How Ordinary Israelis Showed Courage and Compassion in the War with Hamas

The war between Israel and Hamas in October 2023 was a brutal and bloody conflict that claimed the lives of thousands of people on both sides. But amid the horror and devastation, there were also stories of heroism and humanity, as everyday Israelis stepped up to help their fellow citizens and even their enemies.

One of the hardest-hit areas in Israel was the city of Kiryat Shmona, located near the border with Lebanon. The city was subjected to constant rocket fire from Hamas, which also launched a surprise ground invasion that killed hundreds of Israelis. The residents of Kiryat Shmona had to endure days of fear and uncertainty, as they sought shelter in bomb shelters and basements.

But some of them also showed remarkable courage and resilience, as they volunteered to assist the wounded, distribute food and water, and comfort the traumatized. One of them was Edri Cohen, a 65-year-old woman who became a local legend for her daring deeds. Cohen, who had lived through several wars in the past, decided to use her car as an ambulance, driving around the city and picking up injured people, sometimes under heavy fire. She also delivered snacks and drinks to the soldiers and civilians who were fighting off the Hamas invaders.

Cohen said she was motivated by a sense of duty and love for her country. “I’m not a hero, I’m just doing what I have to do,” she told the Associated Press. “I love this city, I love this land, and I love these people. I can’t sit idly by while they suffer.”

The Doctor Who Saved Lives

Another Israeli who risked his life to help others was Dr. Eyal Sela, a surgeon at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. Sela was part of a team of doctors who flew to the northern border to treat the wounded in a makeshift field hospital. Sela performed dozens of surgeries, often under fire, and saved many lives.

But Sela did not only treat Israelis. He also treated some of the Hamas fighters who were captured or surrendered. Sela said he did not discriminate between his patients, regardless of their nationality or affiliation. He said he followed the Hippocratic oath, which obliges doctors to treat anyone in need of medical care.

Sela said he hoped that his actions would send a message of peace and coexistence to the Palestinians. “I don’t hate them, I don’t want to kill them, I want to heal them,” he told the Jerusalem Post. “I hope that they will see that we are not their enemies, but their neighbors. I hope that they will choose life over death, dialogue over violence, and peace over war.”

The Teacher Who Inspired Hope

A third example of an ordinary Israeli who became a hero in the war was Shira Levy, a kindergarten teacher in Tel Aviv. Levy was teaching her class of five-year-olds when the sirens sounded, warning of an incoming rocket attack from Gaza. Levy quickly gathered her students and led them to a nearby shelter, where they waited for the danger to pass.

But Levy did not just sit and wait. She decided to use the time to teach her students about the war and its causes, in a way that they could understand. She explained to them who Hamas was, why they were firing rockets at Israel, and how Israel was defending itself. She also taught them about the Palestinians, their history, culture, and aspirations. She told them that not all Palestinians were bad, and that many of them wanted peace, just like the Israelis.

Levy said she wanted to educate her students, not indoctrinate them. She said she wanted to foster a sense of curiosity, empathy, and critical thinking in them, and to prepare them for the future. “I don’t want them to grow up with fear, hatred, or ignorance,” she told the Times of Israel. “I want them to grow up with hope, compassion, and knowledge. I want them to be part of the solution, not the problem.”

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