Israeli democracy is on the battlefield

We stood shoulder-to-shoulder with people from countries worldwide in refugee camps near Rwanda and Kosovo, and in field hospitals in the rubble of earthquakes in Turkey.

Soldiers take part in search and rescue mission  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Soldiers take part in search and rescue mission
(photo credit: REUTERS)
During Operation Protective Edge in Gaza five years ago, I found myself in the middle of the night surrounded by tanks and armored vehicles. Longing for the green grass lawns and quiet library of medical school, I wondered why my destiny brought me there.
My answer came a few days later when a rocket exploded in a nearby field that burst into flames. Five soldiers from my brigade, most of them medics, were killed and dozens were wounded. We had to treat our friends. An event like this wasn’t written about in the medical textbooks.
We are tired of wars and bloodshed. The vast majority of Israelis are willing to make compromises toward the rise of a new dawn of long-lasting peace, as we have proven with Egypt and Jordan. We pray for the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, “And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the goat.” Unfortunately, we know the path to peace is paved with many obstacles.
The world media portray Israel as a vicious conqueror and human-rights violator. However, there are things you don’t read about Israel just by glancing at the headlines. After millennia of the Jewish people being persecuted, I was privileged to step on the soil of Auschwitz with an Israel Defense Forces delegation, “Witnesses in Uniform.” There, I acknowledged why it is at the fundamental roots of our heritage to help every human being – including our enemies.
We stood shoulder-to-shoulder with people from countries worldwide in refugee camps near Rwanda and Kosovo, and in field hospitals in the rubble of earthquakes in Turkey, India, Haiti, the Philippines, Nepal and Mexico.
We have also treated thousands of Syrians from the horrifying civil war there. I have seen many injuries, yet the sight of two children with burns all over their faces will be seared in my memory forever. We evacuated them from the Golan Heights to a medical center that specializes in treating burns. No child should suffer like they did.
Today, I am proud to work in an Israeli hospital that is reaching out to Palestinians. Israeli-Arab and Jewish physicians and nurses work together to heal children with complicated congenital birth defects, or to treat patients diagnosed with life-threatening diseases.
MY GRANDMOTHER recently passed away. She always told me how she lived peacefully with her Arab neighbors in her birth town on the Euphrates River until antisemitism started flourishing. She raised her children to treat everyone with dignity regardless of their religion, beliefs, race or origin.
Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze, black and white, religious and secular, we are all living together on the same piece of land. We embrace pluralism, as we have Arab parliament members, a homosexual justice minister and a woman serving as the Supreme Court chief justice in Jerusalem.
Israel is an innovative and inspiring country but we are still far from perfect. We should keep fighting prejudice and ensure equal rights to every citizen, while preserving a vibrant democracy filled with numerous views and controversies, as we have seen in the latest elections.
On the other hand, Hamas brutally suppresses any opposition without holding new elections. Their leaders, supported by Iran, publicly pledge to annihilate Israel. They eliminate every beacon of hope by using the world’s donations for terrorism rather than for the well-being of their people. Rockets stored in hospitals, and attack tunnels, are favored over fresh water and electricity.
The humanitarian crisis only intensifies the frustration and despair, making it easier to sow seeds of incitement against Israel. Their radical regime is thriving by perpetuating the misery of Palestinians and blaming Israel for it. The Palestinian people deserve better.
Those who stay silent in the face of antisemitism and Iran’s genocidal declarations, threatening to wipe us off the face of the Earth, shouldn’t be surprised when fanatical ideologies come knocking at their doors. Meanwhile, we have no intention of leaving our faith in the hands of terrorists.
The recent elections left us once again stuck at a crossroads. The best way out is to form a stable and functioning unity government. It is time for Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz to stop the political tricks and respect the people who voted for them. Both leaders, who have devoted their entire lives to our state, were right in the speeches they made on election night.
We don’t have the luxury of being divided in light of the security challenges ahead of us. However, we also have an obligation to unify Israeli society and uphold our democratic values within the complex reality in the Middle East.
The writer served as a doctor in the Israel Defense Forces.