That video above? We’ll come back to it.
Like all Israelis who are not at the front or otherwise called up, we’re watching way too much news. It’s debilitating and depressing, and even the news is warning viewers not to watch too much news.
Bibi was supposed to address the nation at 8:00 pm last night, so Elisheva joined me in the study. The TV had been on forever, the news droning and droning, the emerging stories so horrifying that you could start to be numb.
But Bibi didn’t show, and by 9:00 pm, Elisheva said, “I’m going upstairs to bed. You should turn off the TV and come up, too.”
Before we turned off the TV, though, some Home Front Command officer was interviewed about the heating up Lebanese front. Hezbollah in Lebanon, of course, makes Hamas look like cub scouts. If Hezbollah gets into this —with their thousands and thousands of precision missiles than can hit any bridge, any hospital, any power plant, any airport, anything in Israel—this is going to turn into something very different.
Israel has promised time and again that if Hezbollah attacks the Jewish state, we will “return Southern Lebanon to the stone age.” No one doubts that. No one here has any problem with that. We just wonder what it will be like here during the days that it takes to get that done.
So what was the Home Front Command telling us?
Stock up on water. A lot of it. Make sure you have dry food. And DO NOT take the handles off your safe room doors.
After the horror stories Israelis have been hearing about how terrorists tried to turn the handles from the outside as terrified husbands and wives used all their might to hold the handle inside, Israelis have been sharing social media clips telling people to take off the handles, so that once you’re in, you’ll be safe.
But the Home Front says that’s dangerous. You also have to be able to get out. DO NOT take off the handles, he repeated. Find something in the house that’s the right height that you can brace under the handle so it can’t be moved down into the unlocked position. And make sure you have your food and the water with you in there so you don’t need to open the door to get it.
Elisheva went upstairs, I had two quick Zoom conversations, and then I went up, too. When we were too tired to read, which was almost immediately, we toyed with turning on the bedroom TV. “No, that’s not smart. We need to not do that, we need to detox from the news. Enough.” OK, no news, we agreed.
I was reading something when she mumbled something about getting some water from the kitchen. But I saw her take her phone. So I went into one of the empty kids’ rooms and closed the door. With my phone, of course.
When the charade was over, we actually tried to go to sleep. “Whoever wakes up first,” she said (which was itself kind of funny since in 42 years, I’ve never woken up after her), “should go get water. And you should get nuts. And peanut butter. And jelly. Get some crackers. Don’t bother with bread. I tried today and there already was nothing to buy.”
Normally, I get up and go to shul, then do what needs to be done. Today, I reversed the order so I could get to the stores early. I went to the bigger one in the neighborhood, figuring my chances were better there. There was a six pack of water, so I took it. It’s not a small store, but I couldn’t find any other packs of water. “Where’s the water?” I asked the cashier. “Gone,” he said. “You got the last one. Try in the afternoon. Maybe we’ll get more.”
Armed with my water, tuna, nuts everything else I’d been instructed to get, I walked home, and stopped by the little grocery at the top of our street. A bit sheepish about carrying in all the stuff I’d bought at the other store, I asked Roni, the guy from whom we’ve been buying groceries for 25 years, “any water?” He laughed. “Not since yesterday morning.”
It’s tense here, and I really wanted my wife to wake up to a fully stocked safe room. We’ll have some, but not what we’d hoped to have. “It’ll be OK,” I told myself. “We’ll be fine.”
Now, for that video above.
Yesterday afternoon, I got a WhatsApp which I quickly translated and reposted on Facebook. It read as follows:
There is a very strange custom in this country about lone soldiers, people who had just gotten here, joined the army and fallen in battle. No one is willing for them to be buried with a small gathering, especially during war when their buddies are still at the front fighting and thus cannot attend the funeral (which was the case yesterday). So word goes out, please come. And people do. Not dozens. Not hundreds. They come by the thousands. Every time. To be at the funeral of someone they’d never heard of until a few hours earlier.
I showed Elisheva the Hebrew text we’d gotten. “OK,” she said. Several hours later, we were in the car, soon in a massive traffic jam on the way to the military cemetery at Mount Herzl. It was so packed, we couldn’t even get to the level of the actual ceremony, but I was able to get a quick shot of the people far outside, still trying to get as close as they could.
