Photo: IDF Spokesperson

 Victory over Hamas: A New-Old Heroism

BY RABBI DORON PEREZ

What would constitute victory over Hamas? This question has been an issue of great ongoing tension and debate. What, indeed, does victory look like for Israel in the Swords of Iron War? 

Three distinct objectives for this war were put forward by the War Cabinet. First, the returning of all the hostages taken on October 7th, including the four hostages taken before the barbaric Hamas attack on Simchat Torah. Second, the total dismantling of Hamas’s military and political infrastructure in Gaza, thus preventing any future October 7th style invasion attempts. Third, the return of all 126,000 evacuees from southern and northern Israel to their homes. 

Thus far, none of these three objectives have been achieved. Currently, there are painfully 133 hostages still in Gaza, including the body of our son Daniel hy”d. Of the 24 Hamas terror battalions, 5 to 6 remain intact for many months now – mainly in Rafah – giving Hamas the ability to continue to fight and rebuild. Relatively few evacuees have begun returning to their homes in the south and almost none in the north. There is no clear horizon in sight for achieving these aims. To add insult to injury, skirmishes with Hezbollah have not stopped, while Iran launched 300 drones and ballistic missiles at Israel. The war with Hamas is far from over and achieving our objectives seems remote. 

Besides the hostages and evacuees, Israel has 1,500 dead including 900 civilians and 600 soldiers and thousands injured. 

What, then, has been achieved other than partial fulfillment of some of the above stated objectives? Has there been any type of victory, or are we losing this war? 

The revelation 

I believe that one of the greatest achievements of this war is the astonishing revelation of the almost supernatural spirit of courage and heroism displayed by our soldiers and civilians alike. On that dark day in October and every day subsequently, a truly remarkable heroism has been and is being displayed – a courage and heroism which is revolutionary and transformative, both for ourselves and our enemies. 

The remarkable reservoirs of gevurah and the daring and dauntless courage of our society has delivered a very powerful message of deterrence to our enemies. Over the last decade, Hassan Nasrallah yimach shemo has written about the inherent weakness of Israeli society. He has famously compared Israel society, including all of its intricate defense systems, to a flimsy spider web – a “cobweb.” His cobweb theory is based on the fact that Israel appears externally strong but is, in reality, intrinsically weak. A cobweb looks very strong from the vantage point of an insect but when you zoom in, a very different picture emerges. A cobweb is essentially temporary in nature and can be dismantled with ease in one fell swoop. Israel, in his opinion, is nothing more than a modern Jewish Crusader state which will be dismantled, just as the great Muslim leader Saladin achieved against the Christian Crusaders. 

In recent years, Israeli society was greatly divided, which Nasrallah sees as a great source of frailty and fragility and proof of lack of societal cohesion. With five elections in four years, almost unheard of in democratic societies, our division was easily identified by our enemies. And then we experienced a terribly divisive battle over judicial reform, which Nasrallah in Lebanon and Sinwar in Gaza interpreted as a sign that Israeli society was imploding from within and could, G-d forbid, be destroyed, which led to Sinwar and Hamas launching their surprise attack on October 7th. By the grace of G-d, Hezbollah and Nasrallah did not join the attack on that devastating day – the worst in modern Jewish history since the Shoah

But then something totally unexpected happened1 – the immediate and heroic response of soldiers and civilians alike from all walks of life on that day, who were prepared to lay their life on the line to defend Israel – whatever the cost. Our son Daniel hy”d along with 300 other soldiers and 900 civilians paid with their lives. An additional 300 soldiers have lost their lives subsequently. Yet none of these horrific losses have dampened the incredible resolve and spirit of our nation to defend ourselves and to defeat Hamas. Our enemies did not believe that Israel would have the boldness to send her sons into the poisonous spider’s lair of hundreds of kilometers of booby-trapped terror tunnels. Israel has and will continue to fight in those tunnels with a steely determination and iron will – without fear or fright. Our enemies underestimated the deep resolve and resilience of the Jewish people and our unwavering belief in the morality and justness of our cause – to return our hostages and root out their barbaric threat to Israel. 

