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Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll
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We must determine what went wrong, so we can make it right

If Israel doesn't ask the hard questions now, how will the people in power whose errors led to October 7th avoid them?
Soldiers are seen monitoring surveillance cameras at a command center at the IDF’s Re’im camp in southern Israel, November 5, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
Soldiers are seen monitoring surveillance cameras at a command center at the IDF’s Re’im camp in southern Israel, November 5, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

In Israel, during war, we don’t ask questions. We don’t point fingers. We unite. We fight the enemy. And we save blame for the day after we win.

“Now is not the time” is what everyone says. It is not the time to ask how October 7th happened. It is not the time to ask how our army and government failed to protect our people. It is not the time, and these questions must wait for the days “after.”

That may be a good strategy to prevent infighting, defensiveness, and the weakening of morale, but it’s a terrible strategy if we want to fix what is broken. Especially now, while we are still fighting this war. Especially now, when we know that warnings were ignored. Especially now, that the same people who dismissed intelligence as “fantasy” are still making the decisions.

Because what if what went wrong is still happening, and the things we miscalculated are still being missed? Lives are still on the line and we need eyes wide open.

We must be able to ask questions without descending into chaos. Because we cannot get out of this crisis with the same thinking that got us into it. We must shift now.

Now, while we are still in crisis, we must ask: “How did we let this happen? What did we miss? What did we not do right?”

I say now is exactly the time to ask.

Right now, when we think we cannot, is exactly when we must question, learn, and change.

Perhaps it should only be done at a certain level, by those who make decisions, but those who make decisions must start thinking differently, questioning everything they thought they knew. And they must add new and fresh perspectives to their committees.

Because we know that warnings by young female soldiers were ignored — for months. We know that an insistent female soldier from the elite 8200 unit, who provided intelligence “gold” on Hamas’s preparation for war, was told to stop reporting or face the consequences. But we don’t know why.

Was it sexism? Was it ageism? Was it being convinced beyond all measure that the way we believed things to be was the way they truly were? Was it all of the above? Something else? We need to know, and we need to know now. So we can make sure it never happens again.

NOW is when we must add different perspectives to the institutions manned mainly by those trained in the same ways.
NOW is when we need those willing to ask the hard questions to do so.

NOW while the shock is fresh.
NOW while our soldiers are dying.
NOW when the world hates us.
NOW when 200,000 families are out of their homes.
NOW when the population of Gaza suffers for the acts of the worst of their people.

NOW when we are united and working together.
NOW when we are filled with a spirit of generosity and determination.
NOW when we know the importance of unity over uniformity.

NOW when we are getting things done.

For it is a deeply Jewish value to question. Not only to question, but to argue, to go back and forth, positing all sorts of wild scenarios.

There is a reason the quintessential Jewish text, the Talmud, is made of arguments, opposing viewpoints, various perspectives, and rabbit holes of seemingly bizarre logical twists before it arrives at its conclusions. 

And while the majority rule carries the day, the dismissed arguments were intentionally preserved for millennia. Why?

The answer is in the question. Hearing different perspectives is vital. Listening to ideas other than our own is a must. Arguing seemingly farfetched notions is the only way to be certain that a conclusion is the best one, based on as much information, viewpoints, and creative thought possible. Only then does the majority rule come into play.

The rabbis of the Talmud did not rely only on their own points of view; they knew that they did not have all the information for every case. That is what Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria teaches us, when he said, “I must go and consult with my house.” In the next sentence in the Gemara (Berachot 28a), the text reads, “His wife said to him…”

Though women at the time were not likely to take public roles, their perspectives were valued by many of those who determined policy for the people — and often enough, they were incorporated into the final rulings. Today, we must take care to do the same — even when the women aren’t in positions of decision-making themselves.

Women have proven themselves over and again in this war — when conventional wisdom and business-as-usual tactics led to the worst tragedy for the Jewish people since the Holocaust. It is unconscionable that the young women who warned their higher-ups about this war paid the heaviest price: 15 slaughtered by Hamas, six abducted into Gaza.

While it makes sense that a war cabinet is made of high ranking former IDF officers, we should have learned from the plethora of research and examples that boards and committees, as well as pacts and agreements that having diverse teams and including women in decision-making leads to better decisions that last longer.

Exposure to different perspectives pushes everyone involved to expand their thinking. The discussion, even argument, yields more possible options as courses of action, and that process prevents the powers that be from falling into old routines, which are unlikely to work against an enemy that knows the playbook, and is looking for new ways to hurt us.

EXACTLY NOW is when we must reconsider the way things have been done. 

EXACTLY NOW while the future of this country depends on it, we can’t be afraid to ask questions.

EXACTLY NOW we must come together to think creatively and critically to save our people.

We must find the answers to these questions to ensure that the process that did not prevent October 7th is replaced by a new process that may yield new ways of protecting Israel, and show us a new way forward together.

About the Author
Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll is a writer and an activist. Cofounder of chochmatnashim.org She loves her people enough to call out the nonsense. See her work at skjaskoll.com
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