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Avi Lewis

Our war of survival

Last night, our unit’s commander spoke to a packed room of 300 combat fighters. I want to share his words:

“Now is not the time to mourn

Now is not the time to cry

We have lost our friends

We lost our brothers in arms

Some of you have lost your families

Once this war is over we will cry

Once this war is over we will mourn

Once this war is over we can analyze and deliberate over our actions

Ask ourselves if we could have done better

But not today

Today we hold our heads up high

We look forward

We plan and prepare

Because now is the time to take the fight to the enemy

Now is the time to give it our all

Now is the time to win”

The heat and energy in the room was palpable

300 pairs of eyes, mesmerized

The breathing, the sweat

Electrifying

A nonchalant semi-circle: some sitting, some lying, some crouching, some leaning

Everybody in a different pose

A sea of army green

The stuff memorialized by iconic photos

Palestinian propaganda outlets posted videos of a packed Ben Gurion Airport filled with people supposedly racing to get out of the country (from my experience it’s always that packed, sometimes even more so)

“The Jews are fleeing. Run away while you still can” read the caption in Hebrew

It was designed to demoralize Israelis while giving Palestinians the impression that we’re depopulating and “returning to our native countries”

Nothing could be further from the truth

To quote former Israeli PM Golda Meir: “Our secret weapon is that we have no other country”

Want proof that the delegitimization campaign that claims “Jews aren’t indigenous to Israel” holds no water?

Look no further than this:

Motivation is through the roof

Our guys from abroad are scrambling to get tickets *into* Israel and arriving on base in droves

I’m hearing stories of incoming planes filled to capacity

Everyone on board is young: 20s, 30s

All former IDF

One of my friends from the other team is a native of Kibbutz Nir Oz, which suffered some of the worst atrocities at the hands of Gazans

His sister is missing, presumably captured, along with 7 childhood friends

He was due to get married next week

Now he’s here alongside us, ready to bring the enemy hell

I’m getting phone calls all week from folks that weren’t called up yet

They’re pleading to get to base and to find a position – even if means peeling potatoes or cleaning the bathrooms

Other don’t ask, they just arrive and join

I want to illustrate the Jewish fighting spirit with story of one of our unit’s fallen soldiers:

Lieutenant Shiloh Cohen 24, may his memory be a blessing, a native of Sderot and commander of a team of new recruits

He was at home with his family on Shabbat morning when awoken by gunfire

Without hesitation he grabbed his brother’s M-16 rifle and headed downstairs onto the street to defend his town from the infiltrators

At a certain point, he flagged down an incoming van of Sayaret Matkal fighters racing to Kibbutz Be’eri

Still wearing civilian clothes, he jumped aboard and fought alongside them, engaging waves of between 80 – 150 heavily armed terrorists that stormed the village

Despite being severely outnumbered and outgunned, they fought to the last bullet

Like lions

Until empty cartridges

Lt. Cohen Z”L, died a heroes death protecting the Jewish people and our homeland, the State of Israel

His story is but one of dozens that I have encountered: of Israeli fighters that refused to cower and bunker in

Cowering and hiding – our grandparents told us those stories

We grew up on them and promised “Never again”

When we say “Never again” we mean it

Jewish memory runs deep

I don’t want to write the about the atrocities that Hamas committed to our people

I’m telling you though as somebody on the inside – it’s *much*, *much* worse than what the media is reporting

And it wasn’t just Hamas

Alongside the approximately 1,500+ militants that breached the fence and attacked our villages, there were hundreds, perhaps thousands of Palestinian civilians from Gaza that stormed across the border

They took part in these cruelties

Some of these Palestinian civilians were adolescent or teenage boys, others older men

They weren’t uniformed fighters

And they had their way with us

Hamas is nervous that it overplayed it’s hand by releasing those ISIS-style glorification videos of their actions in Kfar Aza, Kissufim, Netiv Ha’asarah and Reim

Now, as part of their charm offensive to gain sympathy from liberals and human rights activists in the West, they’re publicly making the claim that those ordinary Gazans were solely responsible for the pogroms

It’s only partly true because in most cases Hamas fighters led and initiated them

But it’s a significant admission that shows the extent to which many Gazans support this ideology

Even if a Hamas is surgically removed, the underlying population isn’t changed

Remember that Hamas was democratically elected. In Judea & Samaria support for them runs high, and it’s only thanks to IDF cooperation that Mahmoud Abbas’ PA is still standing there

Remove Hamas, and a different, bolder terror group will arise in it’s place

A resentful populace still grieving about 1948, that has been raised to view Jews as Satan and subhuman – will not live side-by-side peacefully

We’ve been warning for years that if you brainwash an entire people from childhood with eliminationist antisemitism, it will eventually explode to the surface

Intellectuals tried to ignore this aspect of Palestinian society by arguing it away in terms of “an oppressed people fighting an occupation”

This Shabbat, we bore witness to exactly what “fighting the occupation” looks like in the minds of many Palestinians

Hamas is not interested in a two state solution

They want to replace us

Each generation has its struggles

Our grandparents survived the Holocaust and fought in the 1948 War of Independence

This generation – millennials, folks born in the 80s, 90s and 2000s – are having our moment

October 2023 is a our war of survival, our second war of independence

This isn’t an exaggeration

As we speak, Iran has ordered 15,000+ Shiite militia under it’s control to redeploy from Iraq into southern Lebanon, along our northern border fence

Hezbollah is readying it’s arsenal of nearly 200,000 precision guided missiles, aimed at our major cities

Houthis in Yemen are preparing their long range bombs for Eilat

Palestinians in Judea & Samaria, as well as some Arabs that are citizens of Israel, have taken inspiration from this week’s attacks

(I must caveat: they do not represent all Israeli Arabs, many of whom are very integrated into Israeli society and choose the path of peace)

This isn’t meant to alarm

Just illustrate the point that this isn’t an ordinary war

That we are fighting for our survival

It’s hard for the Western mind to grasp this because no Western country has been seriously threatened in the last 80 years

And most conventional wars between countries are not wars of survival

You may not understanding this feeling if you don’t live it

As Jews and as Israelis, we live it

You should know that we will win this war

I know it so deeply

It will come at a cost – it already has

But we are determined, we hold the high moral ground, we are united and we feel the warm embrace of our supporters in the free world along with the entire Jewish people

Our roots are firmly planted in the soil of this Holy Land

We will dig our boots in

Deep into the soil

And we will prevail

Because we have no other choice

Just like we had no other choice in 1948, ’56, ’67, ’73, ’82, during the first and second intifadas in the 90s and 00s, in 2006 or 2014

It’s now 2023 and once again we have no other choice but to defend ourselves

After this war is over we will mourn and we will cry

But today we hold our heads up high, with pride

We stand firm

“Because now is the time to take the fight to the enemy

Now is the time to give it our all

Now is the time to win”

About the Author
Avi was formerly a news writer at the Times of Israel. Originally from Australia, he served in the IDF and today works in Israel's thriving Hi Tech sector in Tel Aviv. He lives near Modi'in with wife and 3 kids
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