On November 14, 2012, the IDF launched Operation Pillar of Defense in response
to rocket attacks on Israeli cities by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Ansar al-Sunna
Throughout the short military campaign, the hero was not a
sniper, a fighter pilot or even a decorated general. Instead, the rising star
was the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, which prevented most enemy
missiles from landing in inhabited regions of Israel.
reports from the IDF, Iron Dome had a de facto success rate approaching 85%,
taking into account the rockets the system deemed to have a high probability of
veering toward uninhabited lands or bodies of water. Iron Dome anti-missile
batteries saved lives, preserved property, and made it possible to do without
the deployment of ground troops in Gaza.
Iron Dome, we civilians were
informed, is a remarkably effective and surprisingly straightforward defense
system comprised of three parts – first, a radar unit that detects threats
within a 70 km radius; second, a “Battle Management and Control Truck” that
rapidly processes incoming ballistic data and determines whether to ignore or
block the identified projectile; and third, an “Interceptor Unit,” which
launches an opposing missile programmed to cross paths with the incoming rocket
or artillery shell and then detonate.
Well, actually it’s not quite that
simple. The above is just a best attempt at paraphrasing a promotional brochure
put out by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the company commissioned, back in
2007, to develop Iron Dome. In fact, despite having earned a graduate degree
that required lots of physics courses, I don’t understand the first thing about
Iron Dome. And if you are not a weapons engineer, then most likely you, too,
don’t comprehend how Iron Dome works.
But then, you don’t have to. The
irony here is that absolutely no hi-tech background was required of Israel’s
citizens. What was needed was a low-tech item called “faith.”
citizens had to have faith that Iron Dome could do its job. They had to have
faith in the warnings issued by the Homefront Command telling them to enter
their bomb shelters and reinforced rooms when air raid sirens were heard. While
developing faith in Iron Dome, Israelis seemed also to renew their faith in
themselves, in each other, and maybe even in God.
There are many
scenarios in life where the ability to trust constitutes an indispensable skill.
While I may be clueless about Iron Dome, I see that same dynamic of trust on the
familiar turf of the oncology department that I oversee, where cancer patients
develop trust in the experts charged with helping them.
For the past
decade, the modern discipline of oncology has progressed dramatically thanks to
revolutions in molecular biology, diagnostic imaging and radiation techniques.
Many patients are bewildered by those advances. Even most physicians can do no
more than speculate on the scientific underpinnings of some recent successes in
combating malignant disease.
It would be folly, however, to decline
curative therapies because scientific rationale has not caught up with empirical
results. It would be tragic to behold a patient forgoing effective treatment
because a doctor is at loss to explain how a new drug functions or because the
patient cannot grasp the complexity of the science.
In a recently
published study of more than 700 women treated for breast cancer at the
University of Illinois, investigators found that women who trusted their
physicians and medical team were more likely to be satisfied with the treatments
they received than were those who felt skeptical of the medical system. As a
result, the trusting patients were more inclined to adhere to therapeutic
recommendations. Does that bring about higher rates of survival? Even though
intuition is generally not methodologically provable, my gut answer is
In an age where information is so readily accessible, we are
conditioned to seek the facts that will supposedly empower us in times of
crisis, such as during war or life-threatening illness.
however, the quest for knowledge can be counterproductive.
The time we
spend trying to satisfy our craving for data may cost us our opportunity to
benefit from help.
Living through the challenges of either national or
personal peril may convince us that a power greater than logic or reason exists
– a power called faith. Experience may lead us to agree that, as Mitch Albom
concludes in his book, Have A Little Faith, “profound comfort is readily
achievable by believing in something bigger than ourselves.”
an MD, is chairman of the Institute of Radiotherapy at Tel Aviv Medical Center
and co-founder of the NGO Life’s Door. His blog (“52”) is hosted on Jpost.com