Three Views of the War

Posted on January 4th, 2009

1) The War Next Door

Right across the street from my house is a lookout point from which you have an amazing view stretching out to the South and West. On many days, you can see the most spectacular sunsets from this point. When it is clear, you can see ships on the Mediterranean Sea. You can see the skyline of Tel Aviv. You can see the power plant at Ashkelon. And when it is really clear, you can see Gaza.

It was really clear on Shabbat. Everyone knew that the ground forces would be going in. Despite the military’s efforts to keep the plans secret, people knew. And knowing that there were sons, brothers, and fathers in harm’s way gave Shabbat an extra atmosphere of apprehension. Despite the almost universal feeling here that what Israel is doing is absolutely necessary, everyone knows that there will be a price.

Yet what really made Shabbat unique is that from the lookout point by my house, you could hear and see the war. As we watched, we saw plumes of smoke and flashes of light from Gaza throughout Shabbat. And the continuous sounds of artillery pounding away made sure that even if you missed the fires, you knew what was happening. To stand enveloped by the peaceful nature of Shabbat while witnessing war – the exact opposite of Shabbat – was eerie. Shabbat Shalom? No, not by any stretch of the imagination.

2) What’s Mincha?

A friend told of a conversation he had had with his son, waiting on the border Friday afternoon. Secular soldiers were asking their religious comrades to teach them to pray. Chabad was there with tefillin which many soldiers wore for the first time in their lives. The old saying that there are no atheists in foxholes was proving very true. Soldiers approached my friend’s son wanting to pray mincha with him – even those who didn’t know what mincha was.

There may be a lot of bad publicity floating around about the large number of religious men in the Israeli Defense Forces these days. There are those who are terrified of soldiers who may listen to their Rabbis rather than their commanders. Yet from the stories I heard, these soldiers are not dismissed by their comrades, they are held in great esteem. Sometimes it’s lost on us what the concept of a Jewish Army – the only Jewish Army in the world – means. Our boys are showing us all what that means right now.

3) Safe Again – In a West Bank Settlement

Once again Neve Daniel and other Yishuvim in the “West Bank” are proving to be safe havens for Israelis fleeing the parts of Israel that are supposed to be safe. I thought it was ironic during the last war (can you remember two years ago?) when so many families and schools ended up hunkering down with us in Neve Daniel. Yet once again, this time it is Israelis from the South, the war “refugees” have arrived here to take a break and get some air.

The great irony to me is that there are many, many people who hesitate to visit places like Neve Daniel when they come to Israel. You hear excuses about why someone can’t come until the truth finally comes out – “we’re nervous to cross the Green Line.” Even many Israelis are afraid to come here, to the dangerous wild west (bank).

Yet let’s be real. Whether the name is Neve Daniel, Haifa, Ashkelon, or even Mumbai, India – there are some nasty folk out to get the Jews. Don’t think for a second that a Jew who runs from one place to another can ever be completely safe. It’s a terrible fact and I wish it were not true. But my wishes do not change reality. Hamas and friends have vowed that they will do all in their power to kill us. Not to form a State, not to end the “occupation.” Their motivation – if we listen to them – is simple evil.

Which is why seeing Gaza getting pummeled while standing next to my house does not make me feel guilty at all. Hamas says they will fight until their last breaths. Let’s hope those last breaths come soon.

With all our thoughts on the brave members of the Israeli Defense Forces,

From our blessed nation.

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