During the 1948 War of Independence, “Samson’s Foxes”, the Israeli commando unit of the Givati Brigade, fought on the southern front. The unit was named after the Biblical story of Samson, who avenged himself creatively on the Philistines:
“Samson caught 300 foxes. He turned them tail to tail and put a torch between each pair of tails. He lit the torches and turned them loose among the Philistines’ standing grain, setting fire to the standing grain and the stacked grain…” (Judges 15:4-5)
How ironic! Over 3,000 years after Samson avenged himself on the Philistines in Gaza using burning torches attached to foxes, and again, 70 years after newly-born Israel was defended by “Samson Foxes” – today Gazans, the Palestinian emissaries of Hamas and heirs to the Philistines, have adopted a new weapon: “fire kites”! Gazans attach Molotov cocktails to colorful kites, the kind that we fly with our children on windy days, fly them up high and over the border fence, using them to set fire to the grain growing in the fields of the Jewish farming communities bordering Gaza.
When considering the development of Gazan weaponry in recent years, there is ironically a trend of reverse modernization: From weapons such as rockets that Iron Dome can intercept and render less effective, to underground attack tunnels for which the yiddische kopf also found a solution, to fire kites! If this trend continues, perhaps we will be faced with exploding marbles or commandos on children’s-scooters…
But irony is one thing and sad reality another, the terrible reality that both Israelis and Palestinian Gazans are facing. To our great sorrow and frustration, the imaginary thread from Israelis, the heirs of Samson, to Gazans, the heirs of Philistia, ends with the tragi-comic line from Samson’s torch-bearing foxes to the Gazan Molotov kites that burn agricultural fields.
Faced with tens of thousands of Gazans in the so-called “March of Return,” organized and incited by Hamas, crying out in enmity and hate against Israel and trying to break through the border fence, one must strive to imagine what could transform Gaza, were the Palestinians only to live side by side with Israel instead of trying to destroy it.
Let us remind the world what our grandparents had to do when they arrived here to this desolate, untamed land a 100 years ago, without the assistance of UNRWA and other international aid groups. They labored, drilled, spat blood and built and made the land bloom, step by painstaking step. At the same time, they extended their hand to their Arab neighbors, believing there was room for all. That it was possible to live here together.
Then imagine this: Gazans, under different leadership, decide to devote their energies, their efforts, and the aid they receive from around the world to build and make Gaza bloom. Yes! This miserable, crowded place can blossom. Imagine Gazans using their energy, passion, and abilities to build their homes, not to destroy Israel. Israelis would be the first to come and help them… followed by the Jews of the Diaspora… and then the rest of the Western world… and finally the Arab world… Imagine the hotels, artificial islands, airports, sports facilities, free-trade region, entrepreneurial incubators, water sports clubs… the Singapore of the Middle East. Why not? Why would this be impossible? Was draining the Yezreel Valley swamps or bringing water to the Negev any easier?!
In Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 it says: “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven… A time to plant and a time to uproot… A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace…”
Even in time of war, may we be wise, strong and kind enough not to hate our enemies. May we soon reach the time to plant and the time for peace. May there be a day when we will sit shoulder to shoulder and swap folk tales – from Samson’s foxes to the kites of Gaza.
Sagi Melamed is Vice President of External Relations and Development at the Max Stern Yezreel Valley College and President of the Harvard Club of Israel. He is the author of “Son of My Land” and “Fundraising” and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This essay first appeared in The Canadian Jewish News.