For the past 11 months, we have been living through events that can be described as ‘biblical’ in terms of the speed with which they have occurred, the violence of their manifestations and the shock they have caused. What we took for granted is no longer so, and the sanctuary of the home, the safe place par excellence, is no longer so.
In January 2023, a new government came to power in Israel. In the space of a few months, Israeli society fractured into two irreconcilable clans, making dialogue impossible. In January 2023, we were a nation where the ‘happiness’ index was one of the highest in the world, despite the rockets that hit us every nine months.
Israel, the country of high-tech and success, a country whose global influence is out of all proportion to the size of its population! And now, within a few months, we saw this country disintegrating, cracking, the Shekel collapsing, the country’s life force leaving or in the process of leaving. Thousands of young people are saying that they do not want to serve in an army run by a government that is no longer democratic. A country where the judicial system, which is the only legal bulwark against autocracy, has been undermined and could no longer be able to protect soldiers before an international court. A country where coalition budgets are distributed to sectarian parties. A country that is preparing a law permanently exempting 20% of the Jewish population from their military obligations.
In March 2023, the Minister of Defence warned on television that the country was in danger of losing its security because of the judicial reform and called for a freeze on the laws in preparation. The answer came in July 2023 when the Knesset passed a law by 64 votes to none limiting the powers of the Supreme Court. The military authorities, including the Chief of Staff, the head of Mossad and the Shabak (internal security agency) tried desperately and in vain to speak with the Prime Minister and other officials, before the law was passed, in order to warn them of the devastating impact of this legislation on the army and the special services.
Unfortunately, the pursuit of short-term political interests took precedence over the security of the country.
It was clear by the summer of 2023 that the country was heading towards existential danger if nothing stopped the deterioration initiated by the government.
Our economy would weaken, our security would be affected, our society would disintegrate, our relationship with the US would suffer, and our enemies would just have to wait for the rotten fruit to fall from the tree. It would appear that they (our enemies) were not patient enough and acted prematurely.
Many Israeli commentators predicted large-scale hostile military actions following the break-up of Israeli society. In general, they thought that hostilities would come from Hezbollah, perhaps from Iran and secondarily from the Gaza enclave. To my knowledge, no one predicted the current scenario, in which an enemy that is certainly well armed and motivated, but nonetheless secondary with respect to the other players forces, could cause devastation the likes of which Israel has not seen since 1948.
Our history did not begin in 1948, it began several millennia earlier, and we cannot disconnect ourselves from our distant past. What happened on Saturday 7 October 2023 is rationally inexplicable. How can we understand that our intelligence services let an operation of this scale slip through their fingers? Above all, how is it possible that it took so many hours for help to arrive? There is no doubt that there will be commissions of enquiry and no doubt that after all the investigations we will still not fully understand the autopsy of this disaster that has stunned us. For readers of the Bible, it’s like déjà vu:
‘The Lord will make your enemies crush you: if you go against them by one way, by seven ways you will flee from them; and you will be an astonishment to all the kingdoms of the earth’ (Deut ch28, verse 25).
There are many examples in the Bible that establish a direct link between the moral conduct of the people and the disasters that affected them. Where did this blindness come from? Without going into mystical considerations, there is a broad consensus that establishes a close link between this war and the recent degradation of Israeli society.
We have been punched in the stomach but the existence of the State has never been endangered.
It could have been otherwise…
From Hamas’s point of view, the success of its plan depended largely on the element of surprise. In this context, absolute secrecy was necessary. To preserve this secrecy as much as possible, Hamas probably did not inform its allies, Iran and Hezbollah, about the date of its action. The date of 7 October was undoubtedly chosen because on that day there would be a rave party attended by thousands of young people. Ideal conditions for preparing a mass massacre.
Iran and Hezbollah were surprised and initially did not know what to do. If the action had been premeditated in advance by the two entities, they would have intervened on the first day, leaving Israel and the USA no time to get organized. This indecision allowed Israel to mobilise and America to put itself on alert. We have undoubtedly escaped an even greater catastrophe…
Without being fatal, the blow we received was of sufficient magnitude to change the game of a so-called asymmetrical war, which until then meant that Israel was not authorised to intervene massively in Gaza and therefore to destroy Hamas because of the collateral civilian victims. The war of images was always largely won by Hamas. The world press always compared the number of Israeli victims caused by thousands of rockets but which triggered few casualties (rarely more than a dozen) against hundreds, even thousands of Palestinian victims. One of the paradoxes of the present war is that the ‘success‘ of Hamas is its undoing, because this time Israel is apparently determined to flush out the killers where they are.
If it turns out that a total war is being played out with Hezbollah, then the equation will strengthen, we will no longer look at which side the Israeli losses come from. Israel will act in the South in the same way as it will act in the North.
We are concentrating on military operations, on the strategic aspect, on our relations with America and the pressure from our allies. It is logical, we are at war. However, that is not the real problem. The cause of the ordeal we are undergoing is the disintegration of Israeli society that preceded the events we are experiencing. This deterioration is stopped presently in front of the common threat. We must learn from this, so that the same causes do not reproduce the same effects and maybe worse.
The notion of ‘Teshuva’ (forgiveness, return) is essential in Judaism. The spiritual guides who supported the Smotrich and Ben-Gvir parties must examine their consciences: where have they taken us? They cannot escape their responsibility. They have given in to the mirage that, by weakening the powers of the Supreme Court, political strength will enable them to realise their dream of a Greater Israel. At the price of a rift in our society and hatred between us.
The time has come for union, but for this union to take place; this awareness is essential and urgent.
They now have a choice between two paths:
– Blame the ‘leftist anarchists‘.
Our future depends on their attitude. Are we going to be saved?