I recently had the privilege of traveling to Israel on a solidarity mission, arranged by Stand With Us, a prominent Israel advocacy group. This amazing program was put together in a matter of days and was intended to show our unwavering stance with the people of Israel. Our trip was packed with amazing events, such as visits with IDF soldiers, meetings with dignitaries, tour of a Kibbutz in the line of rocket fire at the border of Gaza and much more. Our small group was made up of likeminded individuals from across the U.S., with a mix of professionals ranging from a Rabbi, a number of business people, physicians and representatives of a non-profit organization. This life changing experience left a lasting impression on each one of us, as we stood in awe and were inspired by the resolve of a nation under attack.
We were witness to the resilience of a nation going about its day to day life amidst the constant rocket fire from a sworn enemy. In one instance, we experienced hearing the red alert and having to find shelter from an incoming rocket. Grateful that alert was canceled, we were delighted to see Israelis continue to go about their daily life, go out to shop and eat at restaurants.
We were witness to the determination of high ranking Israeli cabinet members who have vowed never allow Israel’s enemies to reach their goal of eliminating the state of Israel – as proclaimed by the Hamas Charter.
We were witness to the valiance of Israeli soldiers, who sustained injuries, lost comrades and best friends, yet, were determined to continue the fight for the preservation of the State of Israel. We stood in awe and respect as these young men told us their stories and shared their concerns for the families of the fallen.
We were witness to the unshakable faith of one remarkable mother, Rachel Frankel, whose son along with two other teenagers was abducted and brutally killed, before the current conflict had even begun. Mrs. Frankel’s presence filled the room and had she not uttered a single word, her message was clear. While hoping for peace and the continued unity of the nation of Israel, not once did this amazing mother utter a word in hatred of the murderers of her beloved son. What a stark contrast when compared to Palestinian mothers, many of whom dance with joy, when their sons take the innocent lives of Israeli people through suicide bombings.
We were witness to the unparalleled technological innovation of a nation that is only decades old. Several times, we watched the Iron Dome in action, as it eliminated incoming rockets from Gaza in midair. Call it ingenuity caused by necessity or call it an open miracle – it boggles the mind that a small country with limited resources can develop what many other countries cannot even begin to dream of.
Most importantly, we were witness to oneness of a nation, as it came together, united in its cause. We visited a make-shift tent, put together by a civilian in the middle of the Negev desert, to provide refreshments to Israeli soldiers. Soon many families from near and far joined in and a flood of food, supplies, blankets, benches and more piled up under this tent.
Having experienced the resolve of this great nation along with its military superiority, one could surmise that at the end, Israel will yet again triumph over its enemies. However, one should not rush to celebrate. By all indications, the war with Hamas may prove to be a prolonged war of attrition. Even if the new ceasefire brokered by Egypt holds, the diametrically opposed interests of the two parties may make a lasting truce near impossible. While Hamas may not hold high hopes of victory on the field of battle, they continue to dream of new ways to fulfil the aspirations of their founding charter, which calls for the murder of Jews and the elimination of Israel.
For those of us who live outside the land of Israel and yet feel connected and inspired to take part in this life changing journey as it takes shape, we must never be indifferent. While we may not be able to take up arms and join in the defense of the country, we should participate in any and all means available to us. We should take an active part in counteracting the deceptive tactics of the propaganda war against Israel, by disseminating the truth and advocating for Israel. We should buy Israeli products to counteract the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions) campaign which is used by pro-Palestinian activists to cast Israel out of the global community. We should invest in Israeli companies and participate in real estate investments, when possible. But most importantly, we should take the initiative to travel to Israel, and we should do so NOW. We can show our solidarity with the people of Israel by traveling, lodging, shopping, dining and experiencing all that this beautiful country has to offer.
Kamran Benji is an LA resident coming from the Persian community