Thursday, July 24, 2014

DAN GORDON, IDF: We’re, all of us, from the same village

http://www.vnews.com/news/nation/world/12841969-95/death-toll-darkens-israeli-mood
I spend the night last night with the family I met the day before. The ones I wrote about in an article called “Why We Fight”. I met them yesterday and when I see them today I’m greeted not like the stranger who knocked on the wrong door and found the right people, which is what happened yesterday.  Today I’m family. Not just family, beloved family. And I’m not alone either. All the soldiers for whom they’ve set up cots in their front yard are family too. The twenty some odd soldiers they let in to their home to take showers in their bathroom; they’re family too. Today I finally meet the father. We’ll call him Menashe. He’s in his mid-fifties,  and he still does reserves. He’s a sergeant major.

“ 
Sargent major in the army,“ he says, “ Sargent major at home.”

And what does a sergeant major in the Israeli army do?

First and foremost he takes care of his guys.

And that’s just what Menashe does. He makes sure they have mattresses, towels, he makes sure they get the care packages that total strangers have made up and simply dropped off at this little farming village” For the boys”. And now he’s making felafels ….for everybody. Twenty soldiers…twenty five, thirty. I don’t know. Mama Rachel is making them with him and she calls up her own reserve troops, her sons. The whole family is preparing felafel’s….for strangers who happen to be wearing uniforms and carrying weapons and would, and well may, lay down their lives for Rachel and Menashe and their family. Because just out there a few hundred meters away was the tunnel exit where the terrorists popped up yesterday. The war is on their front lawn so they’ve opened up their homes and their hearts to these boys who know exactly what they’re fighting for.

They’re fighting for THEIR homes as well…as if all Israel is one family, one home, one village.

But “ I think to myself, “ That’s probably because we’re on the border and the war really is on their front lawn.

One of the sons insists I sleep in his bed.

No way.” I say, “Not going to happen”.

Listen” he says, I sleep in the shelter , the re-enforced room, anyway, since the whole thing started. So either way the bed is empty. It’s yours.”

I don’t even know his name.

I don’t think he knows mine. I’m just that guy who knocked on the wrong door yesterday and wrote the article his mother didn’t want to be interviewed for because she was making pizza.

And it’s not just Mama Rachel and Abba Menashe who have opened up their homes and hearts. The whole village has. They’re throwing a concert for the troops in their school building. R and R for the “boys and girls”  while the sounds of rockets, mortar and machine gun fire filter in from the battle field that is only a few kilometers away.

They’re not fighting in Afghanistan. Israel is fighting on its front lawn.

I’m up early the next morning. I only get a chance to say good bye to one of the sons, but we hug and part like brothers. Because after all, we’re family now.

There are nostalgic songs on the radio, as I drive North. Songs of my generation and earlier ones. Soldiers' songs. Songs of comrades in arms and mothers waiting to welcome their sons home on Shabbat, promising to be waiting at the door for their return, lover’s songs, promising to be waiting as well, and a song that everyone knows called” We are Both From The Same Village” though the music of the words is much sweeter in Hebrew. The melody is sweet and sad and the words tell of two friends who grew up in the same village, chased the same girls, made out with them on the village green, went into the army together, came home on Shabbat together, went into battle together and now only one returns…to mourn the other.

I have to leave early because I’m driving “Up North” to the kibbutz where I was partly raised. It’s a small village, a few hundred people, where, as the saying used to go "everyone knows what color underwear you wear.”

Everyone’s nose in in each other’s business, for better and for worse.

It’s where I went to high school fifty years ago, and like the song says, kissed girls on the village green, where I was “adopted” by a family who became as much my parents as my biological family, where I went into the army, and where they welcomed me home each time I came back on leave as one of their sons, where I married, and where my son, Zaki, of blessed memory, was born; a ben meshek, a son of the village
Parents' worse nightmare: Evie Steinberg, mother of Sgt. Max Steinberg sits in an army vehicle in front of the coffin of her son
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2703059/Tell-mom-I-love-Heartbreaking-words-American-lone-soldier-killed-fighting-Gaza-Strip-30-000-mourners-attend-funeral-Jerusalem.html
He was born within a few months of my classmates’ children, because after the Yom Kippur War we all got married, all had kids, all at the same time, a biological response of the species because our friends, from that village, had been killed in battle. The friends of my youth are buried in the cemetery above our village, in the forest where I used to make out with girl friends on full moon nights  with a million stars above our heads, and a million plans, noble ideas and stupid ones, fantasies  and the what ifs  of a village youth.

As is always the case when I come to Ginnegar, the name of the kibbutz where I grew to manhood, I am coming home.

But not with any joy. Not for any planned or impromptu reunion with classmates who have been my best friends for half a century, who married when I did, had kids when I did, and now have gone grey as we all have.

I’m coming home for the funeral of Shachar Dauber, staff sergeant, paratrooper…twenty years old.

I don’t know him. Don’t think I ever even saw him. Nor do I know his parents who came to Ginnegar after I had already left to return to LA to become a screenwriter.

But we’re both from the same village.

The funeral is supposed to start at 11:00. I’m running late because I’ve come all the way up north from the border with Gaza and now I’m stuck in traffic. “This is absurd” I think, “There’s never any traffic on this road and now today of all days, I’m stuck in traffic a few miles away from Ginnegar. Probably a fender bender. I hope that’s all it is.”

Israelis are notoriously bad drivers. My “adopted brother” Ron was killed in a car accident at sixteen. He would be one year shy of his sixtieth birthday if he had lived. He’d be a senior citizen. Instead he is eternally sixteen, just as my boy, who would have been approaching middle age by now, is forever twenty two.

"
What is with this traffic? “And then I realize, the traffic is headed to Ginnegar. The traffic is for the funeral.


But not just traffic. There are thousands of people coming here. Thousands!! This boy couldn’t have known all these people. It’s unending. And when I finally make the turn into the kibbutz, they’ve rented busses to take people up to the cemetery because …there are thousands .

How could a twenty year old possibly know so many people?

He couldn’t have known all these people.

I don’t know any of them and this is my village, my home.

We go up to the cemetery. I put stones on the graves of my adopted father, Chanan, my adopted mother Miriam, and my adopted brother, Ron. Over there is the grave of my favorite teacher and high school counselor. Here, the grave of a childhood friend, there the grave an old guy we always made fun of. I know more people below ground than above in this crowd of thousands.

Shachar's classmates eulogize him and they tell stories about him that my classmates and I could have told about each other fifty years ago. Stories about impromptu picnics in the forest, where now he will dwell, forever a youth of twenty years; stories of girls and village greens, of full mooned nights, of a million stars, and a million noble ideas, and stupid ones, fantasies, and the what ifs of a village youth.

Boys and girls, men and women, soldiers cry openly unashamed and comforting each other.

I see two of my best friends in life Chaim and Dani. We’re all grandfathers now. We hug and kiss each other, ask about children and grandkids, but i can’t stay long. I have to drive halfway down to the middle of the country, though we call it “going up” because I’m going up to Jerusalem.

I’m going to pay a condolence call to the family of Max Steinberg, sergeant, Golani Brigade, twenty four years old. Originally from Los Angeles, the other place I grew up.

I’m going because he was a “lone soldier” which is the term for a soldier without any real family in Israel. I was a “lone soldier.”  I suppose, if a sixty seven year old reservist can qualify for that term, it’s what I am today, a “lone soldier” with no blood relatives, or “ adopted” ones  still alive in Israel. And Max Steinberg was not just from LA. He lived about fifteen minutes away from where I raised my kids in LA. He went to El Camino High School where my college Sweetheart and the great love of my youth was a teacher till she retired a few years ago. I’m thinking, she was probably his teacher as well. I know what it is to lose a son. I want to say a few words of comfort to his parents, who are doing the seven days of mourning at a hotel in Jerusalem.

