Avidan Freedman

A Choice Between Two Paths, A Chance for Rebirth

In the ninth month of this war, the most important question to ask is – what will be born from this moment in Jewish history?

There are two paths in front of us, and we must choose one of them.

One path is to reject the hostage deal, in order to continue fighting Hamas. Although lip service might be paid to the goal of “freeing the hostages”, it is clear that after eight months of military pressure has killed more hostages than it has brought home, this choice is a death sentence for the majority of those hostages still alive. The argument is that, nevertheless, the goal of defeating Hamas is more important, that it is necessary in order to save more Israeli lives down the line. How long will we need to fight for? Until “total victory”, of course. And when will that be? It’s hard to take seriously the idea that a few more battalions in Rafah will make Hamas disappear.

If we are to be realistic about total defeat, it is probably no coincidence that the two parties that are most opposed to the hostage deal, the “Religious Zionist” party, and “Jewish Power”,  also support a policy of conquest and resettlement of Gaza, as well as encouraging “emigration by consent.״ Nor is it a coincidence that one member of the party suggested using an atom bomb against Gaza. Certainly, for those who believe that “there are no innocents in Gaza”, “total victory” can only mean total destruction. And this is what is needed, they argue, in the North and Lebanon as well. And also in the West Bank, in Judea and Samaria, since, after all, there is no real difference between Hamas and the PA, and 75% of those residents supported Hamas’ actions on October 7th (nevermind that 90% of them did not think that those actions included murder or rape).

In other words, this is a path of all-out war, on multiple fronts, a war that Israel will likely need to fight alone as a pariah state, since no country in the world would stand behind these goals. No matter, say those who advocate for this path. We are a “nation that dwells alone”. We will live by the sword until the redemption.

As a matter of fact, Hamas has a very similar worldview (though certainly not similar methods, lest I be accused of creating a false equivalency), from the opposite direction. Hamas is interested in its war against Israel expanding to all possible fronts. It has been waiting for this since October 7th. Hamas believes that, with Allah’s help, they will be victorious in conquering the land. Betzalel Smutrich, Itamar Ben Gvir and their supporters believe that we will be victorious, with God’s help. It’s hard to know what will be left of any of us when the ashes of these wars would settle, especially when, at the same time that one part of this government promotes a policy that will extend and expand our wars, it supports the Haredi parties bid to grant a permanent and official exemption to their constituents from bearing the burden of fighting those wars. Which means, of course, that these wars would need to be fought, to a large extent, by people who don’t support them.

But there is another path that can be taken. Accepting the hostage deal on the table will stop our fighting against Hamas, as we stopped for the first deal, and as we have stopped at each ceasefire until now. In exchange, all of the hostages who are still alive will return. But we will need to give up on our dream of “total victory” now against Hamas, and continue to face its threat to our lives, as we have faced it until now, and as we have faced all of our enemies from the birth of the State and before it. And while we are facing those threats, and doing our best to defend ourselves, we will need to continue building a thriving state, even as we continue to pay a high price for it. I hope that this will be done with a new government, that receives its mandate anew from the voters, who will chart a new path, different than the one we’ve followed for the last 20 years in Gaza. And it will be done with international partners and international support, with countries that create an axis that stands up to Iran and its influence, who work to create a place where all the inhabitants of this land can live in peace and prosperity. This is a long path to tread on, but if we ever want to get there, we have to be willing to make our way along it.

Certainly, there are those who say, especially after 7.10, that the second choice is a naïve fantasy. They say that we are in the Middle East, and here all anyone understands is might. And so, we are decreed to live by our swords.

But I believe that we didn’t come here just to be another Middle Eastern country that blends in to the landscape and accepts the norms of the surrounding cultures. We came with a vision of what a Jewish state is.  To “live by your sword” is the blessing/curse of Esav, not of Jacob/Israel. The founding Israeli ethos has always been the central ethos of Judaism, the idea of the sanctity of life, of the hope for peace. The time has come to be reborn, to fully embrace this idea, to choose a path of life.

About the Author
Avidan Freedman is the co-founder and director of Yanshoof (, an organization dedicated to stopping Israeli arms sales to human rights violators, and an educator at the Shalom Hartman Institute's high school and post-high school programs. He lives in Efrat with his wife Devorah and their 5 children.