Remember that none of those people had ever even heard of Netanel Young a few hours earlier. And this was the very edge of the huge crowd.
The funeral started a bit late … not surprising, as the army has a few things to deal with these days. So I had time to look around, even as we all listened to the sounds of warplanes racing and roaring above the clouds.
Two Haredi men (there were others, too), who I’m sure didn’t know him. Two weeks ago, we and they were battling about the Draft Law, their parties threatening to bring down the government if it didn’t pass, others threatening to bring the country to a standstill if it it.
Well, the country is at a standstill, but not because of the Draft Law. Yesterday, no one could even remember those debates of a few weeks ago.
There was a woman praying by herself, the neatly tended military graves of another section clearly visible behind her.
A father had brought his young daughter with him; they were standing not far from us. At a certain point during the eulogies, he leaned forward and buried his face on his young daughter’s legs. And she knew to comfort him.
It brought me to tears. Such innocence. Such love. Such loss of innocence.
And then, in the middle of the sister’s eulogy, we got what you heard in the video at the very top of this page: thousands of people were out in the open, no shelter anywhere, when the air siren went off.
The same people that you see standing in the other video of those gathered, you can now see lying on the ground, except for one soldier making sure everyone else was lying down. (Keep your sound on all the way to the end.)
When the siren stops, you’ll see some people start to get up and the soldier commands everyone to say down. You can get hit by shrapnel for a few good minutes after the “boom.” The boom is a very false “all clear” sign.
As as for the booms, listen at 1:17-1:25. You’ll hear them. Some were interceptions by Iron Dome. Some were hits. There were casualties just outside Jerusalem.
Then we stood back up, and the funeral continued.
Israelis are facing an unfolding horror. If you would like to share our conversation about what they are feeling and what is happening that the English press can’t cover, please subscribe today.
In yesterday’s posting, I had meant to mention that the point that never since the Holocaust had so many Jews been killed on a single day was first pointed out to me by my friend and teacher, Dr. David I. Bernstein, whom we’ve had as a guest on our podcast on more than one occasion.
In the furious pace of editing and pasting materials, the mention of David’s insight accidentally got cut. But the Talmud exhorts us not only to teach what others have taught us, but to teach it in their name. So a day belatedly, my thanks to David Bernstein for being my teacher even when we’re at war.
In yesterday’s posting, we subtitled and shared a video of a woman who had rescued two small children (not hers) and walked them home from Gaza. Today, so that people outside Israel can hopefully understand a bit of what Israelis are feeling, we share another subtitled clip of a story also not making the English press: an interview with two adult siblings, whose younger sister was slaughtered at the music festival. The woman is Ma’ayan Adam, a well known Israeli TV and radio personality in Israel.
They describe the final texts she shared with them (including “don’t tell mom”), her boyfriend’s text to them swearing that he would protect her and tragically, how she died. Beyond the horrifying story is the extraordinary final comment of the older brother, a member of s special forces unit, with a message to all of Israel. It’s worth hearing what the sister says about the government and the message that the bereaved brother has for all of Israel.
That comes below. But first, as soldiers are beginning to gather for what may be a ground incursion into Gaza, a reminder of the spirit that has now taken hold of this country.
First the soldiers. May Gd bring them home safely.
Then the interview.
I’ll conclude where I began—with my only marginally successful attempt to buy water this morning.
“We’ll be OK,” I told myself leaving the store, hoping my wife wouldn’t be upset that we didn’t have more. And then, still walking home, I was more honest with myself. “We’ll be OK. Or we won’t.”
Most of us will be around at the end of this. But some of us will not.
But who’s on which list matters much less than what we’ve created here. What we built here was meant to be the haven where the Jewish people could recover and rebuild itself after the horrors of the previous century. And now the haven itself is under attack.
What matters is the haven, not any of us.
On last night’s news, Amnon Abramovitz, a seasoned Israeli political and military commentary was asked by a fellow panelist, “Are we going to win?”
Abramovitz stared at her for a second and then said, “Are we going to win? Of course we we’re going to win; because we know that if we don’t win, we won’t be.”
How we win may not be for the faint of heart—and that we’ll address in a forthcoming post.
But we will win: the haven simply has no choice.
Our Twitter feed is here; feel free to join there, too.
Our Threads feed is danielgordis. We’ll start to use it more shortly.