Praying for peace

Published 11:35 am Thursday, October 26, 2023

Yocheved Lifshitz is, and how gratifying it is to describe her in the present tense, 85 years of age and has, by one small gesture, given the rest of the world the assurance of Hope.

Speaking of her attack at the hands of the terrorist group Hamas to The Daily Mail, Ms. Lifshitz recalled her kidnapping and that of her husband, Oded:

“They stormed into our homes. They beat people. They didn’t break my ribs but it was painful and I had difficulty breathing.”

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It should be added that this petite woman in her mid-80s was thrown across the seat of a motorcycle, legs on one side and the rest of her body on the other and driven several miles across plowed fields, members of Hamas riding alongside and behind, continually striking her with sticks. The route was taking them to the tunnels that have been excavated over several years and when dragged off the motorcycle, Lifshitz said ‘they walked for a few kilometers over wet ground.”

Her watch and jewelry removed, her trip through hell ended in Gaza. She was taken into a large room where she estimated 25 other hostages were gathered. And it is here that, I can only assume, she was greeted with a completely unexpected reaction: compassion.

“They took care of us. They made sure that we could be clean and eat…” Yocheved went on to describe a doctor who examined hostages each day and that every hostage was assigned a guard who would eat and speak with them daily.

Having closed my eyes against the descriptions of unthinkable brutality against the elderly, infants and pregnant women—descriptions that will haunt me forever—it is difficult to believe there could be this sort of kindness offered to the same people Hamas was brutalizing in their surprise attack. And while Yocheved succinctly said of her nightmare, “I went through hell,” cameras caught her grasping the hand of the masked gunman upon her release to the Red Cross, and saying ‘Shalom.’

Peace.

“Because,” she replied to the incredulous query, “they treated us very nicely.”

It’s nearly inconceivable that somehow, within this swirl of savagery there was an act of kindness from kidnapper which resulted in an authentic wish for peace from the kidnapped.

I pray daily for peace in Israel. I weep for the carnage of both sides. And yet, when I read of an example of that peace, frankly, it’s hard to believe. Why is this? Do I not believe my own prayers? But here is proof, inspiration and incentive to pray even more fervently, despite what I might see and hear.

Despite the fact that her husband is still being held hostage. Despite screams of justification on either side. Despite everything.

Shalom, Yocheved. And with all my heart, thank you for your courage to offer to an enemy what so many of us never could.