Some Thoughts after 10 weeks of war by Aaron Hecht

(An IDF unit deploys in the Gaza Strip, IDF Spokespersons Office)

I am writing this on the evening of the tenth Shabbat since 7 October, when we were awakened to the sound of air raid sirens in the morning and heard the booms of interceptions overhead as we ran to the bomb shelters. The poor condition of these shelters, completely unprepared in the case of the shelter in our building, was a fantastic metaphor for the general state of unpreparedness in our country for the return of the kinds of wars that Israel fought in the past.

That this attack came on the 50th anniversary of the surprise attack on Israel which started the Yom Kippur War only added another layer to the bitter irony I felt that morning, and still feel, knowing that then as now there were warnings that were ignored and preparations that were neglected. 

In 1973 the attack against Israel came as a surprise in no small part because Israelis had come to believe, following the brilliant military success of the Six-Day War in 1967, that the era of existential threats was over. The Hamas attacks against Israel on 7 October 2023 were successful for a similar reason. Israel had come to rely on its vast technological superiority over Hamas, building a large, high fence with all kinds of sensors and automatic machine guns and cameras and lasers and whatever else, thinking that we were safe with our enemies on the other side of that fence. We believed that so completely that we almost forgot we were even in the Middle East, indulging in foolish levels of internal conflicts that our enemies surely took note of.

Another factor I think they might have taken note of is something I remember myself, but which it doesn't seem to have been remembered by many other people. I'm talking about the poor state of readiness for a war that Israel and the IDF found ourselves in back in 2006 when the Second Lebanon War broke out unexpectedly on our northern border. I can remember reading stories in the newspaper about the confused, disorganized way in which the reserves were mobilized. After the war, there were many reports about reservists arriving at their units and finding that there was all kinds of gear missing from the depots and warehouses where it was supposed to have been stored.

In the aftermath of that war, promises were made that it was all going to be sorted out and fixed, but as we discovered in the last 10 weeks, whatever efforts were made in this regard, they weren't adequate. Tens of thousands of IDF reservists have had to go to camping supply stores, military surplus websites, or wherever they could, to get the gear they needed. Family and friends of reservists opened their wallets and millions of dollars were also raised by private organizations to buy them this stuff. I've made my own modest contributions to this effort, and I'm sure many of the readers of this blog have done the same.

One reason for this is that the IDF sent large quantities of older, somewhat worn-out gear to Ukraine over the past two years. The reasoning was that this old stuff needed to be replaced anyway, and the IDF would be getting new stuff as time went on. Few people anywhere thought there'd be a large-scale call-up of reservists any time soon, so it was thought there was an acceptable level of risk in sending older gear to Ukraine and slowly buying new gear to replace it.

But with military preparedness, as in so much else in life, timing is everything.

Auspicious anniversaries

It's also worth mentioning that the 16th of December 2023 marks the 79th anniversary of another surprise attack made by the forces of darkness. I am speaking of the Battle of the Bulge, the last strategic offensive against the Western Allies made by the Nazis during WWII. 

It is perhaps fitting that on this anniversary, the Defense Minister of Germany told reporters that the NATO alliance urgently needs to mobilize itself to be prepared for the possibility of large-scale military operations. The German military is taking these words seriously and there are signs that Finland, Romania, and Poland agree. Here and there in other parts of Europe, you'll see governments starting to get serious about realizing that the world is still a very dangerous place.

But I wonder if it's too little too late.

Will what was once called "the free world" be able to rally and fight for its life as it did in the past? I don't know. I wish I could say I think it can, but as I watch reports of rallies at University campuses all over the "free world" which include large numbers of young people mindlessly chanting "from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" and similar slogans, I just don't know.

Tanks, missiles, guns, etc. are necessary to fight wars but they're not enough, or even the most important thing. What's needed most are young men and women who believe in the cause they're being asked to fight, kill, and die for. Such young people are to be found in Israel and America, and maybe a few other places. But I very strongly doubt if there are large numbers of such young people in Europe these days.

Watching "Golda" and feeling like I'm in two decades at once

Another event that occurred in recent days that triggered some serious thinking in this regard was taking my wife to see a movie called "Golda" which is about the events in Israel in the month of October 1973, when Prime Minister Golda Meir led the country through what became known to history as the Yom Kippur War.

This movie told a story that was highly relevant to current events, while also belonging to a different Age in human affairs. This is due, in no small part, to the fact that the internet didn't exist back in 1973.
Be that as it may, there is one thing that happened in 1973 that also happened in 2023, and that is that the IDF was compelled to save the country from a very dangerous situation after the government and the intelligence services failed miserably. The Agranat Commission investigation held after the Yom Kippur War will have a counterpart in some kind of investigation that will have to be held after this current war is over. 

