Second Thoughts: Back to War

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08 Jan 2009

imageWar. Such a horrible word. Born and bred in the U.S.A., I had never experienced War. Except for bits and pieces, I was too young to remember much of WWII. I have a clearer reminiscence of Israel’s War for Independence. I was still too young to be overly involved in the Korean War during my high school years and later on, Vietnam was overshadowed by our making aliya. The first war I personally experienced was the Six Day War in 1967.

Since then, however, I can count a succession of wars which are my “own” – the Six Day War in 1967 with a baby and several young children; the horror of the Yom Kippur War in 1973; sitting in “sealed rooms” (as if they offered any protection against missiles) during the Gulf War in 1991; the two wars in Lebanon in which my own sons fought. And then the endless years of mortars and shells raining down on our kids in Gush Katif and the heartbreaking expulsion on Tisha B’Av 5765. I should be an experienced war trooper by now, right? Wrong. War is never what you expect it to be.

Pardon me if I’m not sufficiently diplomatic. Politically correct language abhors straight talk. Diplomacy is the name of the game and Peace (supply your own definition) is our supposed goal. But before peace, we must be assured of Life. Before diplomacy, we must make careful assessments and value judgments. Jews also have the right to live, to survive, to build and prosper. Unfortunately, the world does not always agree.

Here in the Middle East, time is measured in minutes, or in millennium. No one knows what the next news broadcast will bring. By the time you read this, we may be in the midst of a temporary lull, a prolonged ceasefire, a burning Armageddon (God forbid) or a worldwide conflagration. The world out there prefers to consider this a pesky local war which can be easily solved or squelched and which really shouldn’t affect areas outside the Middle East. We know better. Evil has a way of spreading.

On the other hand, we may simply be in the middle of a long journey towards the ultimate Redemption and all we can do is hang on, plod along, and, biding our time, do our best. Nowhere is the Yiddish saying more appropriate: Mensch tracht un Gott lacht – Man proposes and G-d disposes. With that in mind, all I can know is what I see, hear, think and feel at this particular moment and place in time. All other analyses border on speculation.

What do I know, see, hear? First of all I am angry. In fact, I’m fuming. At the fact that it’s taken so long to put a stop to such an intolerable situation. No normal nation would have sat quietly while thousands of missiles rained down on its territory for so many years. (So who says we are normal?) I am beside myself at our inept government, politicians, our impossible fractious Jews (who are nonetheless among the most human, moral, wonderful people in the world, even when they are not!)

I want to see the Gazan pestilence eliminated, eradicated, leveled to the ground, cleaned out and away. Peaceful “ger v’toshav ba’aretz” (inhabitants of the land)? Fine. But Hamas and the “civilian” population which chose, identifies with and supports them? Never! We gave away a literal Garden of Eden we had created in Katif in order to disengage ourselves from Gaza and the Arabs turned Eden into Hades. I am appalled and enraged when I hear that after our army destroyed the homes in Katif but left all the public buildings intact (to ease building a new Palestinian “infrastructure”), our air force must now bomb those buildings to clear it of the evil which the Palestinians have planted there – arsenals, “Pallywood” City to film their obscene movies, camps to train suicide bombers, colleges to “educate” the next generation in murder and thousands of tunnels to bring in deadly ammunition. I want to scream, to shout, to mourn for my poor desecrated land. So I cry and pray that the air force will do their job well and that no land forces, none of our precious sons, will be sent into that Gazan den of iniquity.

How will things will develop? The world, as usual, is tsk-tsking over our “disproportionate response”. Tens of thousands are demonstrating all over Europe and Asia. Over five thousand missiles on Jewish towns over a few years is nothing to get excited about, right? So a few people are killed here and there; a few kids miss school or sleep in shelters and have nightmares. Nightmares aren’t so terrible. As long as they aren’t disturbing Arab children. Well, they disturb the Jewish kids I know. And their parents. My sons went out to end “nightmares” a few years back. Now it is the turn of my grandsons and their friends who will bear the burden of securing a quiet, secure, nightmare-less Jewish State. It is hard.

I pull myself away from the computer screen and shut off the radio. I don’t really want to hear any more minute-by-minute descriptions of what is happening. By three P.M. yesterday, over thirty missiles already fell across the Negev. Today there were sixty. And my granddaughter told of a huge rock lobbed at the windshield of the bus she was riding on outside Jerusalem. Fortunately, it did not crash. It’s déjà vu all over again.

