As a person who enjoys writing and has written frequently about life in Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as of late I have found myself at a loss for words.  Since I moved to Israel 7 years ago, this is by far the most difficult time that I have experienced here.  Every time I try to put my thoughts onto paper, I find myself struggling to find the right words to adequately express my thoughts and emotions.
How do I put into words the pit I feel in my stomach right before the evening news when I know that more names and pictures of our brave fallen soldiers will be released by the media?  A few nights ago I sat down to watch the 8 o’clock news with my fiancé, and I watched as names and faces were given to young men who had hardly begun living their lives.  I saw as two fellow Americans were named among the dead – men who left the comforts of America to volunteer in the Israeli army because they felt such a connection to the state of Israel and wanted to dedicate years of their lives to defending it.  I helplessly watched the T.V. screen and soon burst into tears crying on my fiancé’s shoulder.  Why I asked him?  Why?  He didn’t have an answer.
How do I describe visiting the graves of our 3 boys this morning – Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali?  Ever since the bodies of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali were found, I vowed that I would make the short drive to the Modiin cemetery to place stones on their graves and say a few prayers.  This morning I finally made that short journey, crying once more as I saw the 3 Israeli flags marking their graves flying in the warm wind.  Many outside of Israel seem to forget or choose not to acknowledge how this whole round of fighting started.  It all began when Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali set to return home to their families for Shabbat after a week of studying at their high schools.  These were 3 boys who were shot dead in cold blood by Hamas operatives.  3 boys who loved Judaism and the state of Israel with all of their hearts, whose lives were cut so drastically short by immense, deep-seeded hatred.  Israel did not choose this fight, but we have a duty to protect all Israeli citizens.
Graves of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali
How do I put into words the hypocrisy of much of the outside world?  Over 170,000 Syrian civilians have been murdered by the Syrian army, yet the world stood by in silence, offering half-condemnations of these cruel, intentional deaths.  Yet when Israel is forced to defend herself and several hundred Gazan civilians are inadvertently killed despite all of the efforts we make such as dropping leaflets in areas where we must bomb because Hamas is operating in these areas, there are major demonstrations in almost every large European city.  We are called murderers and pigs simply for defending ourselves.  There are calls from President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry and other European leaders for restraint against the very people who want us dead.  I have read articles and comments filled with such hate and anti-Semitic rhetoric that I am sincerely shocked and disgusted.  Modern day anti-Semitism manifests itself as anti-Zionism, which is far more fashionable these days.
Despite the hypocrisy of the outside world, the hatred directed towards us, and the tragic deaths that we have seen over the past month, the unity of the Israeli people has been astounding.  Sean Carmeli, a Texas native who fell in battle several days ago, had his funeral several nights ago in Haifa.  There were fears that because Sean does not have much family in Israel, his funeral would be empty.  Maccabi Haifa and others quickly spread word of the details of his funeral, and ~20,000 Israelis, most of whom did not personally know Sean, showed up to pay their respects.  This is our strength.  This is what makes us different from all of those who do not want us here or say that we should stop defending ourselves.

I may not have all of the words to properly express how I have felt the past month, but this I know to be true – Israel is strong.  Most of us recognize that the fight we are in the midst of now is a fight for our very survival and right to continue living out the words of Hatikva: “To be a free people in our land”.  We are not going anywhere, and the sooner that our neighbors realize this, the sooner we can one day move towards a peaceful resolution to this conflict.