When word got out that Max Steinberg was a “ lone soldier” with no family in Israel, thirty thousand people turned up to his funeral to accompany him on his final journey on this earth and to stand with him and his family. THIRTY THOUSAND PEOPLE for a soldier who was supposedly ”alone”.

It has been several days since the funeral. People have probably already forgotten, moved on and, I think to myself , it will be good to comfort his parents. I know what they must be feeling. Been there. Done that. I get to the hotel and ask what room the Steinberg family is in so I can go up and pay a condolence call while they’re sitting Shiva, in the period of mourning.

It’s not in their room” the front desk clerk tells me," it’s one floor down, in the ball room.”

And when I go down stairs there are hundreds of people, perhaps as many as a thousand.

I talk to some of them. They came from all walks of life, and none of them knew him.

There are a lot of young soldiers.

I figure they must be from his unit, his pals, but they’re air borne and from other units, No, none of them knew him either.

They were just from the same village. Israel.

Turns out, as I learned with Rachel and Menashe and the people of their village, as I learned in Ginnegar and in Jerusalem, as the thirty thousand people learned at Max Steinberg’s funeral, there are no “lone soldiers” in Israel.

And as can be the case with the internet today, if you’re a Palestinian from Gaza reading this, I want you to know, that no one passed out candy to celebrate either of these boys’ martyrdom. Their parents didn’t celebrate because they had fulfilled the promise of becoming shaheed or martyr. No one expected seventy two virgins to greet them. There was no joyous trilling of tongues nor shots fired wildly into the air.

And something else as well. In both gatherings, amongst those thousands of people, many of them soldiers, on leave from the battle with Hamas, to which we will all return in a few hours time, I heard not one word of hatred toward you, not one racist expression, not one vow to avenge these deaths, not one, not one.

After the 2009 and 2012 campaigns in response to the rockets launched by Hamas against Israel, the Hamas leaders, Ismail Haniyah and Khaled Mashal both talked about the humanitarian disaster in Gaza. Never mind that they brought it about with wars of their making. They talked about the destruction and the “blockade”. Never mind that the “blockade” of Gaza was a non-lethal measure Israel took INSTEAD of going to war, hoping it would stem the terrorist attacks against us. Never mind that there was no blockade of Gaza when we turned it over to the Palestinian Authority, whose men Hamas machine gunned to death in the blood thirsty coup that brought them to power. Never mind that the blockade came in response to the terrorist attacks against us, not the other way around.

Khaled Mashal turned to the world’s media and said that Israel had to be made to allow building materials to come into Gaza, cement and steel, to rebuild the buildings Israel had bombed. How could the Zionists object to that?. You can’t use cement and steel to make a rocket, they said. You can only use it to rebuild what the Zionists so cruelly destroyed. And so the West opened its pocket book and bought the cement and steel and Israel let it go through.

So let me ask you, if you’re reading this in Gaza, did Hamas use it to build you new schools and hospitals, community centers or parks?

No. We both know now what that cement and steel was used for; it was used to build the terrorist tunnels meant to murder us.

What did you get out of it.?

What did you get out of the billions spent on rockets and mortars and homicide tunnels?

I know what we got out of Iron Dome. We got a defense system that saved lives.

What did you get.?

I know why our boys died.

They died defending our country, our homes, our village.

But what did your boys die for?

We accepted a cease fire.  It was Hamas that not only turned it down, but then launched a terrorist tunnel attack against Rachel and Menashe’s village and dozens of others along the border.

It was to be Hamas and Khaled Mashal’s shock and awe.

After that, how could we not go in to deal with the terrorist tunnels? How could any country not commit its armed forces to remove that kind of murderous threat from it’s civilian population?

So what did your boys die for?

It was all so unnecessary. We had agreed to the cease fire .

We wanted to start a cycle of peace. Hamas initiated a cycle of death.

And what did you get out of it. ?

Khaled Mashal said yesterday that there would be no cease fire, that he and the leadership of Hamas would die to lift the siege.

But there was no siege till Khaled and company announced their intentions to kill us all, and launched the rocket attacks to do it.

And Khaled Mashsal made his brave comments from Qatar.

Last time I looked there were no Israeli soldiers in Qatar.

He’s in a five star hotel getting spa treatments,  while you eat the dust of Gaza.

I promise you, on the soul of my son Zaki, of Blessed memory, and on the souls of all the fallen, we don’t hate you.

We don’t wish you ill.

We want you to live peaceful, long, joyous lives. We want your children not to be martyrs, but to marry, have children, give you the joy of grandchildren and wedding feasts, not funerals.

We just want you to stop trying to kill us.

Until then we’ll complete the mission of dealing with the tunnels, degrading Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure and allowing our people to live the kind of tranquil lives we wish for you.

We know you’re suffering. We know you’re under Hamas’s gun.

And we know we’re, all of us,  from the same village

We pray for the day when you know it as well.

Dan Gordon
Capt. IDF (Res(

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

DAN GORDON, IDF: Pizza, shelter and gratitude. When your front porch is the front

Golan
A dear friend of mine, Vicki, is married to my high school classmate who has been one of my best friends since I was a kid in Israel fifty years ago. She knows I’m “down South” in the war zone. So is her son Benji who serves as a medic in the Homefront command. She said, " Listen, if you want a shower or a chance to rest or a hot meal or even someone to wash your uniform, I have a dear friend in one of the border communities. She and her family have opened up their home to any soldiers in the area. And check with Benji and give him a ride down there too if he wants a break. So I check with Benji, but he’s not getting any breaks today, not with the amount of rockets Hamas is launching against our civilians. He’s on constant alert. But I’m not that important. If I want a break I can take it. I’d kill to stretch out on a mattress right now and take a nap. I smell a bit ripe because one tends to sweat a tad in a flack jacket. I’d love a shower and a change of uniform. So absolutely, I’m headed down to see her friend. Let’s call her Rachel. Not her real name because she asked me not to use it. So I plug the name of the community into the GPS and I’m off .   
And the closer I get the louder the sounds of war and the more I have to pull off to the side of the road and take cover from the rocket attacks.The rockets don’t bother me as much as the mortars because there’s no warning with a mortar round. No siren, no Code Red alert on the radio , no phone app that says watch out you might just get killed if you don’t take cover in the next fifteen seconds. Besides the closer I get the less time there is to take cover. Fifteen seconds is going to seem like a life time in a few more kilometers.
Now understand, I’m a former kibbutznik. I know what a little agricultural village looks like. But reality begins to change the closer I get. The MPs have closed the road leading to this little community and the dozens of others down here. Only residents and military personal can get through. But I’m in Uniform and flak jacket and show my officer’s I.D. and they wave me through, assuming obviously, I must be a fighter, a warrior on his way to take up his position on the front. In reality I’m a lazy so and so who wants a shower, a free meal and a cot..

But when I get to this little community the thing that assaults your senses first are the sounds of battle. Its deafening and constant. Because this is where the war is. It’s not in Afghanistan or Bosnia or anywhere else far away. It’s not even like the wars of my youth in Sinai or the Golan Heights.
 
It’s right here! It’s in their front yard. I don’t mean their metaphorical front years. I mean the front yard they water. Soldiers, and not any soldiers, not sad sack, rear echelon guys someone gave a weapon to, and said go stand guard at that latrine, type soldiers. I mean elite combat soldiers in full battle gear. I mean as good as it gets soldiers, weapons at the ready, helmets, flack jackets, locked and loaded soldiers. Except this isn’t an army base or some battlefield “somewhere” else, anywhere else but here, in these peoples’ front yard. 
And the closer I get the louder the sounds of war and the more I have to pull off to the side of the road and take cover from the rocket attacks.The rockets don’t bother me as much as the mortars because there’s no warning with a mortar round. No siren, no Code Red alert on the radio , no phone app that says watch out you might just get killed if you don’t take cover in the next fifteen seconds. Besides the closer I get the less time there is to take cover. Fifteen seconds is going to seem like a life time in a few more kilometers. 
I ask directions to Rachel’s house and get there and it’s locked. She’s not there. I go next door.  Maybe I have the wrong house. This looks like the right one because someone has set up cots on the front porch. They’ve even put a tv outside . I’m already eyeing the cot I mean to sleep on. I knock on the door and a big hearted woman with a smile that could light up the world comes to the door. “ I’m making the pizzas “ she says, “ But they’re not ready yet.”
“ I’m Vicki’s friend” I say. “ She said if I was in the area..”

