Israel is under attack.
In the last 24 hours or so, Israel has experienced a rocket attack unlike any other in its history. Upwards of 500 rockets have been launched into Central Israel, sending Israelis not only in those towns near Gaza, but in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem into stairwells and air raid shelters, for safety.
Several Israelis have already been killed. In Ashkelon and Rishon Lezion, families are mourning the loss of loved ones, and there will no doubt be further casualties. Tens of Israelis have been rushed to hospitals for monitoring. We pray they recover from their wounds both physical and mental.
As can be seen from this video and countless others circulating online, Iron Domes is doing its best to protect Israel, but it is not a flawless defense mechanism. Some rockets get through, while others are destroyed mid-flight.
And this is just what is being broadcast on the news. Down below on Israeli streets, for example, Arab Israelis have attacked their Jewish neighbours. As Lahav Harkov and others have reported, a virtual pogrom has taken place in Lod, with riots by Bedouins in the Negev, as a synagogue, for example, has been ransacked, and sacred books burned.
What we are seeing unfold in Israel this evening is a test.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza are trying to test the effectiveness of the Iron Dome system, and are trying to overwhelm its efficiency. God willing, the genius of that system will maintain its integrity, and continue to save Israeli (both Jewish and Arab) lives.
Palestinian terrorists and activists are trying to test the Israel Defense Forces. They want to see how hard they can hit Israel before the military is brought in, before a ground invasion takes place, or before a ceasefire is sought. It is clear from statements made from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and others in Israel’s security establishment this evening however that they are prepared for their resolve to be tested. I predict the IDF’s response will be fierce. It must be. I hope it is.
Those firing those rockets tonight are testing the ability of people around the world to sort through the nonsense, and see what is really going on. Are they firing rockets because of protests in Jerusalem, because of perceived aggression on the Temple Mount, to deter Mansour Abbas to join a government, to keep Bibi in power, or to just stir the pot? Perhaps they simply see an opportunity to terrorize Israelis, and they took their shot.
Those firing rockets at Israeli civilians are testing the resolve of the Israeli populace. They want to see how long Israelis can hold out in their shelters, or stairways, or parking garages, before their frustration grows, and they turn on each other or their government. This won’t, but their limits will surely be pushed. Tonight, I pray for my family and friends in Israel sheltering in place, waiting for the countless air raid sirens to stop, so they can sleep peacefully, and not have to worry about a rocket landing on their house or their car. I know they are strong, and they will persist.
Finally, this is a test for Diaspora Jewry.
In the days to come, I am certain that Israel is going to respond with overwhelming force to attempt to deter Hamas and Islamic Jihad from continuing with such attacks. Such force may very well be unprecedented in recent conflicts in the Gaza Strip. Decisions that will need to be made will keep politicians, corporals, generals and IDF counsel up at night, as they will be forced to make difficult choices for the sake of the security of the State of Israel and the people therein. Rest assured, for those of you who are willing to take me at my word, those decisions will not be made lightly, and will be undertaken only after studying every possible outcome to make sure that the fewest civilians are killed, and that Israeli security is maximized.
Such efforts have already begun. The IDF has already begun to alert residents of Gaza which buildings are going to be targeted as part of Hamas’s terror infrastructure. Civilians are given a chance to leave, before Hamas’s weapons are destroyed.
Many Jews in the Diaspora have friends, family members, neighbours, co-workers, and others who will side with the terrorists in the optics of this conflict/war. They will shout words like “Apartheid”, “disproportionate”, “Sheikh Jarrah”, “evictions,” “Temple Mount”, “broken political system”, “occupation”, and try to paint Israel as the aggressors. Though there is plenty of nuance when it comes to the situation in Jerusalem (or Sheikh Jarrah) in the last few weeks, or the conflict as a whole, what is happening today, tonight, and in the weeks to come, is a result of one factor, and one belief alone: Hamas and Islamic Jihad are launching rockets at Israeli civilians because they have an agenda of their own, which is to terrorize and kill Jews.
To my fellow Diaspora Jews: do not allow yourselves to be taken in by the propaganda coming in from the supporters of those terrorists. Do not allow your faith in the moral uprightness of the State of Israel to be deterred by talking points about evictions or disproportionality, or Bibi. To quote The Jerusalem Post’s Yaakov Katz, “Hamas doesn’t need a reason to attack Israel. Attacking Israel is its raison d’etre.”
In the escalation of this conflict, there is no nuance – there is just a Palestinian effort to indiscriminately kill Israelis. As AJC’s Avi Mayer wrote today, “every single Palestinian and Israeli death as a result of this escalation is the responsibility of Hamas and Hamas alone. If there were no Hamas rockets, there would be no Israeli airstrikes. Dozens of lives would be spared. It really is that simple.”
We need not apologize for defending ourselves, or for having superior technology to do just that. We need not seek out the permission of other nations of the world, or back down in the face of a critical security council or EU resolution.
73 years ago, the State of Israel was founded to keep Jews safe. It’s mission remains the same today, and it must do so with every ounce of its being.
Ask yourself: if the aggressor were Al Qaeda, and rockets were being fired on the United States, would you question the proportionality of such an attack? If 300 rockets were fired at Toronto this evening from North Korea, would you not expect your government to stand up and protect you? This is no different, and every country has the right to defend itself.
If you are confused about what is happening, then Twitter or social media is not necessarily the place to turn. Open a book, read an article from a reputable source, ask questions of friends who may be more knowledgeable about the situation than you, and see out answers. Do not believe everything you read on the internet, and think about the standard to which you wish to hold the Jewish State.
Is Israel perfect? Certainly not, but it sets exceptional standards for itself in times like this, and we must believe that it will do what it can to protect its own.
To Israel’s politicians, its civilian citizenry and those soldiers who will be called up to be put in harm’s way: we pray for your safe and peaceful return home.
When this conflict is settled, and the pandemic is over, I look forward to my first trip abroad being to Israel. I can’t wait to dip my toes in the Mediterranean Sea, to kiss the ancient walls of the Kotel, to enjoy a shawarma on Rothschild Avenue, to breathe the mountain air of the Golan, and see the Negev Desert blooming.
As I grow older, and my children grow older, I come to increasingly understand the role that Israel plays in my life. I stand by it in good and bad, and intend to do so for years to come.
Am Yisrael Chai.