Report from Israel: Nashville community member Dov Gelman sends this update from the ground in Israel where he is volunteering on the Lebanese border. These are his reflections and observations
Over the last two weeks, I have been working as an aide to the director of security of the Matte Asher county on the Lebanese border and helping at the county gun range to enable thousands of reservists to zero in their weapons. I can attest that the morale among our fighting forces is incredibly high. Put simply, we want to eliminate Hamas in total. There is no "spectrum" of determination in their desire for revenge. Each one of us here carries the weight of the 10/07/23 massacre and walks a fine line between extreme grief and complete resolve. I witnessed and participated in this national unity during the second Lebanese war in 2006 while deployed in Metullah, in 2009 while deployed in the Shar HaNegev county, and again as a volunteer during the 2014 war with Hamas and PIJ. However, what I am witnessing is unprecedented in my memory.
We are all inspired by the tales of heroism from our female combat fighters, special army, and police units, and everyday civilians who protected entire communities, eliminated terrorists who were previously murdering our people with impunity and rescued our people who were in hiding on that day of infamy. It's not only the fighters. The Israeli public has also risen together to care for each other, the survivors of the massacre, and support the 300,000 plus reservists working and training all over the country. Teens in 11th and 12th grade are pulling guard duty because all the fighting men of their villages are deployed. Others are spreading joy, Torah, and practical supplies at every base or location where our warriors are billeted.
Amidst all of this, there is great tension and extreme sadness. Death notices and Shiva information are posted everywhere I go. Those who pray, never cease praying for our 220 kidnapped family members. Last week, I had the blessing to spoil both of our children on a 24-hour leave from their units. At the kibbutz in the south where we were staying, I received a notice from a friend from Kibbutz Nahal Oz who invited me to the shiva of our dearest friend Ilan who fell defending his kibbutz as chief of the quick reaction force.
All of a sudden, the sounds of a party reached us, and we got up to investigate. Two hundred meters away in the center of the kibbutz a wedding had begun, attended by close family members and an entire company of warriors with weapons slung over their backs. I was ripped from falling into a deep state of mourning and carried by the sound of the music to witness a wedding.
News from the North is both dire and encouraging. When I am not with my boss or at the range, I am hanging out with the Kibbutz Matzuba civilian rapid response team, drinking endless cups of espresso or "botz," the army version of Turkish coffee. We eat together, we laugh together and a few of us lift weights together to bring down the collective stress level.
Kibbutz life is something else. From fence to fence, we are less than two kilometers away from the border. I can confirm what you are hearing in the news, tensions are increasing daily on the border. The massacre that occurred in the Shar HaNegev county has been "war gamed" here along the border for years. All of us are of one mind, there will be a second front opened by Iran-backed and funded Hezbollah here and all along the northern border. Our humor is dark, but our resolve to defend this kibbutz is stout. We are not alone.
I want to let your readers know that your activism in Nashville is being felt here! It absolutely makes a difference. My friends ask me all the time, "What news from "Nashweel"? I tell them, at my shul, I have deployed veteran war fighters to guard our services. I tell them members of our Kehillah are writing letters to politicians, universities, and hospitals to expose the enemies of the Jewish people in our own city. I tell them, we daven and daven hard. I tell them we are fighting on social media platforms to remember our murdered and kidnapped family and advance our narrative. I tell them they are giving hundreds of thousands of dollars for medical equipment, and supplies and to support the displaced communities from the North and the South. This is Klal Yisrael at her finest.