Ayman Ogna for NPR
On the morning of the Hamas attack on Israel, Yair Golan – a former member of the Israeli parliament and a major general in the Israeli military reserve – jumped into action.
Now, a month later, he tells NPR that the message he wants to spread is one of optimism: “We need to focus now not on revenge but on building — rebuilding our nation.”
Who is he? Golan was a member of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, until last year. His party is on the left of the political spectrum.
- The Golan joined the recent massive street protests against the far-right government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
- He has five children between the ages of 34 and 19 years. The youngest of them will join the Israeli army this month, which means that all five will serve in the army.
What happened? When Golan saw news of the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, he got into his car and drove to the area around the Nova music festival that had been attacked to see how he could help.
- First, Golan’s sister asked him to pick up three people who had fled the festival. I sent him their location on Google Maps, and when he found them, they were hiding in the bushes.
- He took two more calls and made two more trips back and forth to get people out.
- He says the third time he went to pick someone up, he was much closer to the festival site. “As I was driving along the road, I suddenly realized the horror because there were bodies, you know, along the road,” Golan said.
what does he say? Golan spoke to All things considered Host Mary Louise Kelly is in Israel this week.
Here’s what he said about being called a “hero” by the Israeli press:
I can tell you this, not out of modesty: Compared to other things I’ve done in my life, it was relatively less serious. I fought a lot. I was able to interrogate a lot of people who actually fought terrorists in the kibbutzim, in the villages, in the cities. I can tell you that if you are looking for courage, talk to them, not to me.
Regarding his conversation with his children about their military service:
You think about every word, because if you give advice that could be fatal, well, you’re going to take it with you for the rest of your life. So it’s a very cautious discussion on my part.
Why does he cling to hope and joy?
Well, we need to live, and we need to get back to normal as soon as possible. You know, I learned that from my father. My father was born in Germany and fled Germany when he was five years old, and half his family was executed by the Nazis. And he was telling me all the time, we’re going to focus on building, not on sadness, not on all kinds of negative emotions. We must be optimistic. I believe this is the lesson that has guided me through my adult life. It’s not just that we need to be optimistic. We need to build this optimism. We need to work hard to convince ourselves and others that we can do something really good. And you know, I’m looking at the Israeli nation. We did something amazing. We need to focus now not on revenge, but on building and rebuilding our nation. This is a real political goal.
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