“What Vicki?” she says.

OK I must have the wrong house . “ I’m looking for Rachel” I say

“I’m Rachel “ she says.

“ But you don’t know Vicki?”

“You must want the other Rachel. She lives next door.”

“ Oh“ I say, “She’s not home”

“Okay,“ She says, “So come on in. Sit down , rest. The pizzas will be ready soon. You want something to eat?”

This woman doesn’t know me from Adam, but I’m a soldier, so now I’m quite simply family, even though I have the wrong house, I have the right one.

The house smells of all good things . Onions and mushrooms being sautéed for the pizza, the aroma of coffee, dough beginning to bake like fresh bread in the oven.

It smells like home.

But it sounds like war.

Artillery , tank fire, small arms fire, rockets and mortars . 'How can it sound like war?" I think," She’s making pizza. She has kids and two dogs, and vegemite, if somebody ever wanted anything like that. But it’s a home, a normal home. Except there’s a war going on not miles away but a few thousand yards away.."

She introduces me to her daughter and son, two of four or five kids she has. The daughter is 30 and a beauty, in that feisty, friendly, farm girl way. The son is a teenager, tall, handsome kid, very much being the man of the house while the father is away. In addition to the pizza and the onions and mushrooms being sautéed, I smell something else. I smell a story. I explain who I am, what I’m doing, and ask if I can interview her and her son and daughter about what it’s like to live literally in a war zone, under constant fire and threat of being killed.

“I don’t want to be interviewed” she says.

The daughter says, “Come on Imma (Mom), it’s a chance to unload, to say what’s in your heart.”

“I’m not unloading anything. I’m making pizza”

Just then on the t.v. there is a some kind of an app. It shows that rockets have just hit a few miles down the road.

“Imma,“ the son says, again, being the man looking after his mother and older sister, “ They’re coming our way.”

The mother glances at the t.v.. Then she looks at her stove as if to see if there’s anything that needs attending to before the rockets begin to fall. I turn to the daughter. “What’s it like living like this?"

And the flood gates open up. I’m just someone to talk to right now. Someone whom she can tell what it’s like. The words come out staccato, pouring out of her, as if she can’t speak quickly enough to keep up with the emotion driving each word. ”What’s it like? It’s constant.”

“We haven’t slept in two weeks” the mother says, and I know i won’t have to ask another question of anyone. All I’ll have to do is listen, “I don’t know how we function . I don’t know what day it is. “

“It hurts your ears.” The daughter says, “when we’re in the reinforced room and the rocket hits, it changes the pressure or something, the shock waves, it hurts your ear drums.”

“I’ve already lost some of my hearing “ The mother says, “In this ear. I can’t hear well any more.”

Just then the code red alert sounds. We don’t have fifteen seconds here. We have five seconds. That’s it. There isn’t a bomb shelter outside because you’d never get to it in time. There’s a reinforced concrete room with an iron door.
The mother moves quickly to the front door and shouts to the soldiers who are outside like a mother hen “ Boys! “ She shouts,  Get in the shelter. Now!”
An Israeli safe room, http://talkingnow.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/safe.jpg
Nobody messes with Mama Rachel and no one has to be asked twice. This isn’t like it is even ten kilometers away where people walk a little slower. Here it’s five seconds. Suddenly the tiny reinforced room is packed with soldiers, each with his weapon, combat slung across his shoulder. People are laughing that it interrupted a good joke someone was telling. It’s the bravado of the bomb shelter and then the building shakes and the sound is deafening and the shock wave or change in air pressure or whatever it is whacks your ear drums. One rocket, two  and then another one, all of them close. Then there’s the all clear.

“The pizzas will be ready in a few minutes “ Mama Rachel says, patting some of her olive drab, machine gun wearing baby chicks as they go back to their posts..

“That’s what it’s like,“ says the daughter, “and it never ends.

The son, a teenager, says, “It’s all I’ve known my whole life. Rockets falling. Mortars”

“Thirteen years! “ says the daughter, “ What country in the world would put up with that? Thirteen years of rocket attacks? Would the Americans let that happen to I don’t know, San Diego, New York?…Texas? For thirteen years? Would France put up with that? Would England? What do you think Putin would do? And we’re supposed to “show restraint.” Show restraint?! How much more restrained can we be?! For thirteen years we’ve been under attack! Even after the last two operations in 2009 and 2012, when there was supposedly a ceasefire.”

“What ceasefire?! “ the mother says,"Every month Hamas would fire a rocket here, a rocket there, ten rockets , twenty in a month….”

“And Israel said, well it’s only a few rockets a week, so we can’t react to that!”says the son.’

“A few rockets a week?! Is the whole world insane?!” The daughter says,not to me, not to anyone. To God maybe." Are they all crazy?! Listen to that, only a few rockets a week and for them that’s normal! That’s how we’re supposed to live! Only a few rockets a week!  Only what they call a drizzle of rockets! And we were restrained. We didn’t do anything because after all it’s only a few rockets! And I don’t even care about the rockets! But the tunnels , now! The terrorist tunnels. Right out there!”
 
She points to her front door, “ Right out there! 
This family’s war is literally a few hundred meters away.
Read that one again.

I didn’t say it was a few hundred miles away. Like, say you lived in LA ,and the war was in Las Vegas.

I didn’t say it was a few hundred kilometers away. Like, say you lived in New York, and it was  at the other end of New Jersey.

I didn’t even say it was a mile away.

The war they face and have faced almost constantly for thirteen years is about two thousand meters, as the rocket flies, from their front door. At least that’s the distance away from their front door that it was up until a few days ago when the first thirteen terrorists popped up like zombies from graves opening up on their FRONT LAWN! Except these weren’t Zombies on a cable TV series. There’s no way to switch channels on this one. These were terrorists, armed to the teeth with anti tank missiles, machine guns , grenades, handcuffs, tranquilizers, all bent on murdering, maiming,kidnapping and taking hostage as many of them and their children as possible.

Imagine if Afghanistan wasn’t in Afghanistan. Imagine if it was on your front porch.

That’s their reality.

That’s where the war is.

Quite literally in their front yard.
“You know what happened here today?” the son says.
“They tried to attack again. The terrorists.” The daughter says,"They came up out of a tunnel that just opened up in the ground. The army got some of them but then said that two were still on the loose so they tell you to go into the fortified room and lock the door.” 
You have gophers who come up out of holes and eat your petunias, let’s say?

They have Hamas terrorists who come up out of sophisticated tunnels, some of them built, by the way with YOUR TAX DOLLARS!
“Do you have any weapons in the house?” I ask

“What weapon?!“ she says, “They have anti tank missiles with them! Anti tank missiles that can rip a tank apart and kill everyone inside, except this isn’t a tank. It’s my home!”

"So why do you stay here?" I ask.

“It’s our home!“ the son says.

“I work in the dairy” the daughter says, “Someone has to take care of the cows. Someone has to milk them, feed them. What did the cows do to anyone?. We’re farmers . We have to take care of the farm”

The Mother says, “ I work in the day care center. There are still children here. I can’t abandon them. Someone has to take care of them. They’re children. So when the army said the terrorists were out there... I don’t mean a thousand meters away, they were somewhere within a few hundred meters from here. How fast can you run two hundred meters? That’s how fast they could get to us.”

“You know they want to murder us” says the daughte , as if revealing a truly dirty secret," You know we’re the targets, don’t you? Not the army. They want us. We’re the Divine Victory they could have. To murder us, to take us hostage and drag us back through the tunnels into Gaza. We’re the targets.”

