Israel is the ‘very definition’ of resilience

by Rabbi Alan Silverstein, PhD

Listen to an audio version of this article by clicking here.

In the aftermath of Iran’s shocking launch of 350 attack drones, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles against Israeli population centers, “Times of Israel” blogger Chavi Feldman asked: “What is resilience?”

She herself responded:

“I can pretty much guarantee that if any other country had gone through what we had Saturday night [April 13], it would have looked like the early Corona days … hunkering down in a state of terror and panic … and yet [the very next morning] — life as usual.”

Unpacking the meaning of resilience, she said: “It’s not giving up.”

Chavi provided examples of “acts — both big and small — of resilience that we have all been witness to.”

“It’s Hersh Goldberg-Polin’s parents, who have taught the entire world who their son is and educate us all in what parental love looks like.”

“It’s the soldiers and the IDF who are fighting this war with morality and justice.”

“It’s ZAKA and MDA and all the nurses, doctors, and health care workers who are working 24/7 to care for our sick and wounded, let it be physical or mental.”

“And a thousand more examples like these. Our country is the very definition of what resilience looks like.”

Chavi’s post-April 13 insights remind me of what I experienced immediately after the brutality of the Hamas massacre on October 7.

At that time, from my apartment in Modi’in, I wrote the following message to friends: “Pride in the Resilience of the People of Israel.”

Two parallel emotions dominated the horrific hours of October 7 and their aftermath: shock and fury against the barbarity of ISIS-style Hamas; pride and gratitude for the remarkable resilience of the people of Israel.

The following examples are part of the unending displays of courage, love, and unity by Am Yisrael in the midst of this unprecedented crisis.

First, even before the IDF regrouped and arrived at the 20-plus besieged Gaza-Israel border communities, more than 2,500 Israelis were rescued by resilient Israeli civilians displaying bravery, fortitude, and ingenuity.

Examples of personal heroism emerged.

General Noam Tivon (Ret.) spoke to a global Zoom audience of a couple of thousand listeners. The general’s saga was incredible.

Tivon, who is 60-something, received a frantic call from his son and daughter-in-law and their children. They told him they were barricaded in a safe room on their Gaza-border kibbutz; Hamas terrorists were murdering their fellow kibbutzniks. Living in Tel Aviv, one hour away, General Tivon jumped into his car and traveled to rescue his family. On the way, he shot and killed several Hamas invaders, while bringing fleeing civilians to safety. Upon arriving at his family’s kibbutz, using his military reputation, Tivon organized soldiers and redeemed his loved ones. Not for a moment did he consider his own safety. A hero indeed!

Inbal Rabin-Lieberman, age 25, the security coordinator of Kibbutz Nir Am, rallied fellow kibbutzniks to fend off and kill two dozen advancing Hamas murderers, saving the lives of her neighbors and friends.

Upon hearing the alarming sounds of violent intruders, Inbal organized her 12-member security team, coordinated their response, and stopped the attack. The security team turned Nir Am into an “impenetrable fortress.”

Commentator Gil Troy recorded that “Omri Bonim, age 41, and five others fought off dozens of terrorists for hours until help arrived, using the knowledge of their kibbutz, Re’im, to fire from different positions. They made the marauders think many more defenders had actually arrived. ‘This was a fight for our homes. Our long-term friendships with one another gave us the most organic energy there is.’”

IDF veterans jumped into the initial military vacuum, forming ad hoc defense forces.

“Brothers in Arms,” the very folks who had threatened not to “show up” for reserve duty during the months of protests over the judicial reform proposals, put that issue aside and immediately launched into action. They grabbed hand guns, pistols, weapons of all types. They improvised, saving refugees from the Hamas slaughterhouse. Troy noted: “When Hamas attacked, when the expected [security] systems failed, one of the most effective networks of battle-hardened veterans existed thanks to Israel’s judicial chaos. Political differences now vanished. Patriotism and extraordinary military training triumphed. Hour-by-hour, ‘Brothers in Arms’ shared information about where to get help, where to flee. They organized ride-sharing to get to reserve bases, to evacuate the wounded, to reunite families. When historians reconstruct this war. Many will credit this protest network with helping to turn the tide.”

