Hayim Leiter
Rabbi, mohel, misader kiddushin, beit din member

The fault lies

Screenshot used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law

Shabbat ended as it normally does in times of war. We all ran straight to our phones to see the news. The first notification said that talks of hostage negotiations may be resuming, so for a moment things were looking up. But this uplift was short-lived, for it was immediately followed by the news of three hostages who had died by friendly fire. And to make matters worse, it was reported that they were shirtless, waving white flags. 

The national heartbreak was palpable.

‘How could this have happened?’ we all asked ourselves. Why didn’t the soldiers just wait one more second before firing? What national celebration there would have been to bring them home after such a long captivity. 

But it wasn’t to be.

It’s at moments like these that we ask the major questions: Why are we still fighting this war? Is it really necessary? There must be a better way to end this. 

Still, we must not lose sight of what we’re fighting for. 

Chris Cuomo, who now reports for News Nation, was one of many reporters who recently saw the raw footage of Oct 7. His take on it is worth watching in its totality, but his main point struck a chord. Having seen the images of whole families burned alive by Hamas, having seen the elation displayed upon finding new victims, and the ruthlessness with which they carried out their deeds, Cuomo understood their message. Hamas was saying, the Holocaust is coming for the Jews again. 

Israel received this message loud and clear. We understood the genocide that our enemies are working to carry out. But there’s one fundamental difference between Nazi Germany and today’s reality: We can fight back. And that is exactly what we’re doing, and it’s precisely why we will not stop until our goals are reached.

There was vital information omitted from the original coverage of the hostage tragedy. Hamas has been luring soldiers to bombs and ambushes using dolls, recordings of babies crying, people yelling ‘help’ in Hebrew, and even waving white flags. It is true that the IDF has protocol against shooting anyone who is shirtless, waving a white flag. However, there are stories of our soldiers approaching such people, only to find them pulling out a gun and killing our own. 

The three hostages who fell were spotted during combat. The strength our soldiers must have to handle these circumstances is beyond comprehension. The maelstrom of exhaustion, hunger, and adrenaline; a true battle situation must be at the limits of our minds’ capability. Yet day in a day out, our soldiers face this reality and make the correct calls. 

Those of us on the outside of these scenarios, especially those like myself who’ve never served in the army, must realize how blind we are to this reality. We all logically understand that a split-second decision can mean life or death. But very few of us have actually been there and we cannot rush to judge those who have had to live through it.

After the news was reported about the hostages, Herzi Halevi, Israeli Chief of Staff, took responsibility for the mistaken shooting. As much as it’s comforting and even commendable to hear a politician speak this way, he is mistaken. The responsibility for this calamity rests solely on the shoulders of Hamas. This entire war, the displacement of the Gazan population, and the death of all involved is Hamas’ fault and we must never forget that. If they would lay down their weapons and return the hostages this would all be over in an instant.

Israel has lost so much in the last two months but in this last incident we lost more than just three who died. We lost the soldiers who were forced to fire on them as well. Because of this tragic accident, their lives will never be the same. They will most likely never forgive themselves but we must. We need to rally behind them and the entire Israeli Defense Force and let them know that we are with them no matter what happens. 

Yes, war is tragic and we all dream of a not-too-distant future when it will all be behind us. But let’s keep one thing in mind: Never has there been a more necessary and just war than the one we are now engaged in.

About the Author
Rav Hayim Leiter is a rabbi, mohel, wedding officiant, and member of a private Beit Din in Israel. He founded Magen HaBrit, an organization committed to protecting both our sacred ceremony of Brit Milah and the children who undergo it. He made Aliyah in 2009 and lives in Efrat with his wife and four children.