The next generation of Israelis: We need your tonal Zionism – opinion

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The Jerusalem Post 14.12.2023


The next generation of Israelis:  We need your tonal Zionism – opinion

Dearest Young Israelis,


Since October 7, we have watched you see the unseeable, do the unthinkable, save our country, and keep bouncing back. Hamas particularly enjoyed kidnapping, killing, raping, and torturing members of your generation, in uniform, at home, while dancing. Their war aims included terrorizing you into finding Israel unlivable.


Boy, did they underestimate you. Instead of breaking you, they made you, instantly forging you into one super-powered generation. As good Zionists, you don’t cut-and-run – you fight and rebuild.


Your heroism turned the October 7 pogrom  into the Zionist redemption of October 7.2. 


Rising from the ashes

House-by-house, you liberated our invaded communities. Now, you enter Gaza’s three-dimensional fortified hellholes, threatened by terrorists in tunnels below, rockets from afar, snipers above.


You make split-second decisions whether people in the HaMosques, the Hamospitals, the killergartens, are innocents sheltering there or killers lurking there. 


You take bullet hits, absorb grenades, mourn friends, and keep defending us, even when exhausted, dirty, smelly, hungry, thirsty, and scared. Being terrified makes sense, you just can’t become petrified; great soldiers transform their fear into determination.


We also honor the spiritual power and steely discipline of our young heroes up North – and throughout Israel. For trained, motivated soldiers, who saw what this Amalek, Hamas, did, who know how many killers and missiles Hezbollah has, waiting is harder than fighting. 


Deterrence and proactive arrests in the territories require a Zen power.


October 7 showed what happens when armies devalue guard duty, intelligence warnings, and preemptive strikes. Never let strategic inaction demoralize you.


We also appreciate those not fighting who volunteer, donate, support, mourn, normalize life, and launch your new generational mission of remaking Israel.


DAY-BY-DAY we mourn amazing fallen heroes,  from loving families. Their too-short lives nevertheless overflowed with relatives, friends, community, wisdom, idealism, goodness, values, Judaism, Zionism, patriotism, and love. Their smiling, vital, glowing photos haunt me nightly.


Staff Sgt. Lavi Lipshitz, 20, an impish Givati soldier, forever captured on his playful Instagram posts, wrote in a computer file called “Tzahal,” if something happened: “Thanks to this country Israel that gave me this opportunity, and thanks to my friends who gave me this opportunity to bond with them in such special ways.”


“Nothing productive can flourish” from wallowing in mourning, he insisted. Instead, he urged, “build… be active constantly.”


Another Givati sergeant, Pedaya Mark, lost his father to terrorists in 2016, and a cousin fighting the first Hamas assault. Mark wrote: “The people of Israel are strong. Tzahal is strong!… We will wipe out our enemies… Am Yisrael Chai.”


And a paratrooper, Shachar Fridman, 21, fought house-to-house on October 7, seeing death, smelling death, losing six brothers-in-arms. A TV crew interviewed him days later. He admitted that the harassment of Jews praying on Yom Kippur by some secular Tel Avivians made him wonder if he even had a place in Israel. 


“But now,” he said, “I see we have a future. I am willing to fight for a country like this. There is no country like this in the world.”


Fridman believed this evil war saved us from a civil war. You must save us from reverting to such ugliness.Fridman wrote a will – at 21! This prose poem of menschlechkeit says, “Be good people… smile… strive to make every person you meet smile too… And most importantly, be good people in your own way.” 


Finally, he implores: “Love yourselves and the world. When you radiate happiness, a circle of joy will slowly form that will create a better world.”


EVERY DAY in this war-torn yet soulful Israel, I feel that love, that joy, mushrooming. I have been on wedding dance floors giving new meaning to the phrase “heavy metal dancing” – as you dance wildly with an extra, life-affirming ecstasy, while bumping into Tavor X95 assault rifles that can spray 750 to 950 rounds per minute.


I have heard newlywed grooms who are asked: “Where are you living now?” answer casually: “On the Lebanese border.” And I have toasted new engagements, new babies – 3,200 born in Jerusalem in October alone, double our losses that hellish day.


But we must do better. We must champion the IDF’s non-partisan, patriotic approach. Tone counts. The days of “zilzul,” (a dismissive attitude) of Left and Right demeaning one another, calling rivals “traitors,” must end.


If we need new, less divisive, TV stations, let’s launch them. If we need to stop being demagogic on social media, start yesterday. If you must tell your parents, especially if they’re politicians or journalists, to knock it off, it’s time. And if we must fire every politician, let’s start recruiting you, younger leaders.


Your renewed Zionism must be this Tonal Zionism too. How we do politics, manage disagreements, and talk to one another, must become as important as the positions we take. Let’s change the dynamics ruining democracies worldwide, by penalizing demagogues, ostracizing them, cauterizing their hatred – not rewarding them.


Tonal painters use one color, lightening or darkening shades. Today, in Israel, we paint our future in two colors, blue and white, united against Hamas’s blood-soaked-green and the Jew-hater’s green-with-envy. Inevitably, we will quibble about various shadings – but never again can we return to the pre-October 7 tribal, internecine, insanity that consumed us.


We must never forget our true colors, how united we are by Jewish values, history, faith, tradition, and common decency, not just by evil enemies. We owe this new Zionism, this renewed Israel, to Shachar, Lavi, Pedaya, and hundreds of others who fell, were wounded, were kidnapped, and are mourning. Most important, we owe it to ourselves.


A Distinguished Scholar in North American History at McGill University currently living in Jerusalem, Gil Troy is an award-winning American presidential historian and a leading Zionist activist. He is, most recently, the editor of the new three-volume set, “Theodor Herzl: Zionist Writings,” the inaugural publication of The Library of the Jewish People ( www.theljp.org )  . Two years ago he co-authored with Natan Sharansky Never Alone: Prison, Politics and  My People,  was published by PublicAffairs of Hachette. Recently designated one of Algemeiner’s J-100, one of the top 100 people “positively influencing Jewish life,” Gil Troy is the author of  The Zionist Ideas , an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society and a 2019 National Jewish Book Award Finalist. 




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Prof Gil Troy · 20 Derech Bet Lechem · Apt 2 · Jerusalem 9310925 · Israel