For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
It has been exactly a year since Israel launched what is officially known as Operation Cast Lead, but often referred to as "the war in Gaza."
At some point during the campaign, my Sabra next-door neighbor found me in the kitchen helping my son pack a care package for soldiers - part of his elementary school's war effort. "Oh, it's so sad," she sighed. "I don't think there has ever been a generation that hasn't sent packages to soldiers. I remember doing it in the Six Day War."
Until Cast Lead was launched on December 27, schoolchildren all over the country had been sending care packages to children in Sderot and other communities close to Gaza which were suffering from constant missile attacks.
A friend in Sderot, fed up with the government's policy of restraint, once quipped that she had considered lobbing the stale cakes, cookies, chocolate bars and doughnuts over the border into Gaza as ammunition. When the war finally broke out - after even Ehud Olmert's government couldn't ignore some 80 missiles a day - she felt more relief than fear.
Having spent eight years raising her children under fire, she realized war would not be worse than what had been considered peace until then. Her family was already used to living with missiles: At home, not locking the bathroom door and sleeping in the safest part of the house; when out, automatically judging the location of the closest shelter. In Sderot, they have just 15 seconds from the Color Red warning until the missile lands. It's probably the only place in the world where wearing seat belts was banned as dangerous.
IN ASHKELON, the situation was different. Although under threat, residents hadn't had to live with Kassams before.
"It was really tough," says Dr. Stephen Malnick, a longtime resident. "There are so many things we had taken for granted that we suddenly couldn't do: like going shopping and walking along the promenade on the beach. My daughter, a student at Sapir College, didn't leave the apartment for two weeks - except once: She went to a salon and had her nails manicured. She told me, 'There are some things a woman just doesn't give up on,'" he recalls.
I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"