“No Fear” is a popular clothing and energy drink brand in the U.S. with an even more popular logo. I’ve seen its decal on surfboards and car windows. I thought of it quite a bit this week.
Recently there has been ominous activity on the Syrian border with Israel by Iranian-funded troops. Israeli intelligence sent alarming reports to expect troubles in the Golan Heights, and silently and with determination, despite getting on with our daily routine, we were alert to the possibility of war. We were told to prepare our “safe rooms” – – emptying out any collected junk (many safe rooms and shelters are used as catch-alls in peacetime) and ensuring that we had flashlights, basic first aid, some food and water supplies, and diapers and toys for those who have kids. We subscribed to the Home Front Command app on our smartphones, which calculates the amount of time we have to get to our shelters based on our location. Here at Moreshet we have 30 – 60 seconds.
And then at 2:45 a.m in the pre-dawn of Thursday, I was awakened by the sound of fighter jets. I can’t describe it, but it really felt and sounded very different than the usual blast of fighter jets practicing overhead, which is a common occurrence.
These jets weren’t circling. They were headed in one direction: North. There were many of them; they were flying lower than usual, and they were loud. There was a certain gravity; it felt ominous. I didn’t feel in danger, or anxious, but I did feel very concerned for the safety of the young men entrusted to pilot them. I had recently attended the graduation of the newest crop of pilots from the Air Force Academy, and the boy who graduated at the top of his 2018 class lives in a yishuv just up the road. I thought how strange this young pilot must have felt, flying directly over his home on the way to bomb Iranian bases in Syria, and the euphoria and relief he must have experienced on his way back.
We were supposed to go on an organized hiking trip in the Golan less than 48 hours later. I emailed the organizers of the trip and asked if it was still on. The Home Front Command (the ultimate authority in these situations) said that any previous precautions were no longer active. The trip was happening!
Ironically, just two days after Israeli jets bombed Syria following some dangerous and suspicious Iranian troop movement on the Israeli-Syrian border, we found ourselves at Kibbutz Al-Magor. The name “Al-Magor” which is found in Jeremiah, Book of Prophets , translates to “No Fear.” At this spot, a horrific loss of life occurred in a battle between Jews and Syrians in 1951, with more than 40 Jewish soldiers killed. Ten years later at this site, a kibbutz by the name of Al-Magor was founded. “No Fear.”
After visiting Al-Magor, which is on the Galilee-Golan border in Israel, we continued a few miles up the road into the Golan to a water hike. A tributary of the Jordan River, this is part of Israel’s National Park system and it’s called Madjarsa. The water is very clean (it’s a runoff from Mt. Hermon and underground springs) and several spots are wider and deeper than the rest, making for perfect swimming holes.
There was a diverse group of people of all ages swimming there: Israeli Jews, olim (recent immigrants to Israel), and Arabs. Everyone was there to enjoy the refreshing waters on a beautiful warm Spring day before Shabbat. No Fear. Making the most of a moment. It was a snippet of everyday life in Israel, despite the headlines abroad.
And this is the Israeli way. We cannot afford to cower. The best revenge against our enemies is to keep on living life according to our regular routine, and to continually celebrate life – – something Israelis do with astounding success and with my greatest admiration and awe. We are duty-bound to spread light throughout the world.
On Saturday night, with the end of Shabbat, the Eurovision finals contest was broadcast on TV. The Israeli entry, Netta Barzilai, won. Netta’s song “Toy” was completely outrageous; it was written in response to sexual harassment and bullying. Netta herself is atypical of the other lithe entertainers that performed at the festival in Lisbon. She is big. She is bold. She is not ashamed of her unusual looks or her size and she sends a message that we must feel beautiful despite imperfect body types, and that we must accept others for their differences. During part of the song, she clucks like a chicken, to mock fear.
I have to say that despite the inner meaning and catchy tune, the song baffled me. The presentation and showmanship is totally insane. I am not sure I feel comfortable with it in its role as Israel’s representative song for the Eurovision contest.
Then I remembered. As they say, G-d works in strange ways, with even stranger messengers, but at least He has a sense of humor. In October 2014, an unnamed senior official in the Obama administration was reported to have called Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu a “chickensh**”, adding that Netanyahu “has got no guts”.
As a result of the win, Israel gets to host the contest next year, in Jerusalem. Netta was warned by the producers not to mention “Jerusalem” when she accepted the award, lest she “offend” politically sensitive Europe. Instead, her heart filled with love, she said,
Thank you so much for accepting differences between us. Thank you for celebrating diversity. Thank you. I love my country. Next time in Jerusalem.
In the wake of the successful bombing to stop Iran; the dedication of the US Embassy in Jerusalem today, 51 years after its liberation in 1967; with Netta’s clucking response to win the Eurovision contest; and our trip to the Golan during tremulous times, there can be only one response.