“ So,“ says the mother” I’m in the day care center. I take the children into the fortified room and lock the door and say this is just an exercise. It’s just pretending. So we know what to do . Like a fire drill. I do puzzles with them, and color and promise them ice cream and all the while I know there are terrorists out there and the only thing between them and those little children are our soldiers, the ones you saw on the porch, the ones you see patrolling our village, and the ones who are in Gaza fighting. What do you think they’re fighting for?

“You think this is politics” the daughter asks, “We’re what they’re fighting for! This is our home. This is their home! Hamas wants to kill us. And they say they want to kill us! They go on television and say we want to kill the Jews! They don’t lie about it. They announce it to the whole world and, what? They don’t see ? They don’t hear”

This beautiful girl suddenly grabs both sides of her head as if her head is about to explode with the insanity of the life she lives, “You know the story about the Palestinian boy who got the transplant here? There was a boy.from Gaza and he needed an organ transplant and the mother brings him over here to Israel so we can save her little boy’s life. And that’s fine. I say it’s fine if we can help them, if we can save a life, a child’s life? Yes of course! Bring him. So whose organ gets transplanted? There is a Jewish boy, an Israeli boy who is killed in a terrorist attack and his father gives the ok to transplant his dead son, his murdered son’s kidney or whatever they transplanted, into the Palestinian boy from Gaza, to save his life. And they say you know who will get your boy’s kidney? It will be a boy from Gaza, from the place that dispatched the terrorist that killed your son. And he says, yes I know and I want to do it. I want to do it, so they’ll see who we are and we’ll have peace. We’ll start with this boy and his mother. That’s how we’ll build the peace. So they do the transplant and the boy lives.And you know what the woman says? She says it on television so the whole world can see it and hear it. She’s not ashamed. She says, you saved my son’s life and you Jews have a right to be angry about what I’m going to say. That’s your right and I don’t care. Because now that you’ve saved him, when my son grows up, I want him to become a “Martyr “ and kill Jews, as many as he can! That’s who we’re dealing with and the whole world hears her and says well you know, you’re stronger than they are so , you know that’s okay that’s the only way they can fight you. But we don’t want to fight them. We want them to live in peace and let us live in peace! And they shout it from the roof tops that they want to kill us and when one of them blows himself up, whether he kills Jews or not, their parents hand out candy and celebrate. If they kill a few Jews, they hand out more candy.  But as long as he tried to kill Jews that’s the main thing. Then you can hand out the candy. Then they’re happy. So when I see a woman on the television and she’s crying because her child has been killed in this war, I’m a woman, my heart aches for any child who is killed, it’s awful but I think to myself, if this is the woman who wants her child to grow up so he can blow himself up while killing Jews, while trying to kill me or my mother or my brother or my neighbor, what’s the tragedy? Is it that the child didn’t live long enough to kill me? Is that the tragedy for her?! Or is it that she’s afraid that if she doesn’t raise him to kill Jews the Hamas will kill her, or kill him. It’s insane!! Do you hear that? It’s insane” Again she holds the sides of her head as if her skull is about to explode; as if it can’t possibly contain the insanity of it all.

“And we don’t hate them! “ She says, “ Do you understand? We don’t hate them. We had good friends in Gaza. We know there are good people there and what kind of chance does a child have there to grow up NOT to want to kill me? That’s all he’s raised with, rocket and guns and hand grenades. They dress their toddlers up in suicide vests and take pictures of them. That’s like their Purim costume , their halloween.  Isn’t that cute? Isn’t that sweet? He’s a little suicide bomber. Here we’ll take his picture and send it to grandma so she’ll be proud. We know they have a gun to their heads. But what should we do when they come to kill us? When they pop up out of the ground on our front lawn and want to kill us? What should we do? And the world blames us because not enough of us are dead? That’s the crime? We built too many shelters for our people while instead of building shelters for their people they build terrorist tunnels to come and kill us? That’s our crime? That we spent money we don’t have, that we should have spent on education, to build the iron dome which saves us from their rocket attacks?! And still we warn them first . We drop leaflets and send text messages and call them on the phone and say listen, we’re very sorry but we have to bomb you in a few hours so in order that you shouldn’t be hurt could you please leave? That’s what we do. And Hamas puts a gun to their head and says no, go up on your roofs and they celebrate their murders and they lie!! My God how they lie! Here did you see this picture?”

She opens the internet and shows me a picture of a Palestinian family; father mother and child, all killed by an Israeli bomb strike. Except she shows me that this is really a picture of a SYRIAN family killed by Assad’s forces, in their civil war.“ That’s really bad luck, huh? “ she says, “ To be killed twice? Once in Syria and again in Gaza!? And the world sees it and they don’t care. They open up their wallets and say here we have to give them money so they can rebuild. Like they did after 2009. You Jews destroyed their homes. They need concrete and steel to rebuild. They’re not going to make bombs out of concrete and steel. So the world pays for it and we let it in and no, they didn’t build bombs out of it. They built the tunnels that they dug to come and murder me and my family and my neighbors and their families. That’s what it went for!  Did they build shelters for their children? Did they build schools for them? They hid their rockets in the UN schools! The UN just said it. That’s who we’re dealing with! And they fire them from mosques and crowded neighborhoods and WE’RE the aggressors? We’re the evil ones and they’re the poor victims?!  Egypt offered a cease fire and we said YES. What’s that expression? Learn to take yes for an answer? We said yes! But they didn’t have enough dead babies yet. Not enough dead Palestinian babies , not enough dead Jewish babies. And the world looks and it doesn’t see. That’s what makes me ill. Not the rockets. Not even the tunnels and the terrorists. The world looks and it doesn’t see or it doesn’t care.And we tell them and it doesn’t matter.It’s like trying to empty the ocean with a tea spoon. It’s insane.”

After a few moments she calms down." I’m glad you’re here,“ she says, “I just had to get that all out. Just had to say it to somebody. Somebody who would listen. With all the Tsuris (troubles), you know what? We’re not going anywhere. This is our home. Not just our country. Our home. And everyone in it is our family. I go to bed at night and I can’t sleep because I hear the gunfire and I think of those boys out there and I know they’re fighting for me! And here I am in a nice bed. Thanks to them."

“The Pizzas are ready” Mama Rachel says and gives me a slice and then calls  to the “boys.”
 
“Boys” she says, “Here , eat while it’s still hot”.

Later I am with a Golani officer. Some of “The Boys” had come out for a few hours rest. How were they doing?

“We’re strong. The guys are excellent. We’re going to complete the mission. We’re going to destroy the tunnels, and we’re going to put a serious dent in Hamas’s day (loose translation) and we’ll be victorious. Because we know what we’re fighting for. We’re not Nato.We’re fighting for our homes.”

Golanchick is an endearing term for a member of the Golani Brigade.
 
“Golanchick,“ I say, “If you want to get a shower and some rest and maybe some pizza, I have some dear friends. The woman’s name is Rachel.”

Dan Gordon
Capt. IDF (Res)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

DAN GORDON, IDF: Why Hamas uses female suicide bombers


















Please forgive the many typos and misspellings in thus article. Just as I was beginning to proof read the location where I am right now came under rocket attack. I always send a safety copy to myself which I had done in this instance . But where I am right now one has less than 15 seconds to take shelter or face death or mutilation. Yesterday a teenager not more than a hundred meters away from me (shrapnel can travel 1000 meters) was seriously wounded by shrapnel from a mortar round that landed somewhere between where he and I were standing . Mortars unlike rockets give no warning.
Anyway in rushing to take cover rather like the IRS I accidentally deleted my working copy and was left only with the safety copy I'd emailed myself and I an too technologically challenged to know how to edit it. So apologies but you'll get the gist

Dan Gordon
Capt. IDF ( Res)

Sent from my iPhone

Begin forwarded message:
From: Dan Gordon
Date: July 22, 2014 1:25:55 PM GMT+03:00
To: Dan Gordon
Subject: Leading their people to death
Ernest Hemingway had great advice for writers. “Write one true declarative sentence” he said, “ Then write another.

