IDF soldier encourages JNFuture group to make a difference in Israel
The Central Florida Jewish Community was honored to welcome elite Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldier and Jewish National Fund (JNF)/ Halutza Liaison Yedidya Harush to a Feb. 2 evening event in Winter Park, hosted by the Central Florida division of the JNF Young Professionals Group, JNFuture.
Harush was, in the midst of his career in the IDF, involved in the 2014 operation to find the terrorists responsible for the kidnapping of the three boys immediately prior to Operation Protective Edge, known to some as the Summer 2014 Gaza war.
Harush had the simple yet profound message for the attendees on Feb. 2; as he stated it, “Our homeland is your homeland as well and we build it together.” Harush’s work with the JNF helps develop the Halutza Community in the Israeli Negev, and his perspective on this work of building up the Jewish homeland of the land of Israel he summed up in a succinct statement, namely, “To make a difference in Israel, you have to be a player, not in the audience.”
Harush’s perspective is born of decades on intimate experience with the most volatile components of life in the land of Israel. He was born in the community of Atzmona in Gush Katif, the formerly existing Jewish community in the Gaza Strip. Harush was, as a teenager, forced out of Gaza, along with the rest of his community, in the 2005 Israeli Disengagement from the region. He described the experience of being forced from his home by the Israel Defense Forces, as “tough,” and a “shock.”
He chose to not become angry toward Israel because of the experience, however; instead, he “resigned himself” to his new circumstances and “moved on,” determined to work to make a difference. He took one opportunity to do so by working as a paratrooper in the IDF, telling of an important symbolic learning experience on his first day in the IDF. On that day, his unit was directed to carry stretchers with sand bags atop them.
Normally, as Harush told it, those who carry stretchers have replacements available; this time, everyone carried a stretcher and no one had an available replacement, with everyone walking the entire distance. For his unit, the stretcher represented the State of Israel and their walk with no replacement represented the soldiers’ unshakeable responsibility for the security of the Israeli nation.
As Harush described it, strong resolve and an intense personal strength is a core part of the specialness of the State of Israel and its people. The terrorism that faces the people of Israel seeks to break the Israel spirit, as Harush also related, and fighting the terror therefore involves building up life at an ever-increasing rate as the Israelis and their supporters do.
An audience member related his own stories on this same subject, telling how, in one instance he saw an in-use Israeli clothesline strung right up to a pockmarked wall in Jerusalem; while, another time, he was at a kibbutz and completely unaware of a major military skirmish going on in the immediate vicinity. He only found out about the incident from news sources the next day!
In the face of continuous personal threats, the Israelis are forced to focus on personal security and livelihood, which allows for the uniquely Israeli response of continuing and growing daily life as they do in the midst of daily lethal threats. “Life in Israel is peaceful,” Harush told his listeners. “Try to walk around Israel, and you’ll feel it; you’re safe and constantly watched by people to keep you safe.”
Going forward, Israeli life really is growing, too. About a month ago, Harush said, Israeli Minister of Energy Yuval Steinitz dedicated what is now the largest solar field in Israel, located in the Halutza community in the Negev, and he also told of a current major project to pave the road to Be’ersheva, which would cut down the travel time from 1 hour to only 20 minutes.
JNFuture “engages and energizes young leaders who are committed to environmentalism and community development in Israel.” The group will be holding a gala at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center on Feb. 16.
Caleb R. Newton is a global affairs analyst living in Central Florida and the founder of Global News Breakdown. Find him at Global News Breakdown, Dissecting Society, and the Times of Israel. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.