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Remarks by Amir Shacham at the Israel Solidarity Rally

Morristown Green, August 7, 2014

I just returned from three tense weeks in Israel, where we had to defend ourselves again from terror. We sometimes feel alone in this struggle and I am therefore thrilled to see so many Israel supporters, here in Morristown, and my second home. It means a lot.

I am a 7th generation Israeli. My family has the right to live in peace in our only Jewish democratic state. It is as simple as that.

My ancestors, my grandparents, my parents, my own generation and my children have built our country over the years. And for all these years we were always seeking peace. We were willing to split the land and tried to live in harmony with our Arab neighbors. My family, like a vast majority of Israelis, always believed in what is now called “a two state solution”. Israel is a modern, democratic, vibrant state.

The “Start-Up Nation”. So many times we have had to defend it through the generations. We had to establish IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and had to put on uniforms to protect our beloved country from those who do not want us there. It is as simple as that.

The Gaza conflict and this operation, “Protective Edge”, are exactly about that. We are defending ourselves. It is as simple as that.

Yes, the situation in the Middle East is complex. There are lots of unknowns. However, the Gaza War enabled us to clearly see the picture and go back to the basics. Hamas, a terrororist organization by all accounts, is using all its evil power to kill and force out as many Israelis civilians as possible. So once again, we have to defend ourselves. It is as simple as that.

Hamas has launched thousands of rockets on our Kibbutzim and cities all over the country, for years. So we have had to use our brains and invest, with U.S. support, to develop the only defensive system against rockets in the world, the IRON DOME.  Luckily we saved a lot of innocent lives by using this miraculous system, but what country would stand idly by while rockets were be launched at millions of her citizens forcing them into shelters. We had no choice, but to defend ourselves. It is as simple as that.

And what country would not defend itself from an evil labyrinth of deadly tunnels built for the sole purpose of crossing into Israel to attack, kidnap and kill its citizens?

You see, Hamas is using all of its resources to kill and terrorize us rather than develop their economy, schools, and resources. They are using their own population as human shields. Time and again it demonstrates that they care less about the value of life. They have been the aggressors, attacking civilians and sanctifying death. We are protecting it. Let’s not be confused about it. It is as simple as that. 

I am very sorry about the loss of so many innocent lives in Gaza. It is heartbreaking to see. Believe me, the IDF is doing its best to avoid casualties. I know it firsthand. The soldiers are my children, family, and friends who are wearing these uniforms. They are great kids and they are doing everything they can not to hurt civilians. But in this urban war, people are sometimes put in the cross-fire by Hamas. It is very sad. Our soldiers need to protect their families, their homes, and their country.

During my stay in Israel I sadly attended two funerals of IDF soldiers who sacrificed their lives to protect theirs and mine family. Lieutenant Dolev Keidar, 38 years old and a father of three, was killed while fighting terrorists who came out of an ‘attacking tunnel” near Kibbutz Erez. This Kibbutz is Greater MetroWest’s partnered Kibbutz and we personally know many of its families. Lieutenant Keidar was killed while protecting our extended family in Erez , as well as my own elderly parents in Ashkelon. It is very sad, but as simple as that.

Matan Gotlib, a 21 year old young man participated in our leadership program, the Diller teen fellows in 2009. He spent some time in NJ with his peers. Actually, right here in Morris County. He then went on to serve in an elite commando unit of the IDF. During the operation in Han Yunes, he was misled, set up, by brainwashed Palestinian children, lured into a “booby trapped“ house, and killed. Staff Sergeant Gotlib was trying to save innocent lives and was killed because of his humanity.

We know where the terrorists leadership hides, beneath the Shefa hospital in Gaza city. We could easily bombard the place and eliminate their headquarters. We didn’t do this because we value human life and we simply can’t attack a hospital. It is as simple as that.

So what’s next? I pray that the ceasefire will continue. We have had enough bloodshed, enough destruction and enough grief. But we have to make every effort to disable Hamas to prevent them from attacking us again. Otherwise we will once again be forced to protect ourselves. I believe that more people understand this equation now. This operation made things clear.

Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian authority, Saudi Arabia as well as the United States of America and the European Union, have a major role to play. There is a new alliance now. There is no longer a line drawn between Jews and Arabs or West and East but between moderate forces and Islamic fundamentalists. Between aggressive deadly terror groups and defensive life seeking states. It is as simple as that.

I would like to urge you to please tell our story, advocate and lobby for us with your neighbors, in the media, and with your public officials. Please continue to mobilize and stand with us like you did today. It will help draw a clearer line and eliminate any confusion about this conflict.

Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ was able to raise, in the past month, more than $1million to provide humanitarian support to Israel in this crisis. Please consider joining this effort. We have to build our “civic Iron Dome” and keep our resilience, in order to protect ourselves from terror. Every contribution is appreciated.

Last but not least…

I would like to urge each and every one of you to consider a visit to Israel. You need to see first-hand what I have just described. It is very important for Israelis to feel that we are not alone and that the world understands us. But even more importantly, you will experience a vibrant, modern, strong Jewish democratic state that is here to stay.

We will prevail and flourish. It is as simple as that.

Thank you.

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