Mordechai de Haas
Ger; Haredi; retired Lieutenant Colonel; Russian security academic

The War: Lavi Lipshitz z”l – My return to Israel – Russia as enemy

Israeli flags (courtesy author)
Israeli flags (courtesy author)

On first sight the aforementioned topics are unrelated. But there is a common denominator: Israel’s war against Hamas. Staff Sgt Lavi Lipshitz z”l is one of the many soldiers we so far have lost in this battle. As to me, I was in Belgium on Simchat Tora. I had already planned to return to Israel, but with the start of the war I made every effort to come back asap. As a Russian security expert, I felt that I should draft something about Russia’s dubious role in this conflict and the ignorance of successive Israeli governments towards Moscow. All these three topics of the current war against Hamas have crossed my mind for weeks. Now the time has come to put it on (digital) paper.

This blog is a tribute to Staff Sgt Lavi Lipshitz z”l and his comrades that have fallen in the fight for the survival of the Jewish nation

*** May their memory be a blessing ***

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Staff Sgt Lavi Lipshitz z”l – not a fighter but a photographer

Every fallen soldier has its own life story and is a tragic loss for their families and for Israel as a whole. Lavi Lipshitz has already been mentioned in a number of articles. Why? Because, as he himself said, he was an artist, not a fighter. He was an upcoming filmmaker and photographer. What struck me most about his story was his video. I am sure, as his sister told The Sun, that he was not always a nice boy, son and sibling, what can one expect? But the video displays pureness, innocence and a profound feeling of humour. But then comes the other side of this coin, the smiling young man of 20 of the video has been killed, defending his country. Intense sad! As is the case with all these other – often smiling – soldiers from whom we see the pictures after they have died in battle. Who does not get emotionally touched by this?

My return to Israel and the fight against Hamas

As I have written before in this blog, in 2017 I came to Israel to convert to Judaism and to live in this country. I have received many blessings and rejoice each day that I am a Jew. In my conversion process, during a train ride I once met IDF soldiers. I told one of them that I was converting to Judaism. She replied “Are you crazy, everybody will hate you!” Indeed, what we have seen since the start of this conflict is an enormous rise in global antisemitism; hatred towards Jews and Israel. That does not bother me a second, I am proud to be a Jew!

However, I have also mentioned in this blog that Israel has two sides. The positive side is living in the Holy Land with its kedusha and all the options to study Tora. The negative side is the state and its apparatus, which I increasingly have experienced as strangling. It is hard to live in Israel when your Hebrew is limited and hardly anybody speaks English. It is even harder to be harassed by state institutions, such as income taxes, customs and municipal taxes, which, even when you are relieved from paying them, keep on hunting for your money for years and years. That is the situation in Israel; the Land of Tanach versus a rigid secular state.

When the state pressure became too much for me, I ‘escaped’ to Belgium, with the intention to live there for a year, a Sabbatical. However, from day 1 in Belgium, although life there was much easier, I felt I made the wrong choice: as a Jew I belong in Israel not in the Diaspora. Then came the terrorist assault on Simchat Tora. I was already in the process of returning. But the war meant an abrupt end to my ‘Sabbatical’. I felt an inner drive to return asap to return to Israel, to support my country at war. All my complaints against the state had disappeared.

After returning to Israel, I have made several attempts to contribute to the war effort, of defeating Hamas. Indirectly, by helping displaced persons, for instance by teaching English. And directly, to Israel’s security, to offer my services as a former army officer with specific intelligence capabilities. But as I have experienced in earlier years, municipal and national authorities do not even reply to my emails. A typical characteristic of Israel’s state culture. So be it. That leaves me with the best weapon in this war: to pray for our soldiers!

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The ignorance of Israel towards Russia: blind for Moscow’s ties with our enemies

My last topic, again one that I have regularly described in this blog. Yes, of course Israel had to be careful towards Russia, with a sizeable military contingent in Syria and lots of options to give us a hard time. And yes, there are still hundreds of thousands of Jews in Russia, whom we should not endanger. Having said that, I have always been astonished by the friendly attitude of successive Israeli governments towards Russia, up to the point of ‘His Master’s voice’, as a dog listening to the boss. Be they Netanyahu or Bennett, with their frequent visits to Moscow or phone calls with Putin, I have never understood this. With my military background I probably lack the diplomatic skills to understand this ignorant behaviour of the Israeli government.

Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine of 2022 and the Hamas massacre of 7/10, it was clear on which side Russia stands. Other Russian security experts as well have published many articles and interviews warning about Russia’s perceived resurgence as a Great Power, by aligning itself with other vile dictatorships. The global picture is quite clear. Through bilateral contacts and/or participation in organizations, Russia is befriended with Iran, Syria, and Hamas. And via them Russian weapon systems also end up with Hezbollah. China and North Korea are other actors in this axis of evil.

Only recently, when Moscow invited Hamas leaders after the slaughter of Simchat Tora, Israel has dropped its blindness and is taking distance from Russia. For example, by not informing Russia’s military forces anymore on upcoming Israeli strikes in Lebanon and Syria. And by admonishing Russia diplomatically for cordially receiving the Hamas killers. A bit late, but finally common sense has returned to Jerusalem, as how to encounter Moscow.

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Closing remarks

What can I conclude after these three topics of Israel’s war against Hamas? Unfortunately, more soldiers, such as Lavi Lipshitz z”l, will fall in battle, but we have to eradicate the menace of Hamas and if need be, also that of Hezbollah. We owe it to our fallen soldiers and to the murdered civilians, living close to Gaza, thinking they were safe.

The Yom Kippur War is a scar on Israel’s assumed security, and so will be the 7/10 Massacre. How will Israeli governments guarantee ‘Never again’ and security for the South (Gaza, Eilat), as well as for the North? In that plan should also be incorporated a clear vision on who our friends are, and who not. Russia, for sure, is not a friend! But let’s face it: in the end we do not have any friends, we are on our own, protected by IDF, our prayers and above all, by Hashem!


About the Author
Lieutenant Colonel Royal Netherlands Army (retired) Dr Mordechai de Haas holds a PhD on Russian security policy. He was an Affiliated Professor and Research Fellow on Russian security policy towards the Middle East at the National Security Studies Centre of Haifa University. Previously, he was a Full Professor of Public Policy in Kazakhstan. In 1980 he served with UNIFIL in Lebanon, as a conscript of the Dutch army. As an officer he held positions at Army Staff, the Royal Netherlands Military Academy, NATO School and the Netherlands Institute of International Relations 'Clingendael'. At Defence Staff he was the editor of the first Netherlands Defence Doctrine.
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