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Over the last months, our lives here have been ruled by sirens, and P.A. systems warning of incoming missiles. In addition to that, we receive dozens of text messages on our cellular phones a day, messages about what time lunch will be served in the underground basement of the cultural centre, to warning not to leave our homes, because of an imminent mortar barrage. Yesterday, there was a different type of text message. It was in invite to an impromptu musical evening, in the neighboring kibbutz, called Saad.
The only thing that separates Kibbutz Saad and Kfar Azza, my home, is a wheat field, a road and a small elevated mound. The elevated mound was occupied by dozens of TV crews from around the world, filming the operation in Gaza, the live footage which you see on your TV screens, all around the world.
The musical evening had already started, when I got there. I could hear the songs, even though there was sound of heavy machinegun fire from very near, as there was the sound of helicopters and drones above our heads. The room was cramped, of course again a basement, under the dining room of the kibbutz, the entrance to which was protected by strategically placed concrete blast walls, for protection, in case of a missile or mortar hit.
There was no alcohol, no ties or jackets, no formalities. There were simple plastic chairs, not enough for everybody, some had to stand, but they did not care, because just being there was important. There was no stage lighting, no fancy equipment. But there were musicians, their hearts full of goodwill, who volunteered to create some light, for their brothers and sisters under siege. They succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. In Israel, we call this “ Shirat be’ zibur “, public singing. But, it is much more than that. The songs are mainly Israeli folk songs, some dating back to the days of the Palmach, some new. Many songs were about the hope for peace. Almost everybody knows them and sings along, swaying and waving arms.
There were people of all ages, from pensioners with walking sticks, to young children. There were left wing kibbutzniks and religious kibbutzniks, there were civilians, there were soldiers. The soldiers were a platoon of young reserve paratroopers, some with white skins, some with black skins, some with blond hair and some with curly black hair.
The atmosphere was intoxicating, so much so, that the soldiers started a spontaneous hora. It was cramped, they could barely form a circle, but nothing could stop them. They danced, religious and secular, men and woman, civilians , officers and soldiers, each soldier, with his assault rifle on his back, smiling and singing.
Then they sang “ Am Israel Hai “ Now this does not mean much to me, when I hear this at a Jewish wedding in the Diaspora, but here, sung with such conviction, by all my fellow Israeli brothers and sisters, under siege, brought tears to my eyes.
Nobody wanted to leave, but the musicians needed to eventually go back home. We exited the basement bunker, back to reality of the explosions and war. But, my heart was filled with pride and strength. The reality of life in Israel, cannot be measured by a regular yard stick, the dilemmas and emotions are unique.
May God give our leaders wisdom, and strength to the people of Israel, so, that one day, we may find peace in this land.