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Responsibility

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

In a press conference this evening Israel’s Prime Minister told Israelis: “I am responsible for each and every one of you and am striving to make the best, most responsible decisions in order to protect all of you.”

I don’t envy him. This is an enormous burden. Israel faces numerous existential threats – one false move and everything can fall apart… Life and death hangs in the balance and it his choices that are the deciding factor.

Agree or disagree with his decisions, the statement Benjamin Netanyahu made tonight, and has made repeatedly in the past, is an admirable statement of responsibility. These are the words of a leader.

The contrast to Mr. Obama is stark. One takes the burden of the lives of an entire nation on his shoulders. The other refuses responsibility, blames others and says: “I didn’t know” and “I heard it in the media, just like you.”

Responsibility is important. Personal responsibility is the difference between a child and a grown up. I think that truly taking responsibility for the lives of your people can be considered the difference between a leader and a politician.

May Israel’s Prime Minister choose wisely. The people of Israel are counting on him now, more than ever.

Is no one listening? Does no one care?

They say what they mean and mean what they say… all you have to do is listen…

This is for all the people that (have and still) pray for miracles for Israel.

Thank you!

Israelis are a very cynical, practical people who tend to trust no one but themselves and yet many (if not most) will tell you that miracles are real.

Israeli actress Gal Gadot lights Shabbat candles  & prays with her daughter for the safety of IDF soldiers & the Nation of Israel

Israeli actress Gal Gadot lights Shabbat candles & prays with her daughter for the safety of IDF soldiers & the Nation of Israel

I think most people around the world tend to think of miracles as something that might have happened in ancient times. Christians tend to imagine miracles as something spectacular – like a bush that burns with flame and yet does not burn to char or a man that can walk on water. Many people picture miracles as spontaneous remission from disease.  

In reality miracles tend to be non-spectacles, most commonly – events that should have occurred and simply didn’t. Yes, I said ‘common’. In Israel we see miracles frequently.

This country is full of ingenuity. The people are brilliant and strong but all too often it seems that we are living on a prayer and surviving by miracles.

The Iron Dome missile defense system, for example, has become famous worldwide for its accuracy and precision. The system detects and calculates the trajectory of missiles aimed at Israel’s civilian population. It knows where the missile will land and when it will hit populated areas (homes, buildings etc.), the system sends out its own missile to explode the incoming missile in the sky, preventing its impact on the ground. The technological wonder of this system is its ability to calculate exactly where the in-coming missile will land which allows the system to ignore and not shoot down missiles that will hit an “open space”. The unexplainable element of this is – how, attacked by thousands of Hamas rockets, did tiny Israel suddenly become full of open spaces?

Hamas fired 3,360 rockets. The Iron Dome intercepted 584. 115 hit populated areas in Israel causing some injuries and extensive property damage. 475 Hamas rockets aimed at Israel landed within the Gaza Strip. The majority of the rockets landed in open spaces. Who knew there was so much “open space” in this tiny, crowded country?

When asked about their inability to cause significant damage to Israel, in spite of launching thousands of rockets at the civilian population, a Hamas terrorist was quoted as saying: “We do aim but their God moves the missiles from their trajectory.”

A more dramatic example of this occurred, according to an Iron Dome battery commander, when his battery failed three times to down an incoming missile headed toward Tel Aviv. The missile was going to hit a major location in Tel Aviv; if it did hundreds could have died. He explained to an Israeli news site:

“We fired the first [interceptor]. It missed. Second [interceptor]. It missed. This is very rare. I was in shock. At this point we had just four seconds until the missile lands. We had already notified emergency services to converge on the target location and had warned of a mass-casualty incident. Suddenly, Iron Dome (which calculates wind speeds, among other things) shows a major wind coming from the east, a strong wind that…sends the missile into the sea. We were all stunned. I stood up and shouted, ‘There is a God!’ I witnessed this miracle with my own eyes. It was not told or reported to me. I saw the hand of God send that missile into the sea.”

Col. Ofer Winter, commander of the Givati Infantry Brigade described an event that sounds taken directly from the bible:

Col. Ofer Winter, commander of the Givati Infantry Brigade

Col. Ofer Winter, commander of the Givati Infantry Brigade

A predawn raid had been delayed, forcing his soldiers to move in the light of the rising sun, making it easier for Hamas to target them and putting them in danger. Suddenly a heavy fog descended from out of nowhere, enveloping the soldiers, concealing their movements and protecting them until their objective was achieved – the fog dissipated only when the soldiers were in a secure position.

