Although Israel was created to be a haven from persecution, it soon enough became apparent that tranquillity and peace in that small stretch of land is alas an illusion.
However if this has been the constant reality, why were last week's events so emotionally stirring?
Tiny in size, Israel feels like a family, small enough for many people to know someone who knows someone who is hit by disaster. As in any family, life is not always rosy. People at the helm do not always act as icons of morality, yet the unity of this extended family and the moral and real support given to each other when there is a crisis is, by any standards, legendary.
The kidnapped soldiers, missing for two years and four days when, with their fate left only to speculation, finally returned home, unfortunately in coffins. A whole nation greaved in unison. Many questions as to the tactical wisdom of accepting two dead bodies and one coffin of unidentified body parts of missing israeli soldiers in exchange for five live terrorists, (one a murderer, sentenced to five life sentences +199 corpses) however the consequences for the future, it was not a decision guided by tactical calculation; but a painful solution based on traditional, humane jewish law - not to abandon a fellow Jew.
The return of Udi Goldwasser and Eldad Regev was compulsory. Returning Jewish captives is a strict obligation under Jewish law and is a manifestation of Jewish historical solidarity, a collective responsibility towards each other. Ransoming of captives was always regarded by our sages as of paramount importance. Maimonides himself regarded this duty to supersede even the duty of giving charity to the poor. Jews throughout the ages would pay exorbitant amounts to kidnappers - 'the children of Israel knew they were never alone'.
The families of both these victims of terror, showed even in the most trying moments, bravery, dignity, restraint, depth determination and even a touch of poetry. We were supposed to be comforting them but it turned out that it was they who gave us the strength and guidance to go on regardless.
"my people, (said Miki Goldwasser udi's mother), do not give up, while facing loss. Stand upright for in their death they have ordered us to go on living." Udi's widow Karnit, did not ask for sympathy while standing before the fresh grave. She only called on us all to know how to elevate every little simple daily occurrence in our lives.
These people who, whilst facing the darkest moments of their lives, came to share with us principles of humanity to strengthen our personal and collective being. The last few days, of sadness, made us realise that what might look to others like an Israeli "soft belly", a point of weakness, is actually our greatest asset and gives us a reason to be proud.
Only three weeks ago, we at the Spiro Ark celebrated together with the bereaved London- based Posner family the life of their son, Gidon Posner who was killed on duty two years ago in an army helicopter. The ceremony was a concert in which the renowned Zemel choir volunteered to share a platform with the Galron choir from Israel in recognition and identification with the cause particularly as all the proceeds were donated to the Gidon Posner memorial fund for educating children from deprived backgrounds in Israel.
For people like the remarkable Posners who channelled their personal grief into positive action, 'for a whole choir. "The Galron" from Israel and our own Zemel choir -- being the salt of the earth, paying for all their expenses. For such Israeli solidarity and sensitivity 'we have reason to be proud'.
The Spiro ark and its Tzavta department created by the Spiros to share the beautiful face of Israel has demonstrated that we have reason to be proud.
Under the direction of Sagi Hartov, a talented musician himself, Tzavta has initiated an international competition of young musicians the first of its kind outside Israel to play Israeli music, probably for the first time in their lives.
16 candidates entered. Clarinetists, harpists, pianists, violinists, trumpeters string and piano trio and one singer. The panel of jurors included top musicians, the president of the Spiro ark music programme Mrs. Lilian Hochhouser presented certificates to the winners and to the runners up and the patrons of the event sir Sydney and lady Lipworth congratulated the winners.
There are so many ways to enhance the positive image of Israel in the world and the astonishing success of this international competition definitely hit the right note. From now on musicians in many countries and music lovers will hopefully be more aware of the fact that Israel produces extraordinary music.
The semi finals took place at the Spiro ark but the prestigious finals were held at the royal academy of music which now houses in its library many scores of Israeli compositions to enable musicians to include Israeli music in their repertoires and music teachers to introduce Israeli music to their students. The scores were donated by the Israeli music institute (IMI) with whom we work very closely.
You might wonder if the musicians who entered the competition have, through it, become more interested in Israel, its culture and in Jewish culture in general. Here are some quotations from the candidates: the trumpetist a young christian woman said: 'playing paul Ben-Haim's "songs without words" made me think of a prayer, of spiritual devotion to which myself as a Christian could relate and feel its depth'.
Members of the Hamburg trio thought that variations on a Hebrew melody reflected upon Jewish suffering throughout history but especially the holocaust.
Indeed, for this abundance of Israeli musical talent and for all those who tirelessly work to expose it and succeed despite the general adverse climate we have a good reason to be proud.