By that standard  Papa Hemingway would be proud , indeed, of Sami Abu Zuhri’s literary prowess.

Sami Abu Zuhri is a Hamas spokesman. He summed up the current situation in Gaza perfectly. And he did it in two true declarative sentences.

“ We ( Hamas) aren’t leading our people to destruction. We are leading them to death”.

That wasn’t Israel’s Prime Minister who said that. That was an official Hamas spokesman, and he said it without apologies. Two true sentences.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed.

Each and every one of those deaths, since Hamas rejected the Egyptian cease fire proposal, which the Arab league endorsed was completely predictable, tragic beyond word, and absolutely, one hundred percent preventable..

Because Israel accepted that same cease fire proposal, immediately and unconditionally.

All the killing could and would have been stopped immediately, right then and there.

But as Sami said, that’s not where Hamas is leading the Gazan Palestinian people. And that sentence by the way  is neither “Posturing , spin, amelioration and explanation”.

I use that last phrase because a reader of my last posted article, “To The Last Drop of Others’ Blood” wrote in response, “The truth is shame, horror, death. The rest is posturing, spin, amelioration and explanation.”

As a writer by trade, I can, to a degree, appreciate the rhythm of that sentence. As they used to say on the American Bandstand programs of my misspent youth, “It has a good beat and you can dance to it.”. But with the greatest respect , it is not “the truth” of this conflict.


Female Suicide Bombers Become Latest War Tactic
http://www.impactlab.net/2008/09/17/female-suicide-bombers-become-latest-war-tactic/

An event occurred yesterday, which may, in the parlance of our time, provide a teachable moment. Israeli. Israeli forces, operating in Gaza, yesterday were approached by what they suspected was a female suicide bomber. They ordered her to stop. She did not and they, in retrospect, chose the correct course of action.

They shot her.

And she exploded. Or rather the suicide bomber vest that would have killed them all exploded.

This was not the first suicide bomber Israeli forces encountered since entering Gaza.

The first one was a donkey.

It appeared loaded down with an unusual load on it’s back and was beaten by it’s “ handler" in order to urge it forward ,toward the Israeli troops . The “Handler” was a Hamas operative, who, having dispatched the donkey, promptly disappeared, quite literally, according to what I heard, down a rat hole.
In retrospect, those Israeli troops also chose the correct course of action.

They shot the donkey.

It too exploded , or rather the donkey sized suicide vest with enough explosives to murder dozens of people it exploded.

I bring these two incidents up because, while I have no first hand knowledge of Hamas’s evolving policy of using beasts of burden as unwilling suicide bombers, I have, at least second hand knowledge, of Hamas’s past and evolving policy regarding using women as female suicide bombers. I know the world’s leading expert on female suicide bombers.

Dr, Anat Berko has a PHD in criminology and advanced degrees in psychology. She speaks fluent Arabic and her parents were Jewish refugees from Iraq, where they had lived for several thousand years and from which they were expelled in the wake of the Israel / Arab  conflict which made some 800,000 other Middle Eastern Jews, refugees as well. (Ironically that is almost the exact number of Palestinians who became refugees in 1948 as a result of the same conflict.).

Dr Berko carried out the most comprehensive study of  female suicide bombers and their handlers ever undertaken. She interviewed almost every female suicide bomber in Israeli custody. These were women whose suicide belts failed to detonate or who were caught before they could carry out their attacks. Her two books, “ The Path to Paradise: The Inner World of Suicide Bombers and their Dispatchers” and “ The Smarter Bomb: Women and Children as Suicide Bombers” have become classics on the subject.

What Dr. Berko found was that the majority of female suicide bombers were motivated by other than ideological or religious reasons. Nor were most of them motivated by the desire for revenge or even hatred of Israel.

The majority of female suicide bombers were unwitting, unwilling, or chose the path of so called “ Martyrdom” as the lesser of two evils with which they were presented. There is a saying on the Palestinian street in regard to female suicide bombers. I hope I would not be accused of "spin, posturing or amelioration,” by saying that this particular expression betrays a somewhat sexist attitude amongst those who use it. With regard to female suicide bombers the Palestinian street saying is, “Shahida o Sharmuta?” Freely translated it means  “(was she) a martyr or a whore?”

The reason Palestinians might say that about one who had ostensibly committed the highly praised (when it comes to men) act of “ Martyrdom” is because they know that in many if not the majority of instances, the female suicide bomber was approached by operatives of one terrorist organization or another and told that she had been seen with men other than male relatives and had thus “dishonored” her family. In such an instance she would either be the victim of an “honor killing” to be carried out by her, father , brother or another male relative, or she could choose to become a suicide bomber, strap on an explosive vest, blow herself up with as many Jews as possible, and thus die not a whore, but a martyr who would be admitted to Paradise where she would sit at the right hand of the prophet, and where, by the way, she could choose her own husband, as opposed to being forced into a heavenly marriage with someone not of her choosing.

Another category which provided fertile ground for female suicide bombers were victims of rape and incest from within their own families.. One girl was raped repeatedly by her cousins, another by her brother. Both saw the “suicide” part of suicide bomber, as preferable to the liberal hell on earth which they were living.

To be sure there were women so enchanted with the religious notion of Paradise and it’s advantages over earthly life (such as not having to take care of children, never having a period and marrying the mate of one’s own choice) that they became suicide bombers from religious reasons. Others had seen relatives killed by Israeli soldiers and wanted revenge and others, while not religious were motivated by nationalistic reasons. But as noted these were far less in numb than the women who were unwilling martyrs or those choosing martyrdom instead of honor killing  or as a means of escaping an intolerable life.

But what I remembered was that Hamas , had, at least at one time, a firm policy AGAINST using female suicide bombers. Indeed Dr Berko had once interviewed Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, one of the founders of, and the spiritual leader of, Hamas until his death in 2004, at the hands of the IDF..

Dr. Berko interviewed the Spiritual Leader in 1996. "At that time,” Dr. Berko told me this morning, “Yassin said ‘I’m against sending women (as suicide bombers) because they have a special role. It is to give birth to children. There is not equality in Islam. Suicide bombing, that’s not a job for women. And then, too we have enough men to be suicide bombers. So we are against it. We don’t use them.”

“What happened to make Hamas change it’s mind ?” I asked.

“In 2002, there was the first female suicide bomber. “ Dr . Berko told me. “She was not from Hamas. But it got a lot of good publicity for the organization that sent her. It got good media attention, and Hamas felt they had to compete with the other terrorist organizations who were getting all the attention because of the female suicide bombers. So Hamas didn’t want to be left behind.”

“And that’s why Hamas changed it’s mind. Because it was effective media?!”

“Yes” she said, “Hamas had to compete with the other terrorist organizations.”

We will probably never know what motivated the female suicide bomber who exploded prematurely thanks to an Israeli marksman. But we absolutely know the motivation of the terrorist army of Hamas and it’s political wing as well, which dispatched her and the donkey and which has turned their own people into human shields,  and which celebrate their deaths because of the great media attention it brings them.

That is the truth, the shame , the horror. It is not my, or Israel’s or anyone else’s posturing,or, Heaven forbid, amelioration.

We know it because Sami Abu Zuhri, the Hamas official spokesman told us so, in two declative, Hemingwayesque sentences.

“We are not leading our people to destruction. We are leading them to death."

Monday, July 21, 2014

CAPTAIN DAN GORDON: To the last drop of blood

Hamas rejects Egyptian initiative for truce with Israel
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2014-07/15/content_17784963.htm
The international red cross asked for a cease fire so the dead and wounded could be tended to, bodies removed, injured taken to hospital.

Israel said yes to the cease fire, and Hamas immediately violated it.

