The radio blared unexpectedly- its message stopping everyone and everything. We didn’t want to believe it. We had to act. We could only hope.
A routine day in Talmon suddenly upended itself: a Palestinian man had stolen an Israeli car with a baby girl still in the backseat. Our mission was to bring her back.
Uncertainty makes the anxiety of a fear more frightening than that fear. It’s those moments of groping in the dark- where actions lack tangible results, when the compass points simultaneously toward nowhere and everywhere- that expose us most. Here success is a product of reaction, of using what you know to find out what you don’t. But when human life is on the line, there’s room for trial but no room for error.
Two frenzied hours later she was safe in her mother’s arms.
This incident kicks into mental replay as my eyes gloss over headlines of the recent kidnapping of three Israeli yeshiva students. Only here, endless hours have turned into unending days.
Such is the experience of connecting to a place where ripples and shockwaves are one in the same, of being part of a people whose emotions ebb only to flow again. The skin of our triumphs is eternally scarred by our hardships. As Twain characterized us: “he’s made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and had done it with his hands tied behind him.” Right now those bonds feel forever tightening.
Being a Zionist means believing in Israel’s moral fiber while getting entangled in it. We do things that no other nation would or would ever be expected to, and it hurts. I’ll never forget the frustration boiling inside me as I stood at a checkpoint in Ramallah and watched the gleeful faces of convicted murderers being sent home for nothing in return. Watching soldiers’ sacrifices disintegrate before your eyes leaves an indelible stain, a gash that will never heal. These moments strip you of everything except the will to overcome them. We’re told to fight through, as much as it stings. And with gritted teeth we somehow do.
The pain felt from this kidnapping has seen this fractured nation momentarily suspend its ideological tensions and cultural divisions, and unite. There’s no religious and secular, no Israeli and non-Israeli. Our focus has been inescapably diverted. Legs spring to action, eyes search for answers, hands grip hands, heads bow as one. Everyone is holding their children a little closer tonight. For now we’re all the parents of Naftali, Eyal, and Gilad, wanting nothing more than to bring our sons home.
So we keep praying, we keep hoping, and we keep fighting simply because there’s no other way. Resiliency is a permanent strand in our DNA; we still get up knowing we’ll get knocked back down. It defines our history, demonstrates our character, and it’s what we’ll always do.