Your entire body cries out for oxygen. Your heart pounds wildly in your chest. Your head is spinning and your eyes struggle to focus on the target. You can barely lift your arms and your legs are glued to the ground. Every second feels like an hour and every fiber of your being aches for the whistle that marks the end of the fight.
A tournament karate match lasts two minutes. One-hundred-twenty seconds of kicks and punches, blocks, fakes and escapes. With total concentration, you must understand the moves of the opponent. All of your abilities and skills, the results of endless hours of training and practice, your physical ability and endurance, your personality and strength – all these are on the line as you face your opponent. All of you versus all of him.
One of the most important lessons I learned during years of practicing karate is the principle of “pouring water over the wall”. This curious-sounding idea is taken from the story of Jerusalem during the Roman blockade. The besieged city was suffering from a severe drinking water shortage, yet the leaders instructed the population to wash their clothes, then throw the washing water over the walls. This seemingly illogical act had a critical purpose – to mislead the Romans into believing that there was no lack of water, and that they could continue their resistance indefinitely.
In a difficult karate match, applying the “pouring water over the wall” principle may tip the scales. Even as your energy is all but depleted, give your opponent the impression that you can keep on fighting as long as necessary to win. At this critical moment, you need to kick harder, block faster and keep your eyes fixed steadily on those of your opponent.
Israel and the Hamas have been locked in combat for the past few weeks. Even though the Israel Defense Forces are superior in terms of numbers and equipment, the Hamas is cleverly exploiting the advantages of guerilla fighting. In this conflict, the IDF is the proverbial Goliath, although in our times, unlike the Bible story, David does not always triumph.
The present conflict has many long-range implications for the State of Israel. It will influence the routines of our lives after the fighting ceases, our economy, the character and structure of our army, and our ability to carry out operations that will change the borders of the country. It will also influence Israel’s external outlook – our deterrence capabilities, the character of future conflicts with other enemies, our status in the world, our ability to attract Jews from the Diaspora, and above all, our chances to survive in the long term in a hostile, heavily armed environment.
We can, and must, regard the coming days as the last seconds in a karate tournament. In spite of the heavy price paid, the difficult burden on the citizens living in the area of conflict, and the discrepancy between our expectations of a swift victory and the actual outcome, Israel needs to rally all of its strength – military and civilian alike – to emerge victorious. We must hit harder, block faster and above all, not flinch.
*This article was written exactly eight years ago, during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, and was published in 2013 in my book “Son of My Land”. The only change made was replacing “Hezbollah” with “Hamas”.