Israel had hit the Saja’iyah neighborhood of Gaza and and hit it hard. Scores dead. Women and children amongst them. Survivors, justifiably crying out, “What did we do to deserve this?!” And the horrible answer is , “ Nothing. You did nothing to deserve it. Hamas used you as human shields. It fired a hundred and sixty rockets from your neighborhood at Israel’s heartland. It riddled your neighborhood with tunnels, some of them, by all reports,  terrorist tunnels, leading under Israel’s border, built to murder and kidnap Israeli civilians; people just like you who only want to live in peace. You did nothing to deserve this. You’ve been betrayed and used by your own leaders in the most cynical way imaginable. And you didn’t even ask for these leaders. They seized power in a bloody coup by lining up your fellow Palestinians against walls and machine gunning them to death, by blindfolding and binding and pushing them off three story buildings.. If you dare to dissent they begin the interrogation by shooting your knee caps off. You didn’t deserve this. And neither did we.

This is a war. It is not a war of Israel’s choosing. In the days leading up to the aerial campaign which Israel initiated in response to constant and escalating rocket attacks from Gaza on it’s civilian centers of population, Israel has said repeatedly that it did not want an escalation let alone a war and that “calm would be answered with calm”. In other words,  don’t shoot at us and we won’t shoot at you”. That seems like a pretty straight forward enough request, and an easy one to implement if one’s interest is in saving lives instead of taking them.

Hamas’s answer was more rockets.

And still Israel’s answer was “calm will be met with calm”.

But there wasn’t any calm. Instead there were more rockets, and more rockets still.

And so Israel answered with aerial attacks….ON DESERTED TRAINING CAMPS!!!

Let me say that one again. The government of Israel responded to Hamas rocket attacks that had millions of Israelis racing for bomb shelters, with aerial strikes on empty tents!

That was not because of faulty intelligence or near sighted pilots. It was to demonstrate to Hamas what Israel COULD do unless Hamas ceased it’s rocket attacks.

Hamas’s response? More rocket attacks, in greater numbers and over wider areas until it was no longer just the Southern border towns under attack but Israel’s equivalent of New York City and L.A. rolled into one. The rockets began falling in the greater Tel Aviv area.

Unlike past campaigns, in the face of similar provocations in 2009 and 2012, Israel did not immediately respond with a massive aerial attack on Gaza. There was no shock and awe. Instead there was a very, very slowly ratcheted up, less than proportional, response, in the hopes that by offering Hamas a way out of the escalating situation, it would take it.

It didn’t.

Israel responded now with aerial strikes that were far less than all out war.

Egypt proposed a cease fire.

The Arab League endorsed it.

Israel accepted it

Hamas gave their answer in the form of a new massive rocket assault and by sending in thirteen terrorists via an underground tunnel that went beneath the border with Israel and came up within a few hundred meters of an Israeli civilian farming community.

This was to be their shock and awe; to kill, maim and kidnap dozens of Israeli civilians.

Finally with no other recourse Israel launched a ground campaign.

Now we are at war.

And Hamas, like the boy who murders his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court on the grounds that he is an orphan, is crying fowl.

Hamas had long since turned the Saja’iyah neighborhood into a fortified center of terrorist attacks, armament workshops  and now we know, terrorist tunnels.

Prior to its attack, for days running, and referenced fully in earlier articles I have written, the IDF warned the residents of this neighborhood  of its intent to attack and urged them, for the safety of themselves and their families, to evacuate. It dropped leaflets to that effect. It followed up the leaflets with SMS and text messages, by actually calling the residents’ cell phones and through Arabic media, up until the very last moment urging people to flee for their lives

And Hamas’s response to those warnings? In the street and from the mosques, through every means of mass communication at their disposal, they told their people not to evacuate, to stay put.

Hamas’ has committed one of the vilest of all war crimes against it’s own people. It has used them as unwilling human shields.

So here was Israel’s choice. Attack a neighborhood used for attacking it’s own civilians, or permit it’s own civilians to be attacked.

An army, any army’s first responsibility is to protect it’s own people. Israel has fulfilled, albeit reluctantly, that first commandment.

Hamas has done the opposite. They have sacrificed their own people on the alter of their own greed for political power.

An Egyptian newspaper today, not an Israeli one, accused Hamas leaders of being liars, who live pampered lives, staying  in five star hotels and driving expensive luxury cars while they sacrifice their own peoples’ lives

And what did the Hamas spokesman say today? “We will fight to the last drop of the blood of Gaza.”

Of course he meant to say “  To the last drop of the blood of others." 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

CPT DAN GORDON IDF: Death, ours and theirs, by tunnel



An IDF reserve officer, Col. Amotz Greenberg, 45, of Hod Hasharon, and Sgt. Adar Bersano, 20, of Nahariya, were killed Saturday morning after a terrorist squad infiltrated from Gaza into Israel through a tunnel.

The terrorists engaged an IDF motorized force that passed near the location where they emerged from the tunnel, firing at a jeep and killing the two soldiers, and wounding two others.  ~ IsraelNationalNews.com

Correct as of 09:45 Israel time today The IDF Military Spokesperson Unit announced that the Israel Defense Forces have uncovered thirteen tunnels with thirty four access points  to them across the Gaza strip. To perhaps put a finer point on that, reliable civilian news outlets have stated that the IDF has uncovered and controls a dozen tunnels which lead under the border from Gaza, straight into Israeli territory, directly threatening Israeli civilian communities within Israel’s pre 1967, internationally recognized borders.

Just so there’s no confusion here, we’re not talking about” Occupied or Disputed territories” Nor are we talking about smuggling tunnels. The tunnels have been burrowed from Gaza, underneath the internationally recognized border of the State of Israel, and have exit points that put them in close proximity to civilian communities.

As has been widely reported in the international press, Hamas has three types of tunnels. One type is used for smuggling everything from luxury automobiles to advanced anti tank missiles. Those tunnels are built by private Gazan contractors, who get rich off them, and are, in turn taxed by Hamas, which makes a large part of their income from these smuggling operations.

Photos by Business Insider,                                                                 http://www.businessinsider.com/israelis-attack-hamas-tunnels-in-gaza-2014-7

The second type of tunnel which Hamas digs , are the ones they dig for their leaders, to allow them to operate safe and sound from Israeli air strikes or artillery. These have been reported to be built beneath such institutions as Gaza’s largest hospital. The point not to be missed here, is that Hamas knows how to build, not only smuggling tunnels, but sophisticated, air conditioned, structurally sound bomb shelters. And it does so…for it’s political and military elite, while they build no such shelters for their own people.

That is neither by accident, nor because of budget shortfalls, or shortages of building materials.

That is by design.

Hamas makes the most cynical use of the lives of it’s own civilian population imaginable. While Israel has spent dearly to create not only the Iron Dome anti Missile system which has proven so effective at saving lives, including, I’m happy to say, my own, Hamas spends next to nothing to protect their own people.

While Israel has invested massively in providing shelters almost every fifty meters in it’s border towns like Sderot, Hamas has spent it’s funds building, not defensive shelters for their own people, but homicide tunnels meant to provide the means to kill and kidnap Israeli civilians.

Indeed what could be more frightening than the thought of the holes literally opening up within a few hundred meters of your home and armed terrorists  coming up out of the earth, like zombies in a horror movie, heading straight for your home, for you, for your children

Once again, just so there is no mistake, these homicide tunnels are OFFENSIVE weapons.

There is nothing defensive about them.

They are built, not to defend Gazan civilians from Israeli attack,  but to attack, kill and kidnap Israeli civilians.

They are not a response to Israeli aggression, they are one of  the means of Hamas aggression against Israel..

The other thing to note is that these tunnels weren’t suddenly dug in response to Israel’s aerial campaign.

Israel BEGAN it’s aerial campaign in response to Hamas’ unrelenting rocket attacks, aimed almost exclusively at Israel’s civilian population centers.

