The missile attacks and retaliatory strikes intensified in Israel last weekend before another temporary ceasefire took effect. Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government prefer not to enter Gaza. Rather, they work to keep the area isolated so it can ultimately self-destruct. Over last weekend alone, more than 700 missiles were fired and directed at Israeli cities, killing at four and injuring dozens more.
Sometimes it seems a majority of people who live in Brooklyn, Queens, or the Five Towns believe Netanyahu should send troops into Gaza, wipe out the terrorists, destroy their vast supply of arms, and retake Gaza. And the preference might be to do all this before dinner so that the movement does not interfere with anyone’s party plans here.
Fortunately, the Israel government is a bit more pragmatic and perceptive about what is actually at stake in this endless struggle.
Israeli tanks and armored vehicles crossing the Gaza border bearing vigorous and enthusiastic ground forces is probably what the terror leaders in Gaza deserve. And while victory, with G-d’s help, is militarily assured, the matter that needs to be considered is: at what cost?
Terrorists fight dirty wars. Of course, we can say there are no clean or good wars — not these days anyway. But terrorist forces are not armies; they are a ragtag group of violent zealots with no alternative objective but to kill. In Israel they target Jews, but if some of their own die along the way that does not concern them or their leaders.
The Israeli army presents a host of differences. What distinguishes them from their avowed enemies is that they are, first and foremost, a moral army that is forced to fight conventional battles.
When Jewish men and women in the IDF go to war, their objective is to eliminate the terrorist scourge that murders innocent people.
The “boots on the ground” some people wish to send into Gaza are from familiar families and communities. The Israeli military is a citizen army composed to a large extent of reservists who are called to duty in times of emergencies.
The young men are from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. They are from Efrat and Tekoa, from Naharia and Neve Daniel, and so on. We know some of their families; if they made aliyah years ago we may have known these young people when they were children. Some of our children know them from yeshiva or a summer camps.
In Israel, everyone seems to have a personal connection to war. Soldiers are not just part of a faceless unit. They are our friends, cousins or former neighbors.
Considering this, one cannot help wonder what folks like us, thousands of miles away from the action, can do to assist in these efforts. Those of us who visit Israel, whether on occasion or frequently, have a special affinity and appreciation for Israel’s soldiers. There is no denying that Jews in Israel live in a dangerous part of the world. Israeli soldiers, whether on patrol or out with friends, provide a feeling of security. What is more important than feeling safe?
That is where Friends of the IDF comes into the picture. The decades-old organization ensures that those serving in the Israeli military enjoy some perks and even comforts that make their service a bit more comfortable and doable.
The annual Five Towns and Greater South Shore Community Event for Friends of the IDF will take place next week on Wednesday, May 15, at The Sands of Atlantic Beach. The honorees are Jay and Malky Spector and Zoltan and Judith Lefkovits.
For Jay Spector, involvement in the founding of a local chapter of FIDF is, he says, one of his great and important accomplishments. He said that his interest was piqued about nine or ten years ago when he attended the national FIDF event in the city, a large and impressive gala that features speakers from within the highest echelon of the military in Israel as well as important government officials.
Jay Spector says that at the dinner nearly a decade ago he heard a reference to a Long Island chapter of FIDF and became curious and wanted to learn more as well as get involved. After making additional inquiries, he learned that the LI Chapter of FIDF is on the North Shore of the island and is based in Great Neck.
It was just about that time when Jay decided to get to work and put together what has evolved into the South Shore and Five Towns division of Friends of the IDF. It has been eight years since the founding of this chapter, and this part of the organization has rapidly grown into one that is a vitally important cog in the organizational machinery that provides support and funding that benefits soldiers in Israel.
Next week’s dinner was moved to The Sands to accommodate the ever-growing demand of local residents to support FIDF efforts.
Pninet Kohl and Galit Brichta are the FIDF executives who put together this and numerous other fundraising events around the tri-state area.
They note that support for Israeli soldiers has never been more vital. It transcends the idea of defending the homeland, which would be sufficient motivation in and of itself. The often overlooked reality is that when there is an emergency anywhere in the world — whether it is in Mexico or Thailand — the IDF is there to provide their expertise and assistance that translates into saving lives.
“The IDF is indeed a global protector of sorts of Jewish communities wherever they are in the world,” said Kohl. This is something we all have to be aware of, especially in light of tragic events that took place in Pittsburgh and Poway, California.
“Israel has in its government a minister of diaspora affairs,” says Jay Spector. “And that means that when something happens in a Jewish community anywhere in the world, Israel, in one way or another, is there to lend support, advice, and help on whatever level is required.
Hopefully, the quiet at the Gaza border will be sustained. No one — on this side anyway — wants to see violence and the pain it causes. But just like last weekend’s conflagration popped out of virtually nowhere, the same thing can happen at any moment again.
Israel needs the men and women of the IDF to be ready. Next week at the FIDF South Shore event, we need to demonstrate that we appreciate that they are there for us — and that we are there for them as well.