In the 1990s, a series of advertisements for the national lottery (Mif’al Hapayis) ran on TV in Israel. Another series of ads at the time was for the Histadrut, the national labor federation, which was trying to rebrand itself, and make itself relevant again. The latter ads showed people in various difficult work situations that were resolved by the union, with the tag line at the end of each ad, “bishvil zeh yesh histradrut” – “this is why there’s a Histadrut”.
The satirical program Zehu Zeh proceeded to hilariously spoof both of these campaigns at one go. The bit starts out like one of the lottery ads, with the narrator saying, “I received a telephone call from the factory (mif’al).” He then clarifies: “Not the lottery (mif’al hapayis), the factory (mif’al). They told me I was fired.” The narrator then tells us, “So I spoke with my neighbor Yossi, whose brother-in-law Moshe has a friend Chaim who’s a member of the Histadrut. And they fired someone else!” And then the punchline: “Bishvil zeh yesh histadrut” – “This is why there’s a Histadrut!”.
I’ve had that bit on my mind over the past week, as my wife started to hear rumors that our son’s reserve unit, which had been active since October 7, would soon be out of Gaza, where they have been for the past month-and-a-half. And yesterday it finally happened: the members of the group who weren’t already out due to injury (there were several of them this past week) were released.
As parents, there is tremendous relief in knowing that our son will no longer be on the front line, at least probably not for a while, and knowing that he will be able to again sleep in his own bed in his own flat, won’t be stuck in the rain or the mud, will be able to return to his job in hi-tech, will be able to spend time with family and friends. And I know that the wives and girlfriends are ecstatic. The wife of our son’s best friend from his unit, for example, is due soon with their second child, and she’s been living in panic for the past three-and-a-half months. The fact that he’s self-employed and will be able to resume working is also nothing to sneeze at.
And yet…the job in Gaza isn’t done, and if the army continues to go after terrorists and terrorist installations, it’s going to be someone else’s son, or someone else’s spouse, who’s at risk. I have attended too many funerals and too many shiva houses since October 7 for these kids, some of whom had children of their own, and unlike the protagonist in the Zehu Zeh joke, my relief at my own son’s release from active duty doesn’t lessen my concern for those sons of other parents.
Additionally, paradoxically, the release of my son’s unit only heightens my concern that someone has already decided we’re not going to finish the job, viz. turn Gaza into an area that can no longer send rockets our way, or shoot at us, or burn our crop fields with airborne incendiary devices. At this point, many miluimnikim have been sent home, vacating their positions and taking their equipment and supplies with them; some residents of northern Gaza who left in the first month of the war are now returning, presumably with weapons; and from my apartment in Rehovot, I hear far fewer sorties of fighter planes from the nearby air force base over the past month than I did during the first weeks of the war. Unless there’s been a massive influx of newly-trained soldiers in the standing army (sadirnikim) to take the place of these miluimnikim that isn’t being reported, those observations seem to point to a decision to abandon yesterday’s successes.
This morning there were news reports that Israel is discussing the possibility of stopping fighting altogether. That can’t be allowed to happen – that’s what has been done multiple times since 2005, and on October 7 we saw the results of that policy. For the sake of everyone in Israel, we need to render impotent the terrorists and terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.