Similarly ad hoc and effective was the “Student Protest Movement.” As one of its leaders, Nadav Salzberger, said, “We decided we weren’t waiting for the authorities to get organized. We were just going to do what we can where we can.” This student network collaborated with other clusters of former protesters, e.g., Women Building an Alternative, the Hi-Tech Protest movement, Hitorerut, One Heart, Common Home, and others. They proceeded to secure and supply equipment for soldiers, provide psychological care and child care, and organize day camps as needed, helping to host displaced families from the south and the north.

The IDF ultimately mobilized and then served with great courage.

The IDF called up 100 percent of the requisite number of reservists, so that 70 percent would “show up.” Yet 150 percent arrived! Israelis from around the world flooded into airports. They came home in order to serve in their military units. The “Jerusalem Post’s” Assaf Gilead reported that Israeli hi-tech global leaders “diverted company resources — employees, money, and the attention of their investors — to efforts to benefit the survivors of the massacres in the south and to logistical assistance to soldiers.” Everyone united in a battle for survival.

Israeli resilience translated instantaneously to all sectors of the home front.

A religious response was provided by synagogues/kehillot. Members were urged — whenever possible — to accompany funeral processions of attack victims, whether or not they knew the deceased or the bereaved family. WhatsApp groups directed folks to participate in shiva minyanim, offering words of “nechama” — sympathy, consoling the bereaved mourners. The rabbi of the shul where my son and daughter-in-law belong sent out instructions: “The participation at shiva is first and foremost being there and offering comfort. The grieving family must not feel that they are alone and must feel instead they are part of Am Yisrael. Offer to assist with practical tasks like shopping, laundry, and so forth. Ask the mourners to share about their family member who was murdered. Follow up after shiva has concluded.”

Like everyone else, my family responded. My daughter-in-law and granddaughters baked for the soldiers. My wife purchased food to be transported to “the front.” Our favorite restaurants closed their kitchens to the public, so their staffs could prepare meals for the IDF. My grandson and the other 16- and 17-year-olds in his youth movement cleaned out vacant apartments and moved furniture into them to provide an interim place for Israeli refugees displaced from their destroyed kibbutzim and moshavim. They raised funds and posted Israeli flags prominently all around Modi’in in an effort to boost morale. My son’s gap-year 18-year-old Jerusalem yeshiva students, from the United States and elsewhere, cleaned out bomb shelters for public use in Jerusalem. I spent my days researching, writing, and distributing my “Case for Israel” dispatches.

Groups emerged without hesitating to support the families of the bereaved, the 250 hostages, the wounded, the displaced and traumatized from the south and the north, and loved ones of IDF soldiers.

All Israelis concurred that “victory is essential,” that agreeing to yet another cease-fire — with no guarantees that Hamas would not rearm and renew hostilities in one, two, or three years — was simply untenable.

Signs abounded all around the country, proclaiming “Am Yisrael Chai/The People of Israel Shall Live” and “B’yachad Nenatzayach/United We Will Be Victorious.”

As Golda Meir said when declaring that Israel will fight until victory: “We Israelis have a secret weapon. We have nowhere else to go.


Rabbi Alan Silverstein, PhD, was religious leader of Congregation Agudath Israel in Caldwell, NJ, for more than four decades, retiring in 2021. He served as president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis (1993-95); as president of the World Council of Conservative/Masorti Synagogues (2000-05); and as chair of the Foundation for Masorti Judaism in Israel (2010-14). He currently serves as president of Mercaz Olami, representing the world Masorti/Conservative movement. He is the author of “It All Begins with a Date: Jewish Concerns about Interdating,” “Preserving Jewishness in Your Family: After Intermarriage Has Occurred,” and “Alternatives to Assimilation: The Response of Reform Judaism to American Culture, 1840-1930.”