Israel began it’s ground campaign in response to Hamas’s  use of a homicide tunnel to infiltrate thirteen terrorists, armed with anti tank missiles, machine guns , grenades and thousands of rounds of ammunition within a few hundred meters of a civilian farming community.

Imagine the earth opening up in front of your home and disgorging terrorists, armed to the teeth and coming for you and your children. Now ask yourself what you would think of a government, any government, of any country, which did not then activate its ground forces to take those tunnels out.

The loss of innocent Palestinian and Israeli lives is heartbreaking. It is all the more so because it is, and has been, completely unnecessary, ever since Israel ACCEPTED UNCONDITIONALLY, the Egyptian sponsored cease fire proposal, which had been endorsed not only by the United States, but by the Arab League as well!

Israel, Egypt and the Arab League were in agreement!

It was Hamas which answered the request for a cease fire, not only with increased rocket fire, but a terrorist tunnel attack aimed at Israeli civilians and foiled only by the actions of the IDF.

Every death which has needlessly occurred since then could have been completely avoided had Hamas accepted the cease fire, not that Israel had proposed, but which had been proposed by their fellow Moslem, Arab brethren .

This morning, according to the IDF Military Spokesperson Unit, IDF forces foiled another terrorist attack. "Terrorists disguised in IDF uniform, in order to deceive and attack unsuspecting Israelis, infiltrated  into Israel from the Gaza strip” via yet another terrorist tunnel. "Not long after the IDF prevented another attack on the border with the southern Gaza Strip…In the aftermath of the incident, forces uncovered tranquilizers and handcuffs in (one of the terrorist’s) possession."

Later that evening a third attack from a terrorist tunnel was foiled by IDF forces as well.

The Iron Dome protects against rocket attacks. But it can’t do a thing about terrorist tunnels. For that, you need boots on the ground. That is why we are operating on the ground  in Gaza . And all Hamas needs to do to put an end to the so called cycle of violence  is accept the cease fire put forward by their brethren, and already agreed to by Israel, and thus, join Israel in trying to build a cycle of peace. Tragically for both our peoples, it may take the IDF to convince them to do just that.

Dan Gordon
Capt. IDF ( res)

WAR:  The following video, of Hamas terrorists emerging from a tunnel, scurrying back inside when they realize they have been spotted, and then the obliteration of the tunnel by the IDF, is disturbing.  None of this would have been necessary if Hamas would have accepted Egypt's proposed cease fire.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

CAPTAIN DAN: Draw nigh, ye angels of peace


The sun on the treetops no longer is seen.  Come gather to welcome the Sabbath our Queen. Behold her descending, the holy, the blessed.  With angels a cohort of peace and of rest.    


I am not, as most Israelis are not, what anyone would call religious. But Shabbat is something else. I believe in God, not ashamed of it. Though it is not exactly a career enhancer in Hollywood, not proud of it either, as it is as natural to me as one of my limbs. It’s part of me, and I am grateful for that. But I certainly don’t follow all the rules, not even most of them. Not close.

But Shabbat is something else.

There is something about being in a feminine presence as the candles are lit, of blessing the wine and sweet Challa bread, of the hauntingly beautiful melodies.. I was raised partly on a kibbutz. Not religious either but every Friday night, the whole kibbutz would gather in the dining hall, one woman would light the candles for the community, someone would read a portion from the bible and those beautiful songs ingrained themselves in my heart and soul and wherever I am in the world, hearing them, I am home, and at peace. That’s the greeting. Shabbat Shalom, Sabbath Peace. Shalom is the every day greeting. You say it probably with as much feeling as a Malibu kid says , “Wazzup, Dude?" But “ Shabbat Shalom” is something else. You are wishing someone Sabbath Peace, real peace, tranquility, wholeness, quiet peace, joyous peace, the peace of those melodies.

It might seem strange, then, to say that we Israelis feel it absolutely most poignantly, in those horrible times when we are called upon to take up arms and defend our homes, our families, our lives, our right to live in peace in our land, the land that gave birth to everything in our religion and culture and language,whether our ancestors were from Israel, Yemen, Ethiopia, Kiev, Baghdad, Cairo, L.A. New York or New Delhi.

So there I am on the border of Gaza and it’s getting near sundown last night (Friday night) Erev Shabbat, Sabbath eve. Because my  job in the Military Spokesperson Unit has me out operating by myself, there is no base nearby to go back to. No place to eat with my mates, as it were, engage in the camaraderie that means so much to a soldier in a war zone.  And it;s Shabbat. And on this particular Sabbath eve when I have had the pleasure of being under six different rocket attacks today, when my heart is with my fellow soldiers who are now operating in Gaza, I want Shabbat. I yearn for it.

I’m standing near a place which is an entry point to Gaza. I see some soldiers with kippoth, skull caps, on their heads, identifying them as religious soldiers. I walk up to one of them.

"Shalom, Achi” I say (Hello my brother)
He answers with the Hebrew equivalent of Wazzup. It’s not yet Shabbat after all.

“Where are you guys going to be celebrating Shabbat? “ I ask. I explain I’d like to celebrate with them.

He points over at the border opening. He and his guys are getting ready to mount up and go back into Gaza. That’s where they’ll be celebrating Shabbat, in armored Personel carriers, under fire , looking for homicide tunnels and dodging the booby traps and I.E.D.s that await them.

“Take care of yourself Achi, my brother, “ I say and there is nothing perfunctory about it.
We shake hands warmly. “ Listen “ he says, “ You’re not religious , right?’
“Right” I say.
“So do me a favor then.”
“Tell me what it is  and I‘ll do it bisimcha (with joy)”
“Celebrate Shabbat for me tonight. And for my chèvre (my pals, my guys).”

He and his guys mount up. Dust clouds choke the air, engines roar to life as in the not so distant distance we hear the sounds of war to which they are headed instead of lighting candles, blessing wine, eating the sweet challa or singing the songs.

Within moments they’re inside Gaza. I take off in my car looking for some unit with whom to celebrate the sabbath, and there by the side of the road I see possibly the two saddest looking sad sacks in the Israeli army.

They are military police.They can’t be guarding anything important. There’s only two of them. They’re reservists and look like slobs, which is to say, like reservists. Unshaven, uniforms stained with sweat and dust, stuck out in  the middle of nowhere with the heat reaching around  a hundred degrees and probably eighty percent humidity and they’re in their flack jackets.

I pull my car up to them.

I can’t say they snap to attention.

They get up as laconically , as phlegmatically as it’s possible to imagine.

But one of them gets the “cop“ look on his face.

“Who are you? and what do you want here? This is a closed area.”

Nothing but attitude. The guy’s a private. I’m a captain. For some inexplicable reason I forget what army I’m in and say, “First of all I’m a Captain.”
“What do I care?” he says with even more attitude.

Oh…that’s right , I’m in the ISRAELI army and he’s a reservist and he couldn’t give a rat’s orifice. He’s a cop and I’m not.
“ Second of all” I say, “I’m looking for a place to celebrate the shabbat."
“ There;s only two of us here.” he says, “ We’re not exactly a synagogue.”
“ You have any wine for the blessings?”
“ What kind of wine you think they’d give us?! We’re in the middle of nowhere?”
“ Candles? Challa?”
“ Zip” he says, or the equivalent.
“ So how are you going to bring in the Sabbath.?”
Now he knows I’m serious.
“ Would you like to join us?” and he says it hopefully. Two guys isn’t much of a shabbat, but maybe with three…
“ Are you inviting me?”
“ Are you joining us?”
“ If you invite me.”
“So, okay, “ he says” You’re invited”
We said the kiddish over a bottle of sun warmed water. Instead of Challa, we ate a stale piece of pita after reciting the blessings, and for candles we lit two matches. And for that moment in the gathering darkness of war, there was light, and I  swear to you the Feminine presence of the Lord, the shechina, as it’s referred to in Hebrew, was with us.

We sang Peace be upon you Ministering angels, angels of the Almighty, Bless me unto Peace Oh you Ministering angels, Angels of the Almighty, May you arrive in Peace, may your departure be  in Peace, O Angels of Peace.