Col. Winter was criticized by some of the Israeli left for religious overtones in his military conduct however he dismissed this saying that people who never saw battle could choose not to believe in miracles but those who do are forced to begin to believe.

These events were documented, many others were not. Who is going to write about the things that didn’t happen? The bullets that didn’t hit the soldiers? The RPG’s launched directly at them that somehow missed? The ambushes that were discovered moments before it was too late?

Time and time again IDF soldiers got intelligence that a location they were about to enter was booby trapped with explosives – moments before entering. A friend’s son who fought in Gaza told us of a house he and the soldiers with him had to enter. The entire ceiling was covered in gas balloons rigged to explode. They were meant to cause an explosion that would have incinerated the building and all the soldiers inside but didn’t. The soldiers shouldn’t have made it out alive. But they did.

These are just a few examples. There are many, many, more. Many soldiers would tell you that as they walked in to Gaza God went with them. Many others who do not profess any kind of faith would simply say that they were very lucky…

You can be cynical if it makes you happy but if you are, I am not writing this for you. I am writing this for all the people around the world that prayed for miracles. This is for all the people that prayed, sang, meditated etc. for protection of innocents, for safety, for right to prevail. THANK YOU.

Many horrible things happened in Gaza. Urban warfare against a terrorist organization that uses children, women and handicapped people as human shields is practically impossible. Even so, the IDF completed every task given them, doing everything possible to protect both the people of Israel and the civilians of Gaza from Hamas. Although universally criticized, the truth is that the IDF concern for the innocents on the attacking side is unparalleled. Hamas used their own people as human shields BECAUSE they are very familiar with Israel’s insistence on not hurting innocents. Even with all these challenges our soldiers still managed to fight the terrorists, destroy their attack tunnels and maintain our high moral standards. This too is a kind of miracle.

David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister said: “In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.” I believe in miracles. I think that everyone who prayed, wished and hoped for good, helped create miracles.

Thank you.

Please note that the danger has not passed. This war has taught the jihadists where Israel’s weak-points are and the Israeli government’s decision to leave Hamas leadership intact has emboldened them. Hamas is not the only threat; Hezbollah is in the north and the Islamic State is spreading in our direction…

We need miracles now, possibly more than ever before. Please continue to support Israel in your prayers and in your actions. You can help save lives.

It would take an enormous miracle (or perhaps millions of small ones) to make the world a safe and peaceful place for everyone who is safe and peaceful. Who knows? Miracles do happen. Maybe, together, eventually, we will succeed.

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz evacuating a wounded soldier

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz evacuating a wounded soldier

I recently saw this image making the rounds on social media to underscore the contrast between the IDF leaders who care for and protect their soldiers vs. the Hamas leaders who hide underground (or in Qatar), sending their fighters to attack Israel on suicide missioIDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz evacuating a wounded soldiern while they remain safely away from the battlefield.

Hamas puts weapons in the hands of children and the mentally impaired, sending innocents in to the line of fire while they hide. Hamas feels this is a legitimate way to combat the IDF. Israelis find Hamas behavior towards the innocents of their own society horrifying and disgusting.

The story behind this image is even bigger than the simple comparison of the caring commander in contrast to Hamas.

In the image you can see Israel’s IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz evacuating a wounded soldier. This scene is not from Operation Protective Edge; in fact it happened in 2012. At the time, the Chief of Staff had been onsite, inspecting a routine military training session. Finished, he got in his helicopter and took off for the next task he had to complete. On the radio he heard the soldiers on the ground calling for medical evacuation of one of the participants in the training exercise. The soldier had been injured by shrapnel and needed immediate medical attention.

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz ordered the helicopter to go back, land and pick up the soldier. It wasn’t his job, he had other important places to be, people were waiting for him, people were travelling with him (the Chief of Staff always travels with an entourage) but Benny Gantz knew that because he was so close, he could get the soldier to the hospital faster than anyone else. He also knew that time could be the deciding factor between life and death.  

Gantz’s helicopter isn’t made for carrying the wounded so he ordered some of his entourage to get out, to make room for the soldier.  

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz evacuating a wounded soldier, staying with him until the doctors began treatment

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz evacuating a wounded soldier, staying with him until the doctors began treatment

The Chief of Staff took the soldier to the hospital. Gantz could have turned the soldier over to the hospital staff and gone back to his schedule but he did not. Instead, Gantz helped unload the soldier and stayed with him until he saw that the doctors had begun the necessary medical treatment.

