The Nation of Israel and Operation Protective Edge
Uri Shachter – Deputy Brigade Commander Nachal (Res.)
After almost a month of fighting in the Gaza Strip, with all the reactions, I find it important to clarify to the Nation of Israel that we won, decisively. Both from a military and civilian point of view, we have been victorious. From a military perspective we can begin the victory parades. Hamas is on the ropes, the most they are able to do is poke their heads out of their hidey-holes for a second to declare victory (until it gets struck by the next missile). They are unable to rearm from Egypt (something they were able to do with a free hand during the reign of the Muslim Brotherhood). For years Hamas has been building tunnels beneath our towns to use to attack them and we have been able to destroy all the tunnels. Every military goal Hamas set for itself has failed, on land, in the air and by sea.
So why are we giving them the idea that they won?!
Every contact with the enemy resulted in our overwhelming victory.
Every town we wanted to conquer, we conquered within a few hours with the help of our air force and artillery. During the Yom Kippur War (1973) we too were on the ropes having lost 2,656 soldiers in battle. We won, but unfortunately it was perceived in the national mind as a failure. In the current war, our warriors and their commanders who lead from the front, unlike Hamas who prefer to command from behind, went out to battle with a level of motivation that is hard to understand. Soldiers who, even after being wounded, refuse to leave the field of battle just so their comrades won’t have to go into battle without them. Our men continue to fight courageously, even after losing dozens of our best and brightest, knowing that we have returned the IDF to what it was meant to do, protect our civilians.
There are those soldiers and commanders who feel that we haven’t finished the mission and they want to keep striking at the terrorists. That is as it should be. If they left feeling satisfied and complete, that would be a problem. I also don’t accept the perception that the IDF is retreating. Keep in mind that there is a broader and more encompassing picture in the hands of the upper echelons and not every pundit who writes a hysterical article understands the big picture.
The army is free to fire on any position they think is necessary and positions itself wherever it needs to. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad are running to Egypt to beg for a ceasefire while we haven’t even sent a representative. It’s not that they haven’t achieved anything in the current fighting, but they have lost a considerable amount. All the residents in Gaza will return to their ruined houses, destroyed for no gain or reason on their part.
It’s no less important, from a military perspective, to highlight what Israel has gone through during this period. The home front, in all its myriad of peoples, also stood like an unmoving rock (Tzuk Eitan in Hebrew can also be translated this way). It has provided the soldiers and their commanders the support that is so essential to their success. That is the true victory of the nation.
The goal of terrorists isn’t to conquer land, rather to break down and dissolve the society that it attacks. A month and a half ago, before our sweet, wonderful boys (Naftali, Ayal, Gil-Ad) were kidnapped, the nation was more fragmented than it has been for a long time. The verbal flames between groups had been whipped up to unprecedented levels.
The Charedim were calling the National Religious Amalekites, while the rest of the nation attacked them as extremists. The Charedim were looked at as corrupt parasites. The non religious were seen as heretics, anti-Jewish, and assimilationists. Look what has happened in the last month and a half. The nation and the army together have become unified, full of strength and a deep bond to our shared traditions. Even the media, who in the past has pulled the nation in the opposite direction, has mostly lined up behind us, supporting the surge in fighting and the nation as a whole.
I have seen the nation standing strong on the home front as well. Dozens of trucks from all over the country have come to bring supplies and treats to the soldiers. A father, mourning the loss of son who had been killed in the fighting, drove a truck down to help support his other sons, the soldiers of the IDF. My own children laugh that I’m unfamiliar with the singer Moki, but he, and other popular entertainers like him, came down to play for the troops, even if they were only performing for a dozen soldiers. People organized themselves to help the wives of those soldiers who received emergency call up notices, helping with shopping, watching the kids and more. The owners of one successful Hi-Tech company bought tablets for all the wounded soldiers. Caterers and restauranteurs who have come down to provide barbecues for thousands of soldiers to help them keep their strength up, making immense efforts, even though they themselves aren’t religious, to keep the strictest Kashrut so all are comfortable eating.
And it just goes on. The mother of one Charedi soldier who was shot in the stomach wanted me to make sure that he is able to go back and rejoin his comrades still in battle. The Mir Yeshiva (the largest Charedi rabbinical seminary in Jerusalem) sent a truckload of food and equipment to the soldiers. Rabbi Steineman (the leader of the Charedi community) broke down in tears at his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah saying, “soldiers are wounded and dying on the front, how can I rejoice?” To that in perspective, it’s said when his wife passed away, he calmly informed the paramedics where she had passed and returned to his Torah learning.
On Shabbat eve there are hundreds of soldiers of all stripes and origins dancing together. You have 1500 soldiers listening to Kiddush (benediction on wine on the Sabbath) all answering amen in unison loudly enough to shake the heavens.