I think the results of that investigation will be a sweeping away of many of the political and military leaders who have been running this country for most of the past 20 years or so. It will be a very serious reshuffling of the political deck, and it will leave us in an entirely new situation, for better and for worse.

It is irresistible to me, at this point, to recommend a few books to those who have watched this movie and would perhaps like to know more about that historic epoch.

The first is, of course, Golda Meir's memoir entitled "My Life". Another is Moshe Dayan's "My Story" and Ariel Sharon's book "Warrior" along with David "Dado" Elazar's memoirs, which are out of print but you might be able to find a copy somewhere. I wonder if there's a digital version of this book anywhere. Post a comment if you know of one.

I would advise against reading the memoirs of the recently deceased Dr. Henry Kissinger. Doing so will just make you upset.

There have been several histories of the Yom Kippur War but my personal favorite is The Yom Kippur War: The Epic Encounter That Transformed the Middle East, by Abraham Rabinovich.

What does it all add up to?

I Thessalonians 5:1-11 says "Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing."

Other passages that are relevant to this discussion include Matthew 24:43; But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.

Also Revelation 16:15; “Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”

All of these passages of Scripture speak to the fact that God is moving in the world and many people will be surprised by the swiftness and severity of the changes that come as a result. Your circumstances and mine can change VERY quickly and very dramatically. It can happen because a country we're living in comes under military attack, or it can come because we lose a job unexpectedly or we get a medical diagnosis that we can't ignore. It can come because a political leader comes to power who has a different vision than the one they replace. Or it can come because of an earthquake or a forest fire or some other natural disaster that destroys our home or the building where we work or the road that we use to drive on to get to work, or whatever.

Circumstances can and do change radically without warning.

The Yom Kippur War and the October 7th War that we're currently engaged in both started because of an attack that came when Israel was completely unprepared. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 is another example of this phenomenon. Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the USSR which started on 22 June 1941 is another, as is the Battle of the Bulge which started on 16 December 1944, and of course the September 11th, 2001 attacks on the US by Al Qaeda.

Every one of these attacks took their victims by total surprise, and they all led to millions of people having their lives changed suddenly and violently.

But all of these big surprises will pale in comparison to the big surprises the Lord has for the Human Race in the not-so-distant future.

Brothers and sisters, please hear me.

You and I MUST get serious about preparing ourselves, our families, and our communities as best we can for the changes that are coming to our circumstances. One silver lining that might come from this war Israel is currently engaged in is that it's made a lot of Israelis and Jews who live in the Diaspora realize how fragile their lives are and how insufficient are the things that they've always relied upon to keep them secure. 

The Israeli government and the IDF failed miserably on 7 October and since then many more failures and shortcomings have come to light. Israelis are beginning to understand that these institutions can't protect them and they must look to the God whom they've long neglected and ignored.

During this time, as has been reported by others, many are seeking the Lord. Thank God there is a robust Believer community in place here in Israel to answer their questions and help them find their Messiah.

You and I can rejoice to see this, but we should also be very mindful of our own level of preparedness to weather the storms that are coming. We can't do much about what our governments and armies are doing to prepare for unforeseen disasters and surprise attacks, but we can get our own personal houses in order as best we can.

What kind of shape is my personal relationship with Yeshua in? Am I regularly praying for my wife and children, my congregation, and my country? Am I praying enough for the leaders of my community and my country? Am I faithfully giving tithes and offerings so that the work of the Kingdom will be resourced? Am I using the gifts and talents God gave me for the work of His Kingdom?

These are just a few of the questions I'm asking myself lately, and I encourage you to ask yourself these questions as well.

Other questions, less important but not to be ignored, are "am I keeping the body God gave me to live in during my time in this mortal realm in the best physical shape I can? Am I eating right and exercising enough? Am I being a responsible steward of the money and other resources He's given me? Am I being responsible about having enough of the things I'll need in my home, my vehicle, my workplace, etc. if/when unexpected natural disasters or other emergencies come? Am I learning skills I'll need to take care of myself and others in case the regular sources of food, water, medicine, etc. break down for whatever reason?

Brothers and sisters, disasters sometimes come with little or no warning. You and I have a responsibility to use the time we have while things are calm and orderly in our lives to prepare ourselves for the seasons of trouble and disorder which the Bible warns us are sure to come. We must be prepared spiritually, physically, emotionally and in many other ways.

Those are some of the thoughts running through my head after ten weeks of war in Israel. I hope they've been a blessing to you.

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