A year later the soldier met the Chief of Staff by chance. Gantz was in the middle of talking to a group of people but when the soldier introduced himself in order to thank him, Gantz remembered him, immediately stopped everything else he was doing, pulling the soldier to the side and questioned him about his health, making sure that he had healed completely and is now ok (he is!).

In Israel there is no such thing as “leading from behind.” Real leaders get their hands dirty. They take responsibility. And most of all – they care.

 

 

 

“So tomorrow we can go see him and hug him” I said. Lenny had woken me up to tell me that Haim had come home from the Gaza.

Haim is the son of one of Lenny’s childhood friends. I’ve known Haim almost a decade. Lenny has known him since infancy. He was always charismatic. Even as a small child. Haim has a friendly charm that makes you smile and an exuberant personality that can’t be ignored. 

He is a paratrooper and was one of the IDF soldiers on the ground in Gaza. Now he had come home.

Haim is just a few years older than Lenny’s sons and because of this Lenny had a visceral reaction to his life being in danger on the frontline. He imagined more vividly than ever before what it will be like to be in the position of a parent trying to go about his daily life, choked with fear for his son’s life. Every news update, every rumor on social media, every phone call and knock on the door could bring life shattering news: your beloved is injured, or worse, dead. You cannot protect your child or take the danger away. You are left behind, waiting, never knowing until the moment he walks back in the door and you can, once again, wrap your arms around him and hold him tight.

We went to see Haim the next day. It is hard to explain in words but it had become really important to look at him, to hug him. Maybe it was a need to see that he would be ok and in one piece. Too many of our soldiers did not come home. Too many came home not whole – arms or legs amputated, eyes damaged, hearing damaged…

Remembering the child, it was startling to see the man standing in front of us. Young but no longer a boy, Gaza had changed him.

Firstborn and the only boy, Haim had always been the delight of his family. Now they all crowded around him, talking, not really knowing what to say… excited. Watching them, it was like I was seeing two different worlds collide. Haim was in the midst of his loving family but he was also alone. None of them could ever know exactly what he went through in Gaza, only the people who were there with him could really understand.

His mother talked about the horrible heat he had to endure, the powder-like sand that got on and in everything, the inability to take a shower or change clothes. These all were certainly bothersome but they were the least of his worries. What is a sore and itching body compared to coming home alive or getting killed?

Even his father, grandfather or other Israeli men wouldn’t understand completely because the tactics used by the Hamas in Gaza are different from what was in previous wars. This was not the battle of soldiers meeting each other on a battlefield it wasn’t even like previously seen urban combat. The enemy hid behind and amongst civilians, sending children and mentally handicapped to shoot and throw grenades at soldiers. Women suicide bombers were sent to explode themselves in order to kill soldiers. Regular homes were weapons caches and launching pads for missiles. The Hamas hid in their tunnels in attempt to ambush to IDF soldiers, to kill and take hostages. Everywhere they went, everything was booby trapped with explosives. Israel gave the Gazans so much advance warning of where the IDF would be focusing their efforts that it became easy for Hamas to prepare explosives in every place they wanted to stop the IDF (tunnel entrances, weapons stores etc.).

Haim told us of bullets flying, RPG rockets aimed at him and his fellow soldiers. He said: “It was like walking in to an American action movie only real.” He told us of how terrorists tried to ambush them via one of their tunnels (as they did when Hadar Goldin, Benaya Sarel and Liel Gidoni were killed). “We stopped them [unlike those who hadn't managed to do so before it was too late],” said Haim. “We killed them.”

Haim said: “Gaza is full of miracles. We experienced lots of miracles.” Most people think of miracles as something spectacular that happens. He was talking about all the things that didn’t happen. The bullets that didn’t hit them. The terrorists that failed in their ambushes.  The explosives, meant to kill them that simply didn’t explode. He told us of the house they had to enter that had the whole ceiling covered in gas balloons rigged to explode. They were meant to cause an explosion that would have incinerated the building and all the soldiers inside but they didn’t. Haim and all the soldiers with him should have been dead. But they weren’t. 

Thank God for miracles!

Haim’s family all had their opinions about the war with Hamas, what should and shouldn’t be done. Haim, the only one who had actually been in Gaza this time around, remained silent. When asked directly he said: “We successfully completed every task given to us. If now we are asked to do more, we will.”

