17 June '15..
A year full of changes has passed since the moment the entire country was shocked by the news that three boys had been kidnapped in Gush Etzion, a report that was our worst nightmare come true. It seemed as if it was a landmark. Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news.
The nerve-wracking time between the abduction and the discovery of their bodies created a wave of identification with and concern for their families, whose sympathetic, united and respect-worthy appearance -- both in the time of uncertainty and after their sons' fate became known -- swept almost everyone up in a rare wave of unity and consensus. Right, Left, secular, religious -- everyone was a partner, a brother in times of trouble, brought together by tension and mourning, by our enemies' generosity in occasionally giving us a reminder of the real proportions of the existential problems in the Middle East.
The monstrous murder in cold blood also played a part, as it went had in hand with the barbarity we have recently become familiar with as part of the horrors of the Arab Spring. Public sympathy increased when it became clear that they were shot because, in a moment of unbelievable heroism, one of the boys called the police to report the kidnapping, even though it was clear that doing so would get him killed. The conversation caused the terrorists to take into consideration that the act had been exposed and security forces were on their tail, and that from the get-go their attempt to keep their prisoner alive as negotiating chips had gone awry. The alternative scenario was to keep them in a Hamas prison and demand the release of thousands of terrorists in exchange for their freedom, which would be a strategic blow to the state that would have cost hundreds of lives. The boys' heroism foiled the kidnapping.
One thing led to another. The wave of arrests and targeted hits on Hamas leaders, which were part of the search and the security establishment's attempt to catch the kidnappers, sparked rocket fire and the biggest and most important round of fighting against the terrorist kingdom that had arisen in Gaza. All of Israel's population centers were under rocket fire, daily life was disrupted, and even Ben-Gurion International Airport was almost shut down. Israel was amazed to discover Hamas operatives breaching its territory, shooting soldiers and sometimes even managing to escape via the vast system of tunnels that led directly into communities in the western Negev. Right, Left, secular, religious -- again, everyone was a partner, a brother, united, thanks to our enemies. Lone soldiers who fell in battle had tens of thousands of people at their funerals. The people of Israel enlisted to donate to the Israel Defense Forces, more soldiers appeared for reserve duty than were called up, and the best face of our society was revealed. Days like these make it clear that as a society, we are better than our self-image. In the end, Operation Protective Edge caused significant destruction to the attack tunnels and created deterrence against Hamas, which is licking its wounds while under attack at home for its "moderation."
The other possible scenario our enemies worked so diligently to prepare for us was a quiet invasion by hundreds of terrorists, without any warning, possibly on a holiday, attacking civilian communities and military bases simultaneously, murdering hundreds, taking dozens more prisoner, an incomprehensible strategic blow. The infrastructure for that was ready. There were tunnels that reached towns and kibbutzim, motorbikes were at hand to bring the terrorists to the town centers quickly, increasing panic, making our nightmares come true.
Just as the boys' kidnapping cannot be separated from the process that led to Operation Protective Edge and the destruction of Hamas' tunnels, we cannot separate the boys' heroism, which ruined the kidnapping plan, from the horrific scenario of the planned Hamas invasion. Three young boys who demonstrated exceptional courage and resourcefulness caused a butterfly effect that began with a heroic act inside a moving car and ended by saving the State of Israel from disaster. That courage did not stem from a sense of adventure or from a lack of thought, but from outstanding education. Education that was entirely about love of Israel, contributing to the greater good, and willingness to pay the price and make a personal sacrifice for the good of society, "for the good of the people and the country," as people used to say before such things went out of fashion.
Gil-ad, Naftali, and Eyal. You, and your wonderful parents -- the people of Israel salute you.
Yossi Dagan is chairman of the Samaria Regional Council.