Two Ordinary - Extraordinary Israeli Heroes

November 24, 2016 23:03

Over the past month or so we have seen two very different types of Israeli heroes.

Firstly Professor Daniel Shechtman won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry - he was (quite justifiably) feted by the press and our leaders. Of course the story behind the award - how he was ostracized by his research group for obstinately believing in his (apparently) impossible findings and his dogged determination and persistence is a compelling human interest and worthy scientific legend.

However, the amazing thing is the degree of attention he received, and the sheer volume of layman level explanations that were published was outstanding. Overnight every citizen became a Nobel Level expert in Quasicrystals.

Last week a very different type of hero came home - Gilad Shalit. For sure there was intense debate and worry about the price paid and pride in the value of human life and of every single soldier. However, it is impossible not to be moved by the pure human emotion of seeing him come home. Many have written how he is unknown to most of us, but yet he is intensely part of us. I have frequently walked past the protest tent in Jerusalem and exchanged a few words with his father - always feeling great respect for them and intense pity for their suffering. Like everybody else I can only celebrate as he starts his life all over again.

Millions were glued to TVs and the Internet following every single move on release day. People took time off from Succot holidays to go to his village to witness his home coming - just to cheer him. Since then we have daily reports of what Gilad has been doing - his first walk, his first bike ride - a day on the beach with his Dad and yesterday he received President Peres at his home. He still looks pale and can hardly speak - but he his home. President Peres spoke of his 5 and a half years in captivity and his daily bravery. The Shalit family wanted us to have a personal relationship with Gilad the prisoner and so it is natural that we now want to know Gilad personally. However, I think that our national interest and emotional investment goes much further than that.

These are two very different types of Israeli heroes. In many ways they are just like us - most of us could not and would not want to meet the challenges that they have faced, but somehow they are now personal friends. Many of us are scientists and engineers and we dream of making a breakthrough and in the case of Gilad unfortunately it could all so easily happen to us in regular or reserve service. We care about them and are interested in their lives and we seek inspiration from them because they are both ordinary extraordinary Israeli heroes. We are exceptionally proud of what our new friends have achieved.

There is something very touching and encouraging in the way that we treated this scientist and everybody's captive in the way that is normally reserved for pop stars or sporting legends. I think that it does go beyond the simple emotion of the moment, and indicates that as a society we do still care for each other, and that we want to gain inspiration from ordinary people and their extraordinary heroic moments.

Jonathan is a Mancunian and now a Jerusalemite. He writes frequently on the beautiful life in Israel and on Israeli tourism on the popular In Israel Blog - the latest blog can be found at

November 24, 2016 23:03

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