Love your neighbor as yourself…

Israelis argue, complain and criticize. A lot. Israelis are loud, nosey, opinionated and brutally honest. Being polite or diplomatic is not our strong suite.

Living in Israel is not easy. Our “neighborhood” is not nice – this current war with Hamas is just one example… In addition, Israelis themselves can be very difficult.

So what’s the point? Why bother?

It’s very simple (and yet very complicated). The answer is LOVE.

Love your neighbor as yourself, as if he or she was you.  I’m sure this sounds like a nice theory to many but just that – a theory. In Israel it’s not theory, it is reality. It’s not something conscious and it’s not taught in school. It’s just considered “doing the right thing”, “being a good person”.

Israel is like a family. Brothers may beat each other up, may not even speak to each other but when one is bullied by an outsider… watch out! Our society is comprised of a wide variety of people, many who normally don’t mix together but when there is a need, a crisis, there is always someone there to help. No one in Israel makes a big deal out of it; they simple call it “the beautiful Israeli.”

During this war we are seeing an enormous outpouring of love. We are accused by the world of hatefulness and aggression. Ironically the truth is very different. Many Israelis are speaking out against those amongst us who have been intolerant and used hateful speech in demonstrations or social media. The only thing not tolerated is – intolerance.

Over and over thousands of strangers are showing up at the funerals of soldiers who died protecting our nation. The wounded in the hospitals are flooded with visitors, strangers who come by, just to say thank you. The soldiers in the field are receiving so many gift packages that some have taken the sweets they received to children in the Oncology Ward in the near-by hospital. There are many stories of kindness going around Israeli social media – unfortunately these are not seen by the rest of the world.

This image is one among many. “Just” a little scenario that happened between strangers.

Stranger shields father and newborn with his own body
Stranger shields father and newborn with his own body

It happened when an air-raid siren went off, warning of incoming missiles. When this happens while you are driving you are supposed to stop your car, get out and see if there is a building close enough to hide in. If not, the instructions are to move away from the car and wherever possible lie down on the ground (preferably next to a wall), covering your head with your hands. Yes, the Iron Dome provides fairly good protection from incoming missiles however it is not fail proof, some missiles do get through. Also, stopping missiles mid-air means blowing them up – the pieces still have to come down somewhere.  Boiling hot chunks of metal falling from the sky can cause a lot of damage, even if they don’t explode.

In the scene here a few people got out of their cars. A woman (who took the photo) and, from another car, a man with a newborn baby.  A few seconds later another man joined them. He saw that the first man was holding a tiny baby so he covered them with his body, shielding them from shrapnel that might fly on them. They didn’t know each other. They weren’t friends or relatives and they probably won’t have any contact with each other in the future. The man who tried to protect the father and his baby wasn’t doing a job and wasn’t looking to be rewarded. He just did what he thought was right, what he would want someone to do for him, for his family.

That is love.

If someone made such a selfless gesture elsewhere they would be lauded as a national hero. Here it’s no big deal, just another nice story. In Israel this is normal…

Israel doesn’t survive because we are good fighters. Israel survives because of LOVE.

That is our strength.

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