This remarkable heroism has also been a great lesson internally for the Jewish people in general and Israeli society in particular. Many thought our social media addicted TikTok infused generation, growing up in a culture of self-centered individualism, would not exhibit the same self-sacrifice as their forebears. How wrong they were. This new generation now fighting their own War of Independence has shown that they are no less heroic than all previous generations – than those who fought in the Yom Kippur War 1973, the Six-Day War of 1967 and the War of Independence of 1948. They are no less heroic than the Maccabim, and the great armies of King David. They have assumed their position in the pantheon of the great generations of bravery and self-sacrifice for Jewish destiny. The unity and camaraderie on the front lines of all for one and one for all has reminded us who we are and why we are here. 

This incredible ongoing mesirut nefesh, self-sacrifice, bravery and heroism is, I believe, our greatest victory and the greatest deterrence for our enemy. 

Why the 5th of Iyar?

This remarkable heroism has enormous halachic ramifications. It is the very reason that the 5th of Iyar, Yom HaAtzmaut, was adopted by the Chief Rabbinate as a day of Hallel and thanksgiving. 

Why indeed was this specific day the one selected by the Chief Rabbinate? It doesn’t seem to make halachic sense. After all, days of Hallel and thanksgiving are usually instituted after we have emerged from the threat of annihilation. Was Pesach not instituted on the day we came out of Egypt, the day of redemption, and an additional day of thanksgiving on the last day of Pesach, when the Egyptian army drowned in the sea and the threat of annihilation was averted? So too with Purim, when we established the festival only after the threat of Haman was totally removed. Why did the Chief Rabbinate institute the very day the State was declared as the day of thanksgiving? Wasn’t this the very day which led our Arab neighbors to attempt to annihilate the nascent state beginning the very next day? The War of Independence lasted for 10 months. Shouldn’t the day the war ended be the day of thanksgiving and not the day of declaration of the state? 

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner beautifully answers this question.2 This day was the most miraculous day of revelation of gevurah, for it took almost otherworldly self-sacrifice, courage and heroism to declare independence no matter what the consequences. It was a psychological miracle of epic proportions – that after 1,900 years of statelessness, wandering and persecution, a new spirit arose. A daring desire for freedom and independence, for redemption and dignity with unmatched bravery and determination. Ben-Gurion and the leadership of the Yishuv knew that they would face the threat of annihilation the moment they declared a state. They were divided, knowing that it may be the shortest lived state in Jewish history. Yet somehow, a spirit of national revival and astonishing bravery gripped their hearts and, by the narrow vote of 6 to 4, they voted in favor of declaring a state. Indeed, the quorum on that day who made this remarkable decision displayed a heavenly inspired remarkable heroism. At that moment, we became a people committed to redemption and sovereignty, regardless of the consequences. 

This display of courage was a watershed moment. One of the leading rabbinic luminaries at the time, Chief Rabbi of Haifa Meshulam Roth zt”l, explains why the 5th of Iyar is a day of thanksgiving. He notes that this day was a great turning in Jewish history with a ripple effect of miraculous salvation. From servitude to freedom and redemption, with miraculous military victories and the ingathering of the exiles – this was the day that opened the gates of collective return for Jews from all around the world.3 

The revelation of remarkable courage and heroism on October 7th was the same gevurah we saw on the 5th of Iyar. It is that same heroism that is a continuation of all previous generations who were prepared to give their lives for the survival and thriving of the Jewish people. The flaming torch of mesirut nefesh has been valiantly accepted by our young generation. This is the great revelation for ourselves and our greatest deterrence for our enemies.

May Hashem bless us to achieve all three objectives of the war in a painless and peaceful way. 

 

1 This and what follows has been found in documentation from Gaza, which I heard first-hand from the heads of Israel’s intelligence and secret services.

2 Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Tal Chermon, 210–212.

3 Rabbi Meshulam Roth, Responsa Kol Mevaser, 21.

 

Rabbi Doron Perez is the Executive Chairman of World Mizrachi. 

© 2024 World Mizrachi

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