Thursday, October 23, 2014 Tishri 29, 5775

There's No Way to Justify Acts of Terror

July 23, 2014 By:
Rebecca Richman
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Israeli soldiers seen mourning at the funeral of Max Steinberg, a Golani brigade sharpshooter who enlisted in the IDF in December 2012. Steinberg, originally from Los Angeles, was killed in action on Sunday when the Golani Brigade operated extensively in the Gaza Strip. Thousands came to his funeral on Mt Herzl in Jerusalem on July 23, 2014. Photo by Miriam Alster/FLASH90.
I've recently had an epiphany. I'm rather embarrassed that it's taken me so long to realize this, because now that I've thought about it, it seems like a pretty simple truth. But nevertheless, I've only just put it all together: Terror is never justified. 
 
That sounds so obvious. The very word "terror" renders it an evil that shouldn't be used to manipulate entire governments. But I had always figured that as long as there were people out there trying to justify terror, there must be cases in which it is, indeed, justifiable. 
 
But there aren't. And the line between acts of self-defense and acts of terror is not as thin as the media is making it seem. 
 
Since I began writing about my experiences in Israel, I've tried to shy away from taking a political stance. Based on the fact that I made aliyah and drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, I assume it's obvious that I support Israel. But I also understand that there are many things I don't understand, and so I've avoided politics as best as I can.
 
It's easy to remain apolitical when the conflict is so far away, when it seems like this is all happening to other people. But now it's here, skirting dangerously close to me, and I can't pretend to be anything other than completely against the terror that Hamas is wreaking on my country. 
 
A few days ago, I wrote another op-ed about what it's like living in Israel right now, about the pit I feel in my stomach when I read a newspaper headline and know that at any time, this conflict could come waltzing into my life in a very real, very personal, very heartbreaking way.
 
And now it has. 
 
Sunday morning, 13 members of the Golani Brigade were killed in Gaza. Over the next few days, the IDF released the names of those killed, and the country mourned every one of them.
 
I learned two of the names before they were released to the media. Just a few hours after their deaths, I began getting frantic text messages about two lone soldiers who were among the 13 killed. I never met either Sean Carmeli, z"l, or Max Steinberg, z"l. But we are a community of lone soldiers, and this loss is something that all of us feel excruciatingly deeply. These boys were friends of my friends, we shared a background, they held the same values and passions as I do.
 
Suddenly, my Facebook newsfeed went from generic posts supporting Israel to, "I miss you, brother."
 
Though I didn't personally know them, many of my friends did, and seeing their pain so close to me makes me feel it. Those words, "I miss you, brother," won't stop wrenching at my heart. 
 
Coming to Israel and enlisting was a choice for these soldiers, and they are nothing short of heroes. But they shouldn't have died. None of the 32 Israeli soldiers killed since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge should have died. 
 
I support Israel's ground incursion into Gaza because I refuse to wait for Hamas to advance their weapons before we fight back. I support it because although the Palestinian death toll is much higher than the Israeli one, we're not waiting for them to even out before we take action.
 
I will never condone the tragic civilian deaths on either side, but Israel should not be attacked, not by Hamas and not by the media, for successfully protecting her citizens.  
 
And my epiphany was right, terror is never justified. When Hamas stops preaching terror and threatening kidnappings, when it stops silencing the civilians of Gaza who do want peace, then maybe this conflict will become something more than seemingly futile killings. I want this to end because it's my friends who are fighting this battle, people I care about as if they were family.
 
But Sean Carmeli, z"l, Max Steinberg, z"l, and the rest of those killed did not die so that Israel would tolerate hundreds of rockets a week being shot at innocent civilians. We will not justify Hamas's terror, nor will we ignore it.
 
Israel will continue to defend the Jewish homeland without crossing the line into terror. We will continue to oppose extremists while acknowledging that not every Palestinian is an extremist. We want the violence to end, but we will do what we believe is right even in the face of misguided and, in many cases, misinformed international pressure.

It's frustrating not being a combat soldier right now. My job has very little to do with the current operation, and so I'm stuck here watching the beginnings of a war with no way to stop it, no way to contribute.
 
But I'm part of something bigger. My unit is the one communicating with the civilians of Gaza, we are the ones who create and distribute fliers warning people to evacuate their homes before an attack.
 
And even bigger than that, I'm part of an army that will do anything to protect my friends who are being torn from childhood and thrown into war.
 
I'm so proud of every one of them. I'm proud of those fighting and those in combat support, and I'm proud of Israel. I've never been so grateful to be a part of something I truly believe in, to be a soldier in the IDF.
 
Rebecca Richman immigrated to Israel two years ago from Merion Station. She is currently serving in the Israel Defense Forces' civil administration unit as a "lone soldier."

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