In the other room, Elana is watching TV. They are playing the original news footage from October 7. Today is 100 days. 100 days since the October 7 massacre where 1200 Israelis, Jews, and Arabs were killed, as well as foreign workers. There are signs in Israel that read:
100 ימים בגיהנום—100 Days in Hell
It speaks of the ordeal that hostages are suffering. While people all over the world are accusing us of genocide, they ignore the fact that 136 Israelis and others are in Hamas captivity. What wouldn’t you want your government to do to bring your loved ones homes from captivity? Some of them are being kept in cages underground. And they also ignore the fact that Hezbollah is raining down rockets on our northern border. Today, they killed a mother and son! Did we start a war with Hezbollah? Why are they attacking us? But we are guilty!?
It was a beautiful, sunny fall day—October 7. Little did we know that a tsunami was brewing on our border. It was a day that no one in this country will ever forget. It changed everything. The day before, we were fighting viciously over the proposed “judicial overhaul” that split the country in two. No one was concerned about an outside invader. The next day, everyone had forgotten about the division and united together to defeat the common enemy, Hamas.
Last night, Elana and I went to Tel Aviv to what has been dubbed Hostages Square, in the large plaza in front of the Tel Aviv museum. We joined approximately 120,000 others and remembered the 136 who are still being held captive in Gaza. The atmosphere was somber. Famous singers offered songs only accompanied by a clarinet. Family members of those who are still hostages and some who have been released shared their stories.
Despite the massive thunderstorm, many stayed all night long and committed to stay for 24 hours. French President Macron sent in a video message. Jack Lew, the American ambassador to Israel, shared as well.
Elana and Benny Gantz (Member of the War Cabinet)
As Elana and I were entering the plaza, security forces (like secret service agents) suddenly told us at the same time to stop and hurry up. I hurried up, and Elana stopped. We had no idea what was happening. As I got up the steps, I realized Elana was not with me. As I returned for her, the security team would not let me. Then I did something I would never do in America, only in Israel; I started yelling at the security that I had to get my wife. Even though you respect security officers, we’re such a small country that everyone feels like they’re your brother or sister. They told me just to wait a minute. I had no idea what was going on.
Suddenly, I see a very tall, serious man coming up the stairs surrounded by security, Benny Gantz. More than likely, he will be our next prime minister. He’s a former head of the army, and even though he was part of the opposition, he joined the government after October 7 to help oversee the war effort. Things change very quickly in Israel, but today he’s the most trusted politician in the country.
He came not to speak but to be in solidarity with the families of the hostages. He stood in the crowd with everyone else. Was it politically calculated? If it was, it was brilliant. Nobody else in the government was there other than his number two, also a former head of the army, Gadi Eisenkot, who recently lost both his son and nephew in Gaza.
Elana told me when we were finally reunited that when Gantz got out of his car, he left his security team and just walked straight at her and embraced her—for no reason. He asked her, “Where are you from?”
She said, “Ashkelon.”
Of course, he knows that we are only minutes from Gaza, and took the brunt of the rocket fire during the first days of the war. He hugged her in, and said, “אני מחזק אותך” (I am strengthening you.). His concern and humility deeply moved her.
Over the past few months, I have gotten to know more Israelis than in any three month period since I moved here. Because of this horrible tragedy, and because of your incredible generosity, we have been able to help so many people. My love for the people of Israel has been renewed. I used to divide Israel between secular Tel Aviv and religious Jerusalem. But I never was able to spend significant time in the South.
The people here are traditional but not overly religious, like Jerusalem. Family is incredibly important to them. We have sat around tables for lunches on Friday and Saturday and Erev Shabbat meals (Friday evening) with new friends. I love this country so much that it hurts. We’re a small but resilient people.
I trust in the covenant that God made of Abraham and the promises he made through the prophets that he would open Israel’s eyes in the end times.
It has been an honor to serve them; to serve them with you. Hopefully, we have been able, over these past few months, to accurately communicate the sadness and pain to you that you might identify with the most persecuted people on earth. Israel has suffered 53 attempted genocides and is now being accused of such. But she has you as friends. Thank you.