ourselves. אסור להחמיץ את השעה . We mustn’t waste this hour."

You can even hear it, if you listen, in the voice of the taxi driver who leans out of his window and calls to the distracted pedestrian (me) that the light has changed, and that the walk sign has lit up.

There are posters and signs here and there that say “אנחנו ננצח”, "We Will Win". But the poster that is absolutely ubiquitous carries the words "ביחד ננצח", “Together, we will win.” It’s not as much a proclamation as it is a proposition. Not as much a pronouncement, as a prayer.

This is the prayer that is lifting the עם. It is the recognition that has forcefully closed the book on a year of internal conflict. It is saving the day. With God’s help.

Together, we will win. 

Mon, June 17 2024 11 Sivan 5784