We Aussies love our summer holidays. It is when we remember our favourite places and people and try to revisit them – if not in the flesh, then at least in our minds. The sights and smells, the moments with family and friends and the ability to sit back, relax and reflect.
One special moment that I was personally able to relive was taking my oldest son (now six) to the cricket. Of course, this was a big father-son moment for me. My family has lived in Australia for over 200 years, and taking my son to watch Steve Smith reminded me of my own first cricket experience watching Shane Warne bowl to Brian Lara with my father, whose forefathers in turn had taken their children to watch Dennis Lillee bowl to Viv Richards, Don Bradman hitting hundreds, and so on until W.G. Grace himself (only die-hard cricket fans will know who that is).
And so naturally, as we sit at the MCG on holiday, waiting for the first ball, many photos and videos are shared on the family WhatsApp groups. The first over goes by and I make sure I capture and share my son witnessing his first six and then his first wicket. My dutiful family respond with exactly the right amount of WhatsApp-infused nachas – and on it goes.
After about six overs, I begin to realise that despite sitting at a live cricket match for over half-an-hour, I have barely watched a ball.
Almost 30 years have passed since my first time at the cricket with my father. In that time the sport has become much more family friendly and exciting. Despite this, I have no doubt that 30 years ago, without the temptation to capture every moment on a device, my father watched, lived and appreciated those moments far more than I did. We have become so obsessed with capturing the big moments and sharing them in cyberspace, that we have forgotten to sit and take in those everyday moments that make life so special.
On a much more serious note, our summer holidays this year have been impossible to enjoy in the same way, as we constantly think, worry and pray for our brothers and sisters in Israel. Our devices are constantly buzzing with the latest news, videos and headlines about the place we are so deeply connected to.
I was also privileged to visit Israel over the summer, albeit for a short period. What I learned from being there and talking to those who have lived what we can only read and watch, is that once we put the videos and headlines aside and start talking, connecting and trying to help in any way we can, this miraculous country is quite simply full of heroes. Even the average person walking the streets of Israel, while not appearing in the latest social media video, has done more for their country than we could ever imagine. Despite the tragedy and sadness, my sense was that people in Israel are more determined than ever that this is their home and are full of hope and optimism for the future of the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland.
They are not simply fighting for us, they are living for us.
Idan Amedi, a heroic Israeli, artist and actor, who was recently injured fighting in Gaza, wrote a song a number of years ago called Nigmar. In it, Amedi reflects on what the average Israeli must do in order to defend the country and concludes with the line:
“How many heroes are there in this country?”
I reflected on these words quite often as I walked the streets and encountered so many people whose sadness was mixed with an unyielding determination and understanding that they were fighting for what is right, and that Israel and the Jewish people would once again flourish and go from strength to strength.
A few thousand years ago, the great Hebrew prophet Isaiah described a future time of light and hope for the Jewish people with these words: “VeAmech kulam tzadikim – Your people are all righteous.” These words repeatedly came to mind as I looked around and thought – the people of our nation are not just righteous, but extraordinary heroes fighting for all of us.
And so, between the screens, news and headlines, between the latest post on Instagram or Times of Israel live update – let us simply pause, take a breath and internalise the moment we are living in and the people we are sharing it with. There has been tremendous darkness and despair for our people since October 7 and no shortage of doomscrolling, devastation and fear to be consumed from our devices.
But among that darkness, the real Israel is full of hope, courage and determination, and by focusing on that, we might be able to look towards our future with inspiration and positivity, knowing just how many heroes there are in Israel.
Rabbi Shua Solomon is president of the Rabbinical Council of NSW and rabbi of Bondi Mizrachi Synagogue.