His mother visibly paled at the thought of him having to go back but remained silent. She knew that he had only 48 hours to be at home and that wherever he’ll be sent, it will be dangerous. If he has to go back to Gaza, he will. If not, he will be sent to other, difficult and risky tasks. He will go because it is his turn. In two years Lenny’s sons will also go.

Each soldier has parents, brothers, sisters, wives and children that worry themselves sick each time their beloved is called up. No one wants to go to battle. In Israel it is necessary to do so because the lives of all our people are threatened. We are not protecting political strategic locations overseas. Our soldiers are protecting their own homes, their mothers and fathers, their wives and children.

What does victory mean to you? This image, making the rounds of Israeli social media, clearly shows what we fight for...

What does victory mean to you? This image, making the rounds of Israeli social media, clearly shows what we fight for…

People who hate Israel look at IDF soldiers as brutal tools of an aggressive nation. People who love Israel tend to see the strength of our soldiers. Many know of their morality and decency. Few see the gut wrenching pain of the parents (and wives) who send their beloved to protect the nation, knowing he may never return. Few realize how much we need miracles to bring them back home again…  

How ironic that the Israeli people, widely accused of war-mongering aggression, so deeply desire to see the day when we will no longer have to fight.

 “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there will be peace tomorrow. If Israel puts down her weapons today, tomorrow there will be no Israel.”

I assume that Israeli radio is very similar to broadcasts in other countries. Songs, traffic, discussions about the topics of the day…

I’m pretty sure our radio differs in the amount of news it conveys. Even the mostly music channels have news updates every half hour.

I’m sure there is one thing people never hear in other countries: instructions on what to do if you find yourself outside, driving during a missile bombardment.

Yes, Israel does have the Iron Dome missile defense system. It works very well (aprox 90% success rate) however some missiles do get through. The Iron Dome works by sending another missile to hit and blow up the one aimed at Israeli civilians. This means that even when the system works, the pieces of the exploded missile are in the sky and they have to land someplace. Boiling hot chunks of metal cause damage when they land – they can damage buildings, maim and even kill.

On the radio, the same calm, cheerful voice that announces the “Top of the Pops” and hosts silly contests to give away movie tickets and other small prizes, talks about the traffic. Then the voice smoothly moves in to the explanation:

“and if you hear the air raid siren while you are driving, please stop your car on the side of the road. Stay calm and get out of the car. If you see a building near-by that you can reach in a few seconds, try to get to the building and take cover inside. If you can’t get to a building try to find a wall. If there is no wall, just move away from your car and lie down on the ground with your face down and your hands covering your head. Remember to move away from traffic because someone else might not have heard the siren and they could keep on driving and accidently hit you. Please be careful. Remember to wait 10 minutes before you get up and move on. It is important to wait the full 10 minutes.”

Israelis caught too far from the bomb shelter

Caught on the highway during an air raid siren warning of in-coming missiles, Israeli drivers get out, duck and hope missiles or shrapnel won’t land anywhere close to them

Then the voice moves on, to announce the next song or the next topic to be discussed.

These calm instructions have helped protect countless Israelis. Instructions on how to take cover and what to do when there is no cover have saved lives and prevented injuries. Having these repeated over and over again on the radio is a public service of supreme importance.

(We know what happened to people who didn’t follow the safety instructions…)

It is very good to have these safety instructions on the radio. The fact that they are repeated calmly numerous times helps people remember what to do when they are scared and stressed because their lives are in danger.

The fact that we need these at all is completely insane.
The fact that people think it is ok for Israelis to live like this is insane.
It is not ok.

The threat of these missiles is not “laughable” as many (left-wing) media commentators have claimed.

The fact that Israelis protect themselves does not mean there is no threat to us.

The fact that many Israelis have managed to escape with their lives intact (although their homes were ruined or they were wounded) does not mean that we are living in safety and that it is ok to continue this way.

Why is this so hard for people around the world to understand?

Everyone around the world needs to watch this important documentary by Zvi Yehezkeli and David Deryi. This was created two years ago and in that time, the situation has become more extreme.

I strongly urge everyone who cares about freedom and Western values to show this in their communities. Show this in your church, your synagogue, your school. People need to open their eyes to what is happening around the world.

See what Muslims in Europe have to say about themselves, their goals and their culture. Look how Europe is changing…

It is not about Israel or even about Jews. This is about a clash of civilizations. France, Sweden, Belgium, England… the problem is not “over there”, it is on your doorstep.  If not today, it will be tomorrow.

Listen and learn. 

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