Six months ago, I attended a family wedding in Israel. I was approached by one of my younger cousins, a man in his early 30s. Y is a father of four, handsome, fit, with blue eyes and red hair. The Israelis call redheads “gingi.” He wears a knit kippah and you can see a couple of white tassels from the undergarment required of religious men peeking from beneath his dress shirt. The knit kippah, called kippah sruga in Hebrew, signifies that he is religiously observant but not extreme, not haredi.
He wanted to talk to me, he said, “Because I know you write things and tell American Jews the truth about Israel.” Y had a story to tell. “You know I was in a tank in Gaza [in 2014). We had intelligence that in a certain building, on a certain floor, there was an apartment with Hamas commanders and weapons’ storage. We had orders to fire on that apartment. We aimed the gun and looked up.”
They saw the window curtain flicker so they held their fire and waited. Again, there was motion at the window. Then, a child, a young boy held the curtain back and looked down onto the street. “’We told our commander we can’t do it. There’s a kid up there.’ Do American people know that if we see something we don’t like, we can disobey an order? We must disobey an order-that is our Code.”
Israeli soldiers are governed by a Code of Ethics that is taken very seriously. They are required to carry it with them, at all times – just as they carry their weapons at all times – in the pocket of their uniforms that is above their hearts. What my cousin was telling me appears in Number 7 (Discipline) of the Code:
While soldiers are expected to carry out their orders “…with understanding and dedication… They will take care to issue only legal orders, and disavow manifestly illegal orders.” (emphasis mine)
In 2014, Israel was forced to defend itself as a result of “…thousands of rockets and mortar attacks against its civilian population, with some Israeli areas targeted that had three times the population density of Gaza.” A study of the IDF’s behavior in this conflict concluded, “Though the images of the moment may have reflected massive damage in Gaza, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, announced …‘that Israel had gone to “extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and prevent civilian casualties in the Gaza conflict.’”
Compare and Contrast
The Jerusalem Post published a conversation between a Hamas terrorist and his parents following his massacre of Israelis in Mefalsim, southern Israel on October 7. Here is the transcript:
TERRORIST: Hello dad. Dad I am inside Mefalsim. Open your WhatsApp right now, and see all the killed. Look at how many I killed with my own hands, your son killed Jews.
FATHER: Allahu Akhbar, Allahu Akhbar. May God protect you.
TERRORIST: This is inside Mefalsim, father. I am talking to you from the phone of a Jew, I killed her and her husband, I killed ten with my own hands.
FATHER: Allahu Akhbar.
TERRORIST: Open your phone and see how many I killed, father. Open your phone, I am calling you on WhatsApp.
FATHER: Crying (unintelligible).
TERRORIST: I am in Meflasim, father. I killed ten. Ten! Ten with my own bare hands. Their blood is on my hands, let me talk to Mom.
MOTHER: Oh, my son, may God protect you.
TERRORIST: I killed ten all by myself, mother.
FATHER: May God bring you home safely.
TERRORIST: Father, go back to WhatsApp! I want to call you live from Mefalsim.
MOTHER: I wish I was there with you.
TERRORIST: Mother, your son is a hero. I was the first to enter under the guidance and with the help of Allah. Father, lift your head, lift your head. (Talking to terrorists on the scene: Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill them! Inside, inside, into the city.)
BROTHER: Mahmoud, Mahmoud. Come back [to Gaza], that’s enough, return.
TERRORIST: Return? There is no return, it is victory or martyrdom. My mother gave birth to me for Islam, Alaa. Are you serious, how will I return? Look at WhatsApp, look at your phone, look at all the killed.
My cousin, who is again at the front with his tankmates, as well as his brother and a cousin, will not be gleeful and celebratory when he kills Gazans in order to protect his family and homeland. I fully expect he and most of the IDF will be severely traumatized, not merely by the danger to their lives but because of the sacrifice of their souls.
Jews are taught it is not a triumph to kill other human beings. We are told that Moses exhorted our people, “…I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse: therefore choose life, that both and your offspring may live…” Deuteronomy 30:19.
On Monday, October 9, Rabbi Daniel Gordis wrote in his email, “Israel From The Inside,” “Do not ever again, ever, distinguish between Gazans and Hamas. This was the bloodthirstiness not of the leaders, who of course stayed home and hidden, but of the masses. Of the teenagers, and the men in their twenties, and their thirties, and their forties, who came to kill. And to torch. And to maim. And to sing-yes-literally to sing, as survivors are reporting-as they were doing the butchering.”
And I will add, because now we know what Gordis did not know at the time of his writing, the beheading of infants and kidnapping living babies, some still nursing, to tunnels in Gaza. I think Gordis rightly places the responsibility for this barbaric massacre on those who conducted it and did so joyously.
Do I feel sympathy for the ordinary Gazans who live in a hell fashioned by their cruel leaders? I do indeed, but I worry about the next generations raised to hate Jews and Israelis.
I recently saw a photo of something I’d forgotten. During the last intifada, Palestinians were sending children wearing suicide vests into Israel to blow themselves up. They were training their own kids to become shaheeds. Maybe some of the rapists and murderers who entered Israel’s kibbutzim were once such children.
Remember all this when the world turns its back on Israel.