OPINION: Whether in Israel or the Diaspora, this war is personal

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OPINION: Whether in Israel or the Diaspora, this war is personal

Matthew Bronfman reflects on meeting survivors and injured soldiers as he urges Jews worldwide to visit Israel to show support

Kibbutz Kfar Aza
Kibbutz Kfar Aza

I have been to Israel countless times since my first trip in 1984. And in the last three years I have spent almost half my time there. Yet nothing prepared me for what I saw, heard and smelled when I visited a few of the kibbutzim on the Gaza border.

The sky was a beautiful blue, the trees green with  plenty of fruit still on them. The approach to Kfar Aza was serene as most of the burnt and destroyed cars had been moved and the pavement repaired.

But once we entered there was an immediate sense of destruction even before we exited the van. And then we saw the bullet holes, the burned homes, the destroyed furniture and the blackened safe rooms. We heard the stories of the families that had lived there peacefully for generations and were now either dead or hostages. There was an incredible disconnect between the beauty on the one hand and the complete devastation on the other.

We visited a few military bases and heard the stories from twenty year old female soldiers whose best friends had been slaughtered by the terrorists and we witnessed both their tears and their determination to stand proud and defend our country.

At one base we met with and saw soldiers who were there for 24 hours of rest, relaxation and recovery. Their spirit, courage and determination is beyond inspiring. These are young kids willing to risk their lives for us. For Israel, for the Jewish nation. Every single Jew in the world needs to see these beautiful young kids who are in Gaza fighting to protect us and our way of life.

The next day we went to Tel HaShomer Hospital to meet with wounded soldiers and I was very apprehensive about it. And it turned out to be the most inspiring part of the trip. All they wanted was to get back and help their fellow soldiers. They had smiles on their faces, love in their hearts even when missing limbs.

It is hard for most non Israelis to understand the impact this war is having on the country. Every single family is suffering. It’s personal for every Israeli and for most Jews around the world. This was is different.

Everyone has a relative or close friend who is dead, missing, or serving. There is a renewed spirit of unity and charity and determination that is truly extraordinary. I was blown away by the compassion that we witnessed as the daily list of fallen soldiers was announced.

I went to bear witness and show support. What I realized is that without Israel, the Jewish people are lost and that the young soldiers are fighting this war for all of Clal Yisrael.

It is critical for all diaspora Jews to visit, to see and to hear first hand. It’s critical for Israelis to know that we are there for them. Because for each of us this is truly personal.

  • Matthew Bronfman is is an American investor and philanthropist. He is chairman of the Board of |Governors of Hillel International.
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