Shabbat Shalom, Chevre

Dan Gordon
Capt. IDF( Res)

Friday, July 18, 2014

CAPTAIN DAN: Tunneling away from peace



Hamas homicide tunnel, photo by Mitch Ginzberg, Times of Israel
The Government of the state of Israel has declared in the clearest possible manner that the purpose of the ground incursion which began last night and continues today, is  first of all to deal with the “ homicide tunnels” which the Terrorist Army Hamas, has burrowed beneath the borders of, and well into  the pre 1967 territory of the state of Israel.  The only people who could possibly think of this area as being “ occupied territory” are the same ones who think of Tel Aviv as “ Occupied territory”, or for that matter any square inch of land in this part of the world ,where Israel has the effrontery to declare it’s sovereignty under international law.

In other words, contrary to the perception of some, that the core reason behind this conflict is Israel’s occupation of lands conquered in the defensive war of 1967, Hamas could not, and does not, give a tinker’s damn about “occupied territory” . This is so because Hamas regards ANY territory on which there is a sovereignJewish state  as, “ Occupied territory”.

Moreover, Hamas believes that any such Jewish state has no right to exist.

Indeed, Hamas believes it is duty bound,  by both religious and political ideology, to destroy such a state, on its road to establishing the kind of Caliphate which ISIS is in the process of making a reality. According to both of their ideologies and religious beliefs, everything from the Persian Gulf to Spain, is, by virtue of once having been ruled by Moslems ,  “ Occupied territory”, which they mean to liberate, by any means possible.

Starting with Israel, of course.

Jews are, and seem always to have been the canaries in the mine. Europe may have thought Hitler would content himself with murdering Jews. To their sorrow they found out otherwise. Churchill referred to such thinking as the vain hope of being the last in the room to be eaten by the tiger

This brings us to the matter of the homicide tunnels. I refer to them as such, because that is exactly what they are. These are not smuggling tunnels meant for the underground transport of drugs, money, prostitutes BMWs , narcotics, weapons or cash, as is the case with many of the other underground smuggling tunnels which Hamas has constructed, taxed, and were their main source of illicit income.

Homicide tunnels are something else indeed. They are meant for one purpose only; to allow terrorists to move undetected into, preferably, civilian territory. Those same terrorists, having thus evaded look out posts, aerial and /or electronic surveillance, then quite literally pop up from the earth, like zombies arising out of their crypts  in order to kill, maim and capture as many soldiers, or hopefully, innocent civilians, as humanly possible. That is, after all, why they call them terrorists.

They are not militants. Betty Friedan could have been described as a militant feminist. Malcolm X could have been described as a militant civil rights activist. I have a dear friend proudly describes himself as a militant LGBT activist. There’s nothing wrong with advocating militantly for one’s point of view.

Hamas aren’t militants. They’re terrorists. Worse than that, they are a terrorist army.

They want quite literally to spread terror and they want to spread that terror, primarily amongst civilians, because soldiers have weapons, with which they tend to shoot back, be it at fictitious zombies on The Walking Dead, or real life terrorists , who literally pop up out of the ground in order to try to kill, maim and capture as many of their victims as possible.,

And that is precisely what happened yesterday.

A group of highly trained, indeed, elite terrorists, popped up out of the earth, well inside Israeli territory, armed with a dozen anti tank weapons, machine guns, grenades and thousands upon thousands of rounds of ammunition. The slaughter they could, and would have inflicted, would have been on a scale unheard of in the State of Israel. It would have been Hamas's shock and awe. Their Divine Victory. .
Instead they were detected by the all female surveillance unit , and intercepted and neutralized by Israeli ground and aerial forces.

It was Israel’s worst  nightmare scenario and Hamas’s greatest wet dream. And we foiled it. But it was precisely because not only could it have succeeded, but because of the fact that there are as many as dozens of other such tunnels and terrorist units waiting to use them that, what some have described as the overly cautious government of Israel, finally, in the face of  ceaseless provocation, and the prospect of more homicide tunnel operations, finally okayed what it had sought so long to avoid; a ground war.

To those who poo poo the notion that destroying the tunnels are what this incursion is all about is first of all dealing with the immediate threat of these terrorist tunnels, may I with the greatest possible respect, suggest that you cannot differentiate between one particular orifice and a hole in the ground.

I’ve seen these tunnels up close and personal. I don’t have nightmares about many things in life , but I still have night mares about them.

In 2009, during Operation Cast Lead, Israel was forced by Hamas into a ground incursion, just as it has been today, though then the purpose was somewhat different. In 2009 Hamas actually believed it could win. 2009 was their offensive. At that time their notion of an offensive was  based around the thought of taking a year to prepare the battlefield on your territory, fill it with booby traps, ambushes, I.E.D’s …and homicide tunnels. Then suck the Israeli army into coming onto your turf, which you’ve prepared for a year and grinding them up like sausage. And truth be told, it was actually a very good plan.

I went into Al Atatra with our airborne troops, arranging a briefing in the field by the Paratroop Brigade Commander, whom we’ll just call Colonel H. Between a third to a half of the houses in Al Atatra were not just booby trapped, but, as Colonel H explained, they  were riddled with Homicide tunnels.
The plan was to allow the Paratroopers to enter the village and then draw fire from the booby trapped houses. The terrorists in those houses would then withdraw into hiding places. Because Israel’s rules of engagement demanded that you couldn’t just order artillery or tanks to flatten any house from which gunfire was directed against your troops, the foot soldiers, literally had to go into the houses and clear them room by room. The terrorists would wait until the initial group entered the house and then detonate a massive I.E.D. behind them, thereby killing and wounding them but also cutting them off from the rest of their platoon. Hamas terrorists would then pop up from a tunnel whose opening was beneath a rug, let’s say, in the house, or a cabinet. They would pop up and grab the killed and wounded, , drag them down into the homicide tunnels, and within five minutes they would have whisked them out of the village. The goal was to have literally hundreds of Gilad Shallits( the soldier they had kidnapped with a similar tunnel).

Happily, and by the grace of a merciful god we found the map which showed every tunnel they had dug and booby trap they had prepared, and we foiled their battle plan and dealt them a very deep set back indeed.

Now however they have evolved their battle plan. The idea now is not just to draw soldiers into their prepared territory, but to PENETRATE ISRAELI CIVILIAN territory, to kill and maim and capture, not just soldiers, but preferably civilians, preferably the kind of kids they kidnapped and murdered only a few short weeks ago on their way home from school.

That is what we are up against. And when the government of Israel realized just how close it had come to the worst civilian slaughter in our history, it did the only responsible thing it could have done. It ordered the military in to find and destroy the homicide tunnels and the terrorists who would use them against us.Ground wars have a way of evolving and the old saying is that the first casualty of war is the battle plan. So no one can say with certainty where this all will lead. But Israel has clearly articulated it’s objectives.; to find and destroy the homicide tunnels and those who would use them against our civilians.

War is a horrible and messy business. i don’t care how strict your rules of engagement are, how accurate your fire or how good your soldiers . Stuff happens in war. In 1978 I ,and several members of my platoon, were almost killed in a live fire  training exercise when our own artillery fouled up its co ordinates and began shelling us. And that was a training exercise! Innocent people are killed in wars sometimes by intent, some times by mistake.

Israel regards the death of every innocent civilian, Palestinian or Israeli as a tragedy.

Hamas regards the death of any innocent civilian, Palestinian or Israeli as a triumph.

For Hamas, it’s either a dead zionist enemy, or a dead martyr to prove its victimhood.

But ask yourself this. Who bares the responsibility for the innocent people , Palestinian and Israeli , who will surely die in this useless conflict? The party that accepted the ceasefire unconditionally? Or the party who destroyed what could have been the start of a new cycle of peace, with a new cycle of death, destruction….and homicide tunnels?

Dan Gordon
Capt. IDF ( Res)