Soon another of our children will, God willing, join the IDF, which will make it three who have volunteered for the first Jewish army in 2,000 years. We, of course, always pray for their safety.
A few years ago, after spending Passover in Israel with my family, I brought my eldest son close to me and placed my hands on his head. We had traveled to Israel to spend the holiday with him because the IDF, where he was a soldier, would not allow him leave the country.
It was amazing for our family to spend a full week together when most of the time we get 10 minutes to speak to him on the phone from the field or his base.
Knowing he was returning to the Golan Heights, I invoked God’s blessing upon him: “May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord turn his light toward you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord shine his countenance upon you and grant you peace.”
I reminded my son that hassidim never say goodbye because they are constantly in the process of meeting. It was much harder for his mother to say goodbye to her son and see him off in his olive green uniform.
But as he departed, I grabbed him by the shoulders and said to him, “There are three levels in devotion to a cause. The first is, God forbid, to die for a cause: Martyrdom. The Jewish people have had way too much of that already. You must stay as far from that as the sun is from Pluto. The second, much higher level, is to live for a cause. But the third, and the highest, is not just to live but to fight for a cause. And you are a part of it.”
A new kind of Jew is now inhabiting the earth. It is the Jew who is fed up with being subjected to a hatred he has never earned and malice he does not deserve. It is the Jew who knows he has done nothing to warrant the world’s enmity. It is the Jew who knows he killed no one’s God, stole no one’s land, poisoned no one’s wells, drank no child’s blood and is the victim, rather than the perpetrator, of genocide.
For too long, we Jews were given no choice but to develop a surrender mentality. Even religious Jews felt prey to that erroneous feeling. If six million Jews die, it must be because we were sinful. We didn’t observe the Sabbath. We intermarried. God punished us.
If Israel is hated around the world, it must be because it’s doing something wrong. It’s occupying another people. It stole the land from the Arabs, making them pay for Jewish suffering in the holocaust by colonizing a darker skinned people. And if Jews are blown up on buses or stabbed in the streets of Tel Aviv, it’s because of the West Bank settlement policy.
When he was secretary of state, John Kerry said as much himself, as did Peter Beinart in a live debate he and I had in Tel Aviv. But we dare never remain passive. Our organization, The World Values Network, pummeled Kerry in a full page ad, demanding he stop justifying terrorism against Israelis. We exposed Peter for the lie that Israelis die because of Jewish olive groves in Betar.
In 2017, I published my book The Israel Warrior, invoking all of us to take a new path toward Jewish identity. Each of us must become an Israel warrior now. When six million Jews die, the Israel warrior shakes the foundation of the heavens, demanding divine justice. We ask God how he could have allowed such horrors.
We are guilty of no sin. We Jews are the most faithful nation in history, having held on to our God through torture, holocaust and inquisition. We deserve long lives and we demand that the God of Israel protect us.
When Jews, living peacefully in their ancient homeland, are targeted for murder, the Israel warrior builds a defensive army to protect life. Yes, I know, it was the Jewish people who gave the world the notion of peace. I am well aware Judaism says that peace, not war, is life’s highest value and that God’s very name is peace.
But, as King Solomon said so wisely in Ecclesiastes, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven... a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.”
HERE WE are, just 77 years after the crematoria were silenced, and we must declare that so long as Iran is allowed to threaten the Jewish people with annihilation, there can be no peace.
So long as Hamas fires rockets at Jewish nurseries, the Palestinian Authority incites its citizens to stab pregnant Israeli women on the streets of Jerusalem, and as long as BDS calls for the economic destruction of the Jewish state on the world’s college campuses, there can be no peace. We uphold life, we cherish life, and when we’re forced to, we fight for life.
Throughout the world, there is a global onslaught against the Jewish people. Israel, the Middle East’s only democracy, has remarkably become the single most hated country on Earth. The Israel Warrior takes no pride in having to fight. He, like King David before him, prefers a harp and lyre to a sword and shield. He, like the Maccabees before him, prefers to light candles to dispel the darkness then fling arrows at invading Greek armies.
The Israel warrior does not today and has never in the past, erected a monument to a military victory, the way that Rome did with Titus’s and Constantine’s arch.
But, for all his reluctance to fight or revel in the glory of combat, the Israel warrior will not shirk from a battle that is imposed on him. He will fight back. Jews will not glorify martyrdom. We will never forget the six million. But, we are equally dedicated to ensuring that “Never Again” is more than just a slogan.
I showed Samantha Power, the American ambassador to the UN under president Obama and today the head of USAID, that her famous advocacy for R2P, Responsibility to Protect, to fight against every genocide, has its foundation not in the Christian New Testament, which encourages a love for one’s enemies, but in the Hebrew Bible, specifically in Leviticus where it states clearly, “Thou shalt not stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor,” (Leviticus 19:16).
I have been to the Golan Heights and the Valley of Tears several times with Israel’s greatest living war hero, Avigdor Kahalani, who led the fight in the Yom Kippur War in one of the greatest tank battles in human history.
The War broke out at 2 p.m., Israel time, on Judaism’s holiest day. 400 Syrian tanks faced 40 Israeli tanks in his sector alone. Kahalani summoned his soldiers and told them they are the only obstacle standing in the way of Syria taking over all of northern Israel. Then, before he left, he told them, “You must eat, you must break your fast,” and with that he took a bite of an apple. Because in Judaism, everything falls before the value of human life.
Most of the men he spoke to would be dead 48 hours later. But Israel, through their sacrifice, would live. Today, we pray to God for an end to Jewish martyrdom and the emergence of the Biblical promise of eternal peace.
The writer, “America’s rabbi,” is the international best-selling author of 30 books, winner of The London Times Preacher of the Year Competition and recipient of the American Jewish Press Association’s Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary. He is the author of The Israel Warrior. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @RabbiShmuley.