This Israeli general witnessed the horror of a Hamas attack. Now he calls for optimism.

In the morning when Hamas attacked Israel, Yair Golan, a former member of the Israeli parliament and a major general in the country's military reserves, sprang into action.

Now, a month later, he tells NPR that the message he wants to spread is filled with optimism: "Right now, we need to focus not on revenge but on building - rebuilding our nation."

Who is he? Golan was a member of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, until last year. His party is on the left side of the political spectrum.

Golan has five sons ranging in age from 34 to 19. The youngest of them will enlist in the Israeli army this month, so all five will be in service. Sponsor Message

What happened? When Golan saw the news of Hamas attacking Israel on October 7, he got in his car and headed to the area of the Nova music festival that was targeted to see how he could help.

Initially, Golan's sister asked him to pick up three people who had fled the festival. She sent him their location on Google Maps, and when he found them, they were hiding in the bushes.

He received two more calls, and he made two more trips there and back to rescue people. On the third trip, as he was driving, he suddenly realized the full horror because there were bodies along the road, Golan said. What does he say? This week, Golan spoke with "All Things Considered" host Mary Louise Kelly in Israel.

Here's what he said about being called a "hero" by the Israeli press:

I can tell you the following, and it's not a matter of modesty: compared to other things I've done in my life, this was relatively less dangerous. I fought a lot. I managed to interrogate many people who really fought terrorists in kibbutzim, villages, cities. I can tell you that if you want courage, talk to them, not to me. Sponsor Message

On how he talks to his sons about their military service:

You think about every word because if you give advice that can be deadly, you'll carry it with you for the rest of your life. So, from my side, it's a very cautious conversation.

And why he clings to hope and joy:

Well, we need to live, and we need to get back to normal life as soon as possible. You know, I learned this from my father. My father was born in Germany and fled Germany when he was five years old, and half of his family was murdered by the Nazis. And he always told me that we're going to concentrate on building, not on sorrow, not on any negative feelings. We need to be optimists. And I think this is a lesson that will carry me through my entire adult life. We don't just need to be optimists. We need to bolster this optimism. We need to work hard to convince ourselves and others that we can do something really good. And you know, I look at the Israeli nation. We've done something fantastic. Right now, we need to focus not on revenge but on building - rebuilding our nation. It's a real political goal.

 

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