October 11, 2023, Israel
This is one of those blogs which are difficult to write, difficult to express, and difficult to begin, but I must, there are things that must be told and shared. I was overseas teaching Krav Maga seminars when I heard the news of the surprise attack on Israel. The attack began on Saturday morning, but I was unaware of it as I do not use my phone or computer on the Sabbath. At the hotel in Germany, the large screen TV was broadcasting something about Israel during our breakfast, but I was not watching. It was early Saturday morning. One of our students pointed out that Israel was on the news. I took a glance and saw that again rockets were being fired from Gaza. I commented that I was surprised this even made the news in Germany as is this routine in Israel. Hamas fired a few rockets, they probably caused no bodily harm, and that was that. Only when the Sabbath ended, and I turned on my phone did I see a bombardment (excuse the expression) of messages. What was going on??
Soon the picture began to be clear, a terrorist attack, Nay, more than that, an invasion, and then...more than that, wholesale massacre. From that point onward of course I was glued to my phone, seeking every piece of information I could find. Sightseeing was replaced by sitting in my room watching the news and speaking to friends and family in Israel and around the world. As the picture became clearer the immensity of the tragedy emerged.
I will not use this blog to describe the atrocities, the crimes against humanity, that took place. I will describe a bright future and a hope for the future. We drove from Flensburg to Hamburg, close to 200 Kilometers. From Hamburg I flew to Munich. The airport in Munich is challenging. I asked for help from a German woman who has been working in that airport for 20 years. I told her I must find the El Al hall. After she carefully gave me detailed and exact directions, she yelled out, as I was quickly leaving, and Peace to your country!!
I was deeply touched. Germany, we know the history, and yet here of all places I felt a big hug from the population. This kind woman took another moment to yell out her support for Israel, for all to hear. I reached the El Al hall. It was good to see other Israelis. Everyone was glued to the news. Many had cut their trip short. Many had flights booked and paid for with other airlines, but they purchased new tickets with El Al to fly home as these other airlines were not flying to Israel. Everyone wanted to go home. Many were young men who wanted to return to their units to fight. This happens in every war. Who is like thy nation Israel! "What other nation on earth is like your people Israel? What other nation, O God, have you redeemed from slavery to be your own people? You made a great name for yourself when you redeemed your people from Egypt. You performed awesome miracles and drove out the nations that stood in their way."(Chronicles One, chapter 17, verse 21)
Security was tighter than usual, five layers. No one complained. The flight was delayed for a long time, turns out it was not so simple for an airplane to leave Israel as security precautions had to be taken. There were enemy forces trying to shoot down our plane. We were taken by bus to another location to wait for our plane. We were stuck in that crowded bus for a very long time, no one complained, no one pushed, no one said a word. On the flight I chatted with the passenger next to me. He was delivering some medical body parts, he was a messenger, sitting in business class with his life saving organs. He would be met at the airport and rushed to Hadassah hospital. He told me he was invited to a wedding in two weeks. Just last week the young bride to be called him to make sure he would be attending. Yesterday morning her body was identified among the murdered. She was buried yesterday. She was 27 years old. Her fiancé survived. Instead of a wedding, a funeral.
The pilot spoke to us, but it was not the usual speech, this is your captain, we will be flying etc....no, no. He spoke of Israel, he welcomed us on board and said...you all left Israel happy, no one expected this, you are returning to a different reality, I hope you have an easy adjustment as much as possible. We will become stronger, we will become more united, I embrace each and every one of you. I hug you all. Am Yisrael Chai, the Nation of Israel Lives.
Later on the chief flight attendant delivered a similar message and tried to prepare us for the difficult home coming. As we landed everyone started singing HaTikva, The Hope, our national anthem. We the Jewish people have a hope, it is two thousand years old, to be a free people in our own land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem.
I was overwhelmed with emotion and pride. But the best was yet to come.
I arrived at the terminal, the usual procedure, passport control, luggage etc. The first difference I noticed was signs everywhere indicating where one could seek shelter in the event of an attack. We are under attack, we prepare, and life continues, they will not stop us from living. As I waited for my luggage the passenger next to me started with some "light" conversation; so my friend, where was God when little children were slaughters? Is there a God and if so how can this happen? I tried my best to handle these unanswerable questions, told him I was very tired and had to drive home. I wished him Peace, Love, Unity.
As I walked through the "Nothing to declare" green light section I reached the arrivals section. I knew that no one was waiting to greet me. I would pay my parking fees, get the shuttle to long-term parking and drive home, but here I was mistaken, here I was taken by surprise. I heard loud sounds coming from outside, I could not figure out what it was, something must have happened. As I approached the exit I was greeted by young men and women, teens, clearly from the Religious Zionist youth groups, the boys all had kipot, the traditional head coverings, and ritual fringes, and the girls were all modestly dressed in skirts. The two groups were in separate circles. There were large signs, and small signs, placards, saying Welcome Home, we love you. I thought this must be for the reserve soldiers coming home to fight, but not for me. But then they kept offering me food, cookies, rugelach, and drinks. I said, no thank you, I am fine. As I walked outside, I saw an incredible sight, one that lifted my spirits to heaven. These young people were singing, with passion and fervor, they were dancing, they sang, "We are the people of Israel, we are not afraid, we are not afraid at all!" and "The Lord of Hosts is here, the glory is coming".
These pure teenagers, what a glorious youth! Truly what a nation we have. Our future is in good hands. It is 2 am, and they came here from all over Israel to lift our spirits, to welcome us home and tell us they love us. I did not want to leave; I did not want to leave this energy and I stayed as long as I could. They erupted into song, "The entire world is a very narrow bridge, but the main thing is not to fear at all." and the main thing is not to fear at all.
These words come from the mystic Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, (born Międzybóż, Kingdom of Poland) 18th century, a great rabbi revered to this very day. The entire world is a narrow bridge, a challenge filled with difficulties, but the main thing is not to be afraid at all.
As I saw these young people singing and dancing, such faith, such strength, such resilience, I knew that victory is ours. No force on earth can ever defeat this nation. The Nation of Israel lives. Am Yisrael Chai!!
I am home.
Arriving at the airport in Israel, signs indicating where one should proceed in the event of a bombing. We are resilient, we are not afraid, life continues.
Our incredible youth, drumming on the ground and raising the flag of Israel to welcome home our people from abroad. What a glorious youth!
The girls, dancing and greeting our arrival home. Note their modest outfights. Boys in one circle, girls in another. Who is like thy nation, o Israel!
May God watch over you all always, we love you!
Moshe Katz, 7th dan Black Belt, Israeli Krav Maga. Certified by Wingate Institute. Member Black Belt hall of fame, USA and Europe.
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