It’s a War Tzvika

                                        By: Tzvi Allen Fishman

The terrible news over the last days about the killing of 32 Israeli soldiers in Gaza, while fighting Hamas in “Operation Protective Edge”, has numbed us all. The scenes of parents burying their children and of children eulogizing their parents, remains ingrained in our minds.

With the initial news reports, it was natural to call one’s relatives in Israel. After all, it’s important to know how family is doing and to reach out to others for emotional support and sharing of the pain. The distance also makes one feel helpless and in need of finding an outlet for fulfilling “the need to be helpful”.

Cousin Ido was called and a discussion of the events took place. It was clear from the outset of the dialogue that this was a very solemn time for Israel and the country was mourning its dead. After a brief review of the current events and a synopsis of the past 66 years of Israeli statehood, Ido remarked, “I fought and was involved in four wars: It’s a war Tzvika, soldiers are killed.”

We have a tendency to live in a world of media generated news. CNN, Fox , the movies and all the major media networks have given us a snapshot of war that is very external and very “Hollywood”. After all, the good guys always win and when we see people being killed its very impersonal.

When 32 holy souls of Israel are lost defending our right to live as Jews in Israel, the only country that gives us the  legitimacy of being Jewish in these tumultuous times; this event internalizes war and brings it  home into our lives, our beings and our hearts.

Was there a choice?  Did Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu do the right thing by ordering a ground invasion of Gaza and putting our IDF soldiers in harm’s way?

Looking at Israel’s history, we realize that Ido’s statement of fighting in four wars is in realty but one rather long battle. The war that started with the 1948 War of Independence has never really ended; it has just continuously resurfaced in different locations and in different incarnations. The ultimate goal has always been the same: to end the habitation of Jews in the land of Israel and to therefore wipe out Judaism in the world, whether by murder or assimilation.

In the Torah we have the concept of, “Milchemet Mitzvah”, a war commanded by G-d. There are two parts to that: The first of conquering the land, as was done in the times of Joshua; the second that of defending the land, as exists today. At first look, it may seem that to go to war with other nations for the purposes of re-entering and maintaining our personal presence in the land of Israel is seemingly harsh. To understand this, requires our realization that being a Jew and being a part of the “Nation of Israel” requires us to be part of the “Land of Israel”. Just as every Jew has a soul; G-d implanted in the land of Israel, a soul.  The land and every grain of sand within the land of Israel is imbued with life and needs Jewish presence to flourish. To take away Israel from a Jew is akin to choking off his air supply and to take the Jew out of the land is akin to destroying the land. The same G-d who created us, created an ecosystem for our souls to flourish within. Israel is part of that ecosystem.

G-d made a specific physical space for every one of his creations. Israel is the space for the Jewish people. There are also spaces for Christians, spaces for Arabs, spaces for Moslems and for all others. We have recognized the space, legitimacy and right of living for our Arab neighbors. We have also been very kind to them. We have allowed them to work in our businesses and homes, study in our schools and universities and be healed in our hospitals.

We are fine with our Arab neighbors living and prospering in Gaza, but they cannot destroy our peace and harmony nor deny us our physical presence in our land of Israel. No one wants innocent civilians to suffer, certainly not the people of Israel, but shooting thousands of rockets into Israel in order to kill, maim and destroy us in our land is not acceptable and must be defended.

The decision that Netanyahu has had to face in the past weeks is one of the most difficult and painful that any human being can make. A decision of where to draw the line: between defending the life and well being of the inhabitants of the State of Israel, at the expense of giving up lives of Israeli soldiers and between being sensitive to the well being of innocent civilians in Gaza. One just has to look at Netanyahu’s face at any news conference, announcing the killing of Israeli soldiers, to realize the personal pain he has been experiencing.

Cousin Ido voiced the only answer that could be given. It is the same answer that Netanyahu had to utilize, upon arriving at a decision to escalate Israel’s military response to Hamas in Gaza, into a ground war. There is no choice, “It’s a War”, a war for the survival of the land and State of Israel and the Jewish people.