How We Can Preserve the Achievements of the War

As Operation Protective Edge shifts into diplomacy mode, Israel’s negotiating teams are in Cairo, trying to preserve the achievements made through, b’siyatta diShmaya, destroying numerous terror tunnels emanating from Gaza.

If an “arrangement” is reached with Hamas that allows it to use cement and steel delivered by the international community for the construction of more tunnels and the manufacture of more missiles, then any achievements made during the war, with its painfully high cost in the lives of 64 soldiers, Hy”d, will be short-lived.

Obviously, it is incumbent on all those participating in these talks to reach an agreement that will condition foreign aid on a commitment by Hamas to disarm. This serves not only Israel, but, first and foremost, the civilians of Gaza who have been used, against their will, to shield Hamas.

In this regard, Secretary of State John Kerry deserves credit and our gratitude for stating unequivocally that the talks in Cairo must improve conditions for the Palestinians while enforcing “a greater responsibility toward Israel, which means giving up rockets.”

But while it’s important to preserve the accomplishments that were made on the battlefield over the past month, it is even more important to preserve the gains that were made on the home front, the achdus that was exhibited and the countless acts of chessed that was performed.

It’s incumbent upon each and every one of us to work on preserving that sense of unity, not to forget the war and not to forget Tishah B’Av, the day the ceasefire was declared, with its powerful theme of achdus.

This past Motzoei Shabbos, ten kehillos in the Ramot quarter of Yerushalayim came together for an evening of hisorerus and tefillah at the Zichron Avraham shul.

The speaker, Harav Eliyahu Diskin, compared sinas chinam to unconventional weapons. What makes those weapons so frightening? After all, conventional weapons are also capable of inflicting severe damage.

He answered that an individual who is, chalilah, harmed by conventional weapons knows where he stands. He can assess the damage, undergo treatment and begin the step-by-step process of healing.

But with unconventional weapons — nuclear, biological, chemical — one never knows the extent of the damage. On the outside he appears whole, but on the inside, something has begun eating away at him. And he can’t deal with what he can’t see.

Rav Diskin explained that the sins that brought about the destruction of the First Beis Hamikdash were “conventional weapons” — idol worship, giluy arayos, murder. People knew what they had done wrong, they knew where they stood, and they therefore knew how to do teshuvah and merit the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash after a 70-year exile.

On the other hand, the Second Beis Hamikdash was destroyed by nonconventional weapons. Things looked fine on the outside, but on the inside there was sinas chinam corroding the fabric of the Am. That’s the problem of our galus. On the outside, the Am is healthy — shuls and batei medrash are full, kashrus is being kept according to the highest standards, chessed is being performed on an epic scale. But below the surface, there is sinas chinam that, if not treated, could, chalilah, undermine all that has been achieved.

The solution, Rav Diskin proposed, is to actively pursue strategies for uprooting sinas chinam. He gave as an example a neighbor of his who started a kindergarten, using the garden of the building, which she gated off to protect the children.

One neighbor — we’ll call him Yehoshua — was annoyed that every time he tried to enter the building, he had to buzz the kindergarten teacher and wait for her to open the gate. The situation was getting out of hand, as Yehoshua became increasingly irritated and began sharing his grievances with others.

A good-hearted neighbor found a way to defuse the situation. He approached Yehoshua and told him, confidentially, that the family was in dire financial straits and the building’s residents had decided to get together to extend them a loan. Everyone had agreed to contribute a fixed monthly sum for a number of years. Would he join in the effort?

When Yehoshua declined, he was asked whether he could make a one-time contribution of NIS 500. Again, Yehoshua felt this was too much.

How about giving the family five seconds every time Yehoshua wanted to enter the building? Could he come up with that for a family in desperate need?

Yehoshua understood the point. He could manage five seconds if it meant helping a family in need.

We think we have good reasons for sinah. The other person isn’t frum enough or isn’t considerate enough or has insulted us in some manner. But when we consider the person’s circumstances, we understand that there is no justification for the sinah, which harms us as much as the intended targets.

We emerge from this tumultuous period of the kidnapping of the three boys, the thousands of missiles fired on Israel, the tens of thousands of soldiers in Gaza, with an appreciation of all Jews and an understanding that achdus doesn’t have to be an impossible dream. It is attainable.

But it must be preserved, no less than the accomplishments on the battlefield.