100 days of war
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OpinionGuest columnist

100 days of war

The forces of courage within our midst have erupted in an inspirational manner.

Israeli forces during Gaza ground operations, Jan. 6, 2024. (Credit: IDF)
Israeli forces during Gaza ground operations, Jan. 6, 2024. (Credit: IDF)

A hundred days have passed since life was halted, the skies darkened, and we, all of us, were exposed to a boiling and horrifying cauldron of terror and deep-seated hatred unleashed upon us. One hundred days of a war forced upon us, a test for the entire nation. A test of our collective heart, courage, determination, righteousness, strength, mutual support, unity, and the values and principles that define us as a nation.

In these challenging times, we cannot help but reflect on the sacrifices of our daughters and sons, who fall as civilians and soldiers alike. Their bravery, their commitment, their love for life and their dedication to ideals dear to us are a testament to the strength within all our hearts. We must not nor cannot forget — not for a moment — the hostages and the missing. It is difficult to fathom an ordeal more arduous and painful than that of the families whose loved ones are in the hands of Hamas murderers. We all carry a prayer, echoing the words of the prophet: “And your sons and daughters shall return to their borders.”

We mourn the loss of the fallen heroes, their courage, sanctity of will and self-sacrifice that permeated in the fierceness of battle. We weep for the many lives, far too many, snuffed out brutally — victims of monstrous and antisemitic violence. Yet we remember that even in the darkest hours, we witnessed the strength, courage, resilience and compassion that define us as a people. We made a grave and painful mistake by not being ready. But the greatest mistake is that of the enemy.

The enemy, whose “great heroes” indiscriminately murdered, massacred, violated and slaughtered infants, elderly, girls, boys, burned homes with people inside and committed the worst crimes against humanity. An enemy for whom Hitler’s playbook, “Mein Kampf,” has pride of place in their homes, whose children’s summer camps were centers of murderous brainwashing and blind hatred. An enemy who thinks he knows us and belittles the bravery of our sons and daughters until he sees with his own eyes how “a people rise like a lioness and lift itself like a lion.”

The forces of courage within our midst have erupted in an inspirational manner. We saw how the “TikTok generation” emerged as a generation of historic strength, whose bravery will be etched in the annals of Israeli history. I met with the fighters and commanders, the leaders on the front — made of steel, eager to engage the enemy, with the oath of “never again.” We all witness the strength of communities and displaced families, the bravery of our wounded in hospitals, the unwavering faith and pride of the bereaved families, the volunteerism and mutual responsibility in Israeli society — Jews and Arabs alike — the determination of our allies standing by our side, headed by the United States, and the Jewish communities around the world standing with us as one, sometimes at personal risk. No one can defeat such a people, such a united and determined nation.

Even though this war broke out in one of the most challenging periods in our history, and while the enemy hoped that the terror attack would deepen the rifts and weaken the internal Israeli alliance, we chose life, we chose our shared commitment. We chose to unite immediately and fight together, shoulder to shoulder, for the present and the future of our shared home. Unfortunately, it is hard not to see that there are those who choose, even now, to return to the discourse of hatred and division that prevailed here until Oct. 6. Any retreat to those dark places directly threatens us — our security, our lives. Criticism is always permitted; it is sometimes necessary to argue — it’s a clear part of our democracy — but it is time to conduct our debates and discussions responsibly, to preserve our unity, to remember that we are one people and one country.

We must not let Hamas win the battle for Israeli resilience. This is true for all of us, especially for public officials and leaders. Leadership in times of war implies responsibility for Israeli resilience, which is the foundation of any victory. When our brothers and sisters are risking their lives on the front, we must rise above the campaigns, above petty politics and divisive rhetoric — both regarding the day before and the day after — and listen to the cries of our children, who wish to return home safely to a peaceful home. Peaceful from within and without.

Despite the challenges ahead, I have no doubt that we will emerge from the shadows of this conflict stronger and more determined than ever. Together, as one nation, we will overcome the darkness, rise from the ashes, rebuild, replant, sow, affix mezuzahs on homes, turn each and every hell into a paradise, as we have always done. We will create a future of
hope and abundance for us, our state and the entire region — one that is worthy of the fallen, one that honors the memories of the victims, and reflects our commitment to being a beacon of hope for ourselves and for all of humanity.

Our enemy made a mistake. The spirit of the people of Israel will always overcome. Even this time, our spirit will prevail. PJC

Isaac Herzog is the president of Israel. This story first appeared on JNS.

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