This has been a difficult time for all of us, both in Israel, and in the greater Philadelphia area. On Aug. 1, we learned of the death of First Sgt. Michael Levin, a Philadelphia native who was heroically killed in battle with Hezbollah in Aita al-Sha'ab in Lebanon.
In each generation stand the heroes of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Levin is one of these heroes.
Michael made the ultimate sacrifice and lost his life fighting to defend Israel, the nation he so passionately loved. The people of Israel will always remember Michael, and he and his family will stay in our thoughts and prayers.
Like Michael, a young Hannah Senesh left her family to live in Eretz Yisrael over 65 years ago. In 1944, Hannah became a paratrooper over Europe to save Jewish lives during World War II.
Senesh was captured and killed by the Nazis, but her amazing poetry remains. Her words resonate deeply and hold a personal truth as we mourn the loss of Michael and all of our fallen soldiers.
"There are stars whose light reaches the earth after they themselves have disintegrated, and are no more.
There are men, whose scintillating memory lights the world after they have passed from it.
These lights, which shine in the darkest night,
Are those which illuminate the path for us."
Levin and his fellow comrades are stars that light the way for us. We honor them, and offer them our prayers, our praise and our gratitude.
As I write, our enlisted soldiers and reserves remain on the front lines of the battle to defend our State and our people.
Since the fighting began, Hezbollah has launched over 3,500 missiles into Northern Israel, and more than 1 million Israelis remain in shelters. Hezbollah is carrying out deliberate attacks against Israeli civilian population centers. While Hezbollah tries to maximize civilian casualties, Israel does all it can to minimize them. More than 50 Israeli civilians — Jews as well as Arabs — have been killed, including several children.
Attacks have been carried out against large cities such as Haifa, small farms such as Meron, Arab villages such as Majdal Krum, and religious sites such as Safed, Nazareth and Tiberias. By contrast, Israel is only targeting facilities that directly serve the terrorist organizations on their attacks against Israel.
We don't want to see anyone hurt, but Hezbollah is hiding behind Lebanese civilians in order to attack Israeli civilians. When a Lebanese child is killed, Israel mourns. When an Israeli child is killed, Hezbollah celebrates.
This has to stop.
Hezbollah does not look today as it did four weeks ago — threatening, arrogant and dangerous. Day by day, they are losing the power they have to murder.
The Israeli military operation has succeeded in dealing an effective blow to Hezbollah. However, the question of where the region is headed depends not only on Israel's military actions, but also on the decisions made by the international community.
Israel's Political-Security Cabinet met on Aug. 9 and resolved to continue the efforts to achieve a political agreement, particularly in the framework of the U.N. Security Council, while striving to achieve our goals:
· The immediate, unconditional return of our kidnapped soldiers.
· The immediate cessation of all hostilities from Lebanon against Israel.
· The full implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559.
· The deployment of an effective international force in southern Lebanon, together with the Lebanese Army, along the Blue Line.
· Preventing Hezbollah from rebuilding its military capabilities, mainly by preventing the transfer of weapons from Syria and Iran to Lebanon.
We thank the United States for standing with us in a show of solidarity and support. With your backing, we will win this war against terrorism and ensure that Hezbollah no longer threatens our sovereignty. Israel will continue to fight this threat. We will continue to pray for the protection of our soldiers in the field and to honor the soldiers who have sacrificed their lives to ensure that Israel survives for future generations.
Am Yisrael Chai!
Uriel Palti is Consul General of Israel in Philadelphia.