I told a cousin in the US that my kids were all fine and far from the line of fire. I hang up and get a call that a grad missile just landed in their area. Not having a security room in their building, they took the kids to a “sheltered part of the house”. Whatever that means.

I called a grandson in Amatzia (west of Kiryat Gat) who was home sick. His family was expelled from Gush Katif three years ago. They are now living in one of the (in)famous caravillas. A caravilla cannot sustain a rock, let alone a missile. You can punch your way through the walls and ceiling with minimal effort. Yet several sirens were sounded in their area. “Where are you supposed to go if there’s a siren?” I asked my grandson. “We’re supposed to go out of the caravilla and lay down on the ground outside,” he said. Great.

Meanwhile, we are busy dropping pamphlets over Gaza before bombing Hamas sites situated in the midst of inhabited areas, warning the people to leave their homes within a designated time. They, of course, have complaints. They say that out of four hundred Palestinians killed so far, at least one hundred were “innocent civilians”. Seems to me that considering that Hamas hides in apartment buildings, schools and hospitals, with all our bombing, if only one quarter of those killed were civilians, we are doing a very accurate, fine-tuned job of hitting only terrorists.

We do a very accurate, fine tuned job on most military and scientific projects. It’s the spiritual-political dimension where we trip over ourselves. Were the Jews always like this? I suppose we often were. When we knew who we were, what we were doing and why, and our connection with G-d and Torah were secure, we had a higher batting average. When we turned our gaze to foreign pastures and adopted other modes of living and believing, life became more complex. Chanuka was the perfect example. Were not the Hellenistic Jews the more realistic ones? Did they not evaluate the contemporary scene with more political savvy than the provincial Chashmonaim? Which goes to show you that political savvy isn’t always the answer to Eternity.

A granddaughter – sister to the grandson in the caravilla – was married this summer, also to a young man from Katif. She is in her first year of nursing school in Jerusalem. Both she and her husband are full of life and fervor; idealistic, responsible, deeply religious, suffused with love for their people and their land. Yet they are also full of anger, scorn, frustration, disappointment – traits fitting only for elderly, well seasoned adults. It hurts me to listen to them speak.

We told them this is what would happen if they uprooted Katif. We were the shield for the Negev – for Sderot, for Ashkelon,for Netivot. We lived with the kassamin, the missles, for five years yet we kept our heads high and continued to build. We didn’t complain, even when the government ignored us. We were willing to stand firm and strong if it was for the good of Am Yisrael. But no, they wouldn’t listen. And what happened? Any child from Katif could have told them what would happen! What can one say in response?

No one knows where or how all this will end. We do know that we do not want it to end prematurely, as did the wars in 1948, 1956, 1967, and in the 1980’s when each time, Israel was forced to withdraw, retreat or accept a disadvantageous truce in a war for our survival. We pray that this time, we will not allow the nations of the world to force us to stop fighting before we are ready to do so. We pray that our government will be wise and strong enough to withstand the inevitable pressure which is building up.

B’ezrat Hashem, we are here to stay and we will do our utmost to live securely, even at the price of a dubious peace. For we are home, under God’s watchful eye and if we are worthy and wise, if only our will and our Emuna – our Faith – match our military might, we will persevere and overcome all the dangers and pitfalls. Since the start of the Gaza operation six days ago, and after thousands of missiles have fallen and one-eighth of Israel’s population is, at this writing, within rocket range, only three civilians and one soldier were killed. That is four precious people too many, but it is a ringing miracle nonetheless.

So we find ourselves at war again. Surely this latest military venture is but another step forward in our long march to Redemption and a secure, thriving, holy state for God’s Holy People. It has to be thus. Unlike questionable, contemporary political analysis, it’s all been foretold long ago. Just open up Sefer Bereishit and see for yourself.

© 2009 Yaffa Ganz. Yaffa Ganz is the award winning author of more than forty Jewish children’s books including Sand and Stars – a 2000 year saga of Jewish history for teen readers. Her latest book – “A Different Dimension” published by Hamodia Publishers – is an anthology of essays on contemporary Jewish life.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.