- Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Since the devastating Hamas-led terror attacks on October 7 that resulted in the brutal murder of more than 1,200 innocent Israeli citizens and another 251 Israelis taken as hostages, the people of Israel have been forced into an unwanted war, which Israel has dubbed Operation Swords of Iron. The brave men and women of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) – our husbands, wives, sons, daughters, and friends – have been on the frontlines, protecting the citizens of Israel, doing everything they can to bring the hostages home and to destroy Hamas, often at the cost of their own lives.

The toll has been unimaginable.

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Yet, despite the shattered sense of security that we as a nation have experienced since that day and the ongoing rocket attacks from our enemies on all sides, I have been hugely inspired by the holy people of Israel and their unbreakable spirit. I have never witnessed such an amazing level of selflessness, courage, and unity that the people of Israel have demonstrated since October 7.

On a daily basis, individuals across our small nation have put aside their own needs for the good of the community. They have come together to stand with and protect the people and places of Israel, to save lives. You won’t find their stories in mainstream media, on the front pages or in the evening news headlines. Yet, we here at the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews feel it is so important to let the world know that heroic acts are happening every single day in Israel – that God’s people are caring for one another. Unlike our enemies, who hide their weapons in schools and hospitals and who use their citizens as human shields, the people of Israel cherish and sanctify life.

In order to understand the people of Israel, you need to hear their stories – like the story of Danny Gerkovich, a proud Israeli, a firefighter, a survivor, a hero. And above all, a father.

SEE ALSO: Faces of Iron: Shuki Yosef, an Oct. 7 survivor, reflects on terror attack, shares hope for future

On October 7, Danny was home with his wife on Kibbutz Kissufim near Israel’s border with Gaza. His daughter Daphna and her husband Ivan lived less than 100 feet from Danny. That morning, Danny’s cell phone began ringing as the unthinkable was happening. Hamas terrorists were invading their kibbutz, their homes, their lives.

“Daphna was together with Ivan in their saferoom,” Danny remembers. As the couple sheltered against the terrorists, Danny and his wife were barricaded inside their own home’s shelter.

Over their cellphones, Danny heard his daughter crying out, “The terrorists are trying to get into the house. They are breaking down the doors and coming in.”

The situation escalated, and soon, Danny heard words that no parent could bear to hear. “Help! Help! They are already inside! The house is already starting to burn.” Those were the last words Danny ever heard of his daughters’ angelic voice.

Only yards away, Danny was trapped, and tortured by the reality that he couldn’t help his daughter.

Though he is commander of the volunteer fire and rescue services serving the entire Israel region near the Gaza border, “I could not do a thing … I could not go out. They were shooting and burning everything.”

After nearly 30 hours, when the survivors of the attacks were able to emerge, Danny and his wife were among them. And Danny, a broken and newly grieving father, heroically let his instincts as a firefighter take over, and began managing the evacuation of those who were still alive.

The Fellowship has provided support to Danny and his community in the months since the attacks that took away from him what he loved most. And while Danny mourns his beloved daughter and son-in-law, this support gives him the strength to keep going: “I think that the bigger mission is to protect what we have, what we have right now, and what we have is all the people that are here. We will lick our wounds. We will go back to the kibbutz, to the place where we live, and rebuild, from the beginning.”

These extraordinary stories reflect the values of Jews and Christians alike – values such as courage, steadfastness, and respect for the sanctity of life. They manifest the Israeli ethos that love is greater than hate and peace is greater than war.

And they serve as reminders that, despite all appearances in the media, Israel is not alone. Millions of Christians around the world stand with Israel, love Israel, pray for Israel, and support the people of Israel like Danny and countless others.

We will never stop believing in these values; we will never stop helping the vulnerable; we will persevere until all our people are home. And we fervently pray that our Christian brothers and sisters will never stop blessing God’s holy people through their friendship, prayers, and support.

There is a wave of darkness trying to take over the world with terror, and the only way we will counter this evil, is by standing together, Christians and Jews, and spreading light.

Read more Faces of Iron stories and learn how The Fellowship is helping survivors of October 7.

Author’s Note: In the difficult days and months since the Hamas terror attacks of October 7th plunged Israel and her people into the Swords of Iron War, there has been so much pain and so much sadness. But thanks to the prayers and support of those around the world who continue to stand with Israel and the Jewish people in their time of greatest need, these survivors — these Faces of Iron — continue, strong and faithful. This series highlights their devastatingly heroic and inspiring stories, in their own words.

About Yael Eckstein: Yael Eckstein is President and CEO of The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship), one of the world’s largest religious charitable organizations. The Jerusalem Post’s 2023 Humanitarian Award recipient and 3-time honoree on its 50 Most Influential Jews list, Yael is a Chicago-area native based in Israel with her husband and their four children.

About the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews: For more than 40 years, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) has been the leading non-profit building bridges between Christians and Jews, blessing Israel and the Jewish people around the world with humanitarian care and lifesaving aid. Each year, the Fellowship helps over 1 million people living in poverty, provides security to 1 million people and helps thousands make aliyah back to their homeland, Israel. To learn more, visit www.ifcj.org.

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