When Hamas terrorists came to maim, torture, rape and murder thousands of Israelis on October 7, a 22-year-old woman named Neta Portal and her boyfriend, Santiago, living in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, found themselves in a life and death situation.
Neta turned to the one person she knew could save her — her estranged father – Shimon Portal, an Israeli police officer, whom she had cut off six years earlier after her parents’ divorce.
The gunmen outside shot them further, hitting them in the legs.
“Santiago screamed at me: ‘Please stand up, start to run. If you don’t stand up, we’re going to die. We’re going to die,’” Neta said.
Although he was also injured, Santiago carried Neta to safety. The two hid under a pile of trash. While Santiago was trying to stop Neta from bleeding out from due to the multiple gunshot wounds to her legs, she texted her father again, saying: “They shot me. Help.”
“I’m coming,” Neta’s father replied.
Shimon raced to the scene in his unmarked car but was met by terrorists who began shooting at him. Shimon managed to back up and flee the scene. Later, when things got more quiet, Shimon called out for his daughter, in search of her. Instead of Neta appearing, three Israeli children came running toward him. As the girls climbed into Shimon’s car, terrorists began shooting again, but the police officer escaped with no one harmed. He continued his search for Neta, and eventually found her. He scooped his beloved daughter into his car and rushed her and her boyfriend to the nearest hospital.
“My beautiful daughter. I have got her back,” Shimon beamed, while looking at her in her hospital bed.
I couldn’t help but see this harrowing and heartwarming story with symbolism. The Jewish people are the daughter who is mad at their Father, Hashem. After thousands of years of painful exile and persecution, so many Jews have cut God out of their lives.
But now they are finding themselves in a time of terror, a time of increasing isolation, uncertainty, and grief. And the Jewish people is ready to call out to their estranged Father for help. And, of course, He is ready, He has been waiting for that cry, for that reconciliation, for so long.
In Tehillim (Psalms) chapter 81, Hashem tells His people a message that is so fitting for this moment:
In distress you called and I rescued you;
Hear, My people, and I will admonish you;
Israel, if you would but listen to Me!
You shall have no foreign god,
you shall not bow to an alien god.
I the LORD am your God
who brought you out of the land of Egypt;
open your mouth wide and I will fill it.
But My people would not listen to Me,
Israel would not obey Me.
So I let them go after their willful heart
that they might follow their own devices.
If only My people would listen to Me,
if Israel would follow My paths,
then would I subdue their enemies at once,
strike their foes again and again.
Hashem wants us to return to Him and to the ways of our forefathers. He will make miracles for us, as He did for them. The Jewish people have been awakened since October 7. We are ready to return.