Ne’eman B’Yisrael

One-in-a-million is generally understood to be quite a compliment. I’m glad we’re not. I wish we weren’t even one in 3,500, but we are and it puts us on the map. The map I am referring to is the map of the State of Israel and its recognized Jewish borders — yes, including Yehudah and Shomron. Freckling this map are pins indicating where Hamas-fired rockets and missiles have landed and my community of Alon Shvut just got its own pin-prick when we received our first airmail delivery courtesy of Hamas, literally moments before the major ceasefire was to take effect.

This type of gift is Hamas’s signature move. Before every “ceasefire” comes a fusillade of rockets raining terror across the breadth of the country. The rocket that greeted Alon Shvut last Tuesday — on Tishah B’Av no less (is that really surprising?) — came from further northwest than any previous crude projectile sent from Gaza. Indecisive, it landed and did not explode smack in the middle of the road between the community center where performances and classes such as my ulpan are held and the community sports center that houses the pool I use daily. I took it personally. The shell casing was about the length of a five-year-old child, which is to say its intended recipient. It looked as innocuous as a plumbing tube but looks deceive; it is lethal.

So what is the halachic requirement of returning an object? I am not sure in this case: It was not lost but rather sent, and we don’t want it. I think it should be returned, with interest, compounded daily until we have quiet and I can drive to ulpan or the pool without concern about getting an unwanted sunroof in my car.

As a matter of course, we do not announce where rockets land. If we did, it would help Hamas zero in on Jewish locations. The great schadenfreude (pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others, strong irony, comeuppance) in this is that, during the same salvo, rockets fell on nearby Palestinian areas causing far greater damage. But that doesn’t bother Hamas; to them the damage is really secondary. It is their ability to display launching power that is their objective, despite their actual impotence.

Updates on My Adventures Near Gaza

In last week’s column, I focused on my Golani friend Amichai, the chattan, and his commanding officer, Dror, who, from his own limited funds gave money to two of the soldiers in his command so they could have more for Shabbat. I realize why I find Dror’s mitzvah more compelling than others. It is because of the source. I expect mitzvot to come from the usual identified sources: people like you and me who wear kippot or cover their hair, attend seminary or yeshivah, and are ostensibly observant.

When we do a mitzvah, what’s the chiddush? We signed up for the 613plan and our relationship with Hakadosh Baruch Hu compels us do what we are supposed to do. When we do something “great” it may be wonderful but it is, in truth, merely an extension of what we do, or should do, normally. When you hear about a mitzvah like Dror’s, it comes initially as a surprise that a kibbutznik should intuit the Rambam’s hierarchy of tzedakah. His chessed comes from a place deep within his holy neshamah. This is Hashem’s gift both to Dror and to us. To Dror, the Al-mighty gave an eternal, inalienable Jewish soul that has an acutely fine-tuned moral compass guiding him, if he lets it, which Dror did, to do mitzvot. To the rest of us, Hashem gave the gift of pleasant surprise. When we see an apparently non-religious person do a beautiful mitzvah, being ne’eman baTorah, don’t you feel wonderful nachas? I do. Are we, committed Torah-observant Jews, not inspired to be better?

Another example, same staging area right on the Gaza border:  A big black SUV starts driving around the Golani campsite. In it are three young men, apparently Bedouins. We wondered why the SUV was surveying the area. Curiously, the guys got out of the car. Curiously, instead of putting things into the back of the SUV they start taking things out. From a distance it was impossible to tell what they were handing out so I got close.

These “Bedouins” were actually Sephardim from the South of Israel, not one kippah or tzitzit among them. They weren’t soldiers so what were they doing there on the Gaza border? Seems their father sent them to the base to distribute pocket-sized Tehillim to the soldiers of Israel because, according to their father, “How can a soldier go into battle without Tehillim?” While distributing the Tehillim, these young men were fulfilling the mitzvah of kibbud av, chessed, as well as opening the door for connection to Hashem, our Protector. If you saw these guys at night, you’d want to cross the street away from them; when you learned who they were and what they were doing you wanted to cross the street to embrace them. Only in Israel.

Meanwhile, a catering truck pulled into this parking lot at the end of the world. The outside was festooned with children’s drawings sending messages of thanks, appreciation, and love to our soldiers. The inside of the truck was filled with hot chicken and potatoes with fresh rolls paid for and sent by a community in the center of Israel. Not only were the soldiers given a good hot meal, which is rare out in the field, but the caterer whose business has been almost nonexistent since the outbreak of the war got some much-needed parnassah. Money well spent.

As for Amichai the chattan, his wedding was Monday, Tu B’Av. The simchah was intense, a relief from the daily challenges of living in a nation at war. I not only got a chance to see Amichai, whom I have known since he was four years old, stand under the chuppah, but also saw some of my Golani friends who got furloughs from the Gaza border to attend the wedding of their brother-in-arms. They, religious and non-religious, fulfilled the mitzvah to be mesamei’ach chattan v’kallah with inspired passion. It shouldn’t be a surprise; in Israel we share the bad and the good. That’s what families do.

I would like to dedicate this column to Amichai and Naama, the chattan and kallah. May they build a bayit ne’eman in Israel! May all of Am Yisrael, everywhere, share many smachot!

Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst, and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at msolomon@Hamodia.com.