There is a profound difference in the philosophies of life and death between us and our Hamas enemies.  In many videos and schoolbooks, our foes teach their children and population that death for jihad is the highest form of obeisance in Islam. Indeed. lest you think me racist, allow me to quote the slogan of the Islamic Resistance Movement directly from the Hamas Charter:

“Allah is its goal, the Prophet its model, the Quran its Constitution, Jihad its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.”

So when we see and hear the terrible videos and sermons given by the Hamas imams in Gaza, advocating and posturing in favor  of dying and sacrificing children of the unfortunate civilians in who were caught in the firefights and the destruction brought upon that land by the aggression of Hamas, we can’t but feel sorrow for these people. As prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said time and again, Israel deeply regrets the loss of a single life in Gaza and the Israel Defense Forces go to extreme lengths to avoid collateral damage.

Pilots have been known to dump their lethal ordnance into the sea rather than risk civilian lives, even when a target is in view.  Commanders on the ground must often get permission to attack an enemy position from higher authorities, such as an officer trained in legal matters, before storming a position from whence fire has been directed at their troops. Our naval forces have to make certain that the shells fired upon the coastal targets of Gaza are fired straight and sure rather than hit homes and buildings full of innocent people.

No military in history has gone to the lengths that the IDF has to save lives. We have dropped hundreds of thousands leaflets, begging folks to leave their homes as the enemy has recklessly stationed his forces among them. We have made innumerable phone calls, SMS messages, radio alerts, etc. only to have these residents retrained  by the terrorists from evacuating these areas so as to increase the likelihood of dead and maimed folks. Because, to our enemy, every death is a celebration and every corpse is carried through the streets to fusillades of gunfire and the trilling of tongues.

What other military has broadcast its intended targets to the enemy? How else can we minimize the risks to civilians while increasing the risk to our own soldiers, airmen and sailors? You know, I have often wondered why we risk our precious pilots’ lives over territory that might be awash with shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles and anti-aircraft guns, when we have precision guided artillery shells that are extremely accurate. that could also be used to destroy an enemy location. The answer is in our doctrine of “tohar la neshek,” “the purity of arms,” that goes back to the days of the pre-state Haganah. Arms must be used judiciously and aimed at those who are the enemy and never for ruthless destruction. You see, pilots can be recalled and their missions scrubbed, or sent to a different target, artillery shells cannot be recalled.

When we bury a fallen soldier, it is not a moment to celebrate-it is a time for mourning the life that was snuffed out. It is a time for remembrance of that precious soldier and to comfort the bereaved family. We celebrate life, not death. We cry for the loss and we care for those who grieve.

Our entire tradition is to bless life. From the birth of a child, to his his brit milah, to the bar mitzvah and to his successes in life. We do not send our young people off to the national colors with the hope that they will die for us, rather, with the prayers that he (or she) will always come home in health and good spirits. Every Israeli parent who sends their 18 year old child to the IDF prays every day that their child never hears a bullet go off in anger.

We live for the day that we walk our children down the aisle at their wedding, not the day when we send them off with a belt of explosives wrapped around their waists.

Our enemy has said that they love death as much as we love life and that, in their insane reasoning, means that they will ultimately win. They couldn’t be more mistaken. Those who love life will do anything to preserve it, nurture it and respect it. That is why we do not celebrate the death of a Gazan child or any civilian casualty. Every life lost due to Hamas’ savagery must be laid at its filthy doorstep.

Israel values life. Israel fights for the rights of her citizens to live in peace and security. Israel wants nothing less than for the children of Gaza to live in freedom and peace. We fight to free Gaza from Hamas as much as we fight to free Israelis from the threats of Hamas.

Our enemies march with signs that read “FREE GAZA”, but those signs should have two more words emblazoned below those “FROM HAMAS.”

As long as we in Israel remember that our ultimate aim is peace with our neighbors, we shall never shirk from our responsibility to defend our nation from those who seek its destruction. Because we have yearned for peace since the day of our founding, we have been ready to protect our fragile existence. Because we value life above all else, we must never cease from preserving our independence and our sovereign rights to our homeland. Because we love life, we do not fear death, we do not celebrate death, we prefer to live.