In the Awful Darkness of War
War is awful, something we all know and agree on. But when the war hits close to home, this is no longer a cliché but changes into a personal experience as names, faces, and scenes are replayed in your mind.
I thank God that Eilat is far removed from the towns, kibbutzim, and the nature party near Gaza which in the attack without warning early on October 7 more than 1400 people were butchered and killed and over 200, including women, babies, children, and old people, were taken captive. Here, we don’t hear the sirens that blare daily throughout much of the country signaling a minute to enter a security room or bomb shelter before the rockets begin to fall. Yet like everyone in Israel, we feel deeply connected to what is happening and are trying to find the balance between keeping up with the news, watching the videos that are coming in via WhatsApp, and maintaining a healthy distance for sanity.
Despite the horrors and inhumanity of war, it can also bring out the best in people. We are hearing stories of incredible heroism and quick-thinking that were used to save multitudes from a certain death. The nation’s political divisions are laid aside for now. People are joining together for a common cause with a tremendous outpouring of volunteers and donations of clothing, toys, food, etc.
Even in the Shelter, we are experiencing an historical moment. Since all our guests cancelled, we advertised in different places that we would host displaced people and asked God to bring us those of his choosing. We ended up with two mothers and their children plus 35 young people from a pre-army academy located on a kibbutz near Gaza. Each academy has its own goals and student base, and this one focuses on togetherness for religious and secular Jews, Zionism, studies, and volunteering. These kids, as we call them, are among the 60,000 evacuees in Eilat now, and they’re busy all day interacting with the children from their kibbutz whose families received housing in a hotel.
The remarkable thing is that their leaders chose to stay in the Shelter knowing what we believe and that they are so open to understanding more. On Friday, they celebrated shabbat in their traditional way with a singing and dancing circle which we joined, and then we had our celebration with worship songs and a message from the Bible, and some of them joined. They asked John this week to give a “lesson” so he shared how he started to believe in Jesus and what this actually means including verses from the Tanach and New Testament. They couldn’t stop asking questions and next want to hear from me.
So as we said, war is horrendous, and we are praying without ceasing that this will end soon and all the captives will return home, but there are occasional points of light. I’m sure our relationships with these precious young people will continue, and we hear about thousands of other positive initiatives. We pray this new spirit of cooperation, acceptance, and giving will continue even after the war.