Michael Boyden

Hubris – “We Know Better”

Hubris is described as a personality trait of extreme or excessive pride or dangerous overconfidence, often combined with arrogance. It was a common feature in Greek tragedies where defiance of the gods led to nemesis, the inescapable agent that led to one’s downfall. Proverbs 16:18 teaches: “Haughtiness goes before destruction”, or put more simply: Pride goes before a fall.

It was hubris following the 6-Day war in 1967 in which Israel quickly routed the armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan that was the pre-cursor to the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Our political and military leadership were caught off guard. 2,500 IDF servicemen would be killed and more than three times that number injured. It was the nearest that Israel came to being destroyed since the War of Independence in 1948 in which almost 4,000 Israeli soldiers died.

The horrific events of October 7th, which saw over 3,000 Palestinian terrorists breach our border with the Gaza Strip committing atrocities in which 1,200 people mostly civilians were brutally murdered and some 240 others kidnapped, will go down in history as a further failure that could have been avoided were it not for the hubris of our leadership, which led to a misconception of Hamas’s intentions.

We are now hearing that female soldiers, who acted as look-outs along the border with Gaza, had warned that military exercises were taking place in northern Gaza, but that their superiors chose to discount them and reportedly remarked chauvinistically: “You are the eyes of Israel, but we are the brains”.

Israel television Channel 11 reported that, before the incursion, Israel had obtained a copy of a Hamas booklet detailing their plans, but, once again, it was hubris that led to our leadership ignoring it. (The report on Channel 11’s website would later be censored and reference to the booklet be removed, but it is still circulating in the social media.)

Only after the war is over and a National Commission of Inquiry is appointed shall we know where the failure lay in the chain of command, and to what degree the prime minister and the senior echelons in Israel’s intelligence community and military command were party to this and other information and chose to ignore it. Unfortunately, past experience would suggest that hubris and arrogance once again played their part.

About the Author
Made aliyah from the UK in 1985, am a former president of the Israel Council of Reform Rabbis and am currently rabbi of Kehilat Yonatan in Hod Hasharon, Israel.