War Baffles Me

  • 0

Inspired by this:

and this:

Israel is at war with Hamas. I find myself in a familiar position. That is, unable to comprehend the entire concept of war.

I am not writing this to question to need or wisdom of the current operation in Gaza. That is not the point here. But when my brothers and sisters are in harm’s way, I cannot but help and wonder about the concept of war.

I want to be very clear, I support Israel and its right to defend itself. I am urging my congregation and family to have Israel in our prayers. Last night our Daf Yomi class was dedicated to the safety and security of our brothers and sisters in Israel. That does not mean I can’t have a discussion about war. I do not intend to minimize the importance or sacrifice of those involved in the current conflict. This is very much a theoretical discussion.

This is going to be short and to the point. Here are my primary issues with war:

It seems to me that the only thing a war proves or accomplishes is that one group can be established as physically stronger or better strategists than the other group. War does not set morality or determine which group is more fit to exist (except in the Darwinian sense). The victors of the war get safety and security until someone bigger and badder than they are start up with them.

It seems to me that the  people fighting the war, as in the soldiers, are fighting a war for their parents. I don’t think 18 year old kids are old enough to appreciate the gravity of war. I don’t think many of them would choose to fight the war. But they are sent into harm’s way by people of authority, while those people who are making the decisions are mostly out of harm’s way. I don’t have a better alternative, but the inequity here is great.

It seems to me that the groups at war should be able to resolve their issues without killing one another. I know it sounds idealistic to believe this, but I honestly believe that people have the capacity to love and care for anyone. If we would spent a quarter of the resources that are used for fighting, and reallocate those resources to creating mutual experiences and friendships we would be much better off. People don’t go to war with their friends. The world is big enough for everyone to have a place in it. Yes, there are places that multiple groups want, but people know how to compromise with their friends.

The entire idea that since I am born in Place A and you are born in Place B means that I am right and you are wrong is something that does not fit in with modern thinking. If I was born in Gaza, I am sure I would sympathize more with Gaza. If a member of Hamas was born in Tel Aviv he would feel differently too. In other words, these convictions and affiliations that create friction are a fiction of our own creation. Why should it matter where on is born? That’s no fault of our own. We can’t control these affiliations for the most part, and so it seems borderline insane to place so much stock in these affiliations.

I really wish that younger, less entrenched, more idealistic people from both sides of any conflict could come together and show their leaders that they prefer peace to war. That they prefer friendship over hatred.

I guess, the overall point here is that when analyzed, war is pretty senseless. I understand that sometimes events that are out of our control force our hand and we find ourselves in open conflict. I just feel that if humanity could understand this, we would be a lot better off and we could focus on the progress of humanity as a whole.

I cry for the victims of terror. I cry for innocent civilians in Gaza who are caught in the crossfire. I cry for the families that are under constant threat of violence. I cry for people born into the worst of situations, as they are in Gaza. I cry for children who are taught that the only way out of their struggle is violence. I cry for people who feel oppressed and see no way out of their predicament. I cry for people who inherited an almost impossible to resolve problem. I cry for all of them. But most of all, I cry that we cannot resolve our differences without death and violence.

  • Ari

    War is the normal state of humanity. If you believe in evolution or some sort of old-earth creationism, you will have to admit that the overwhelming evidence of genetics proves that only about 40% of men who were born on this earth ever got a chance to reproduce. Most likely, most of them were killed in war. Most of human history has been one of warfare.

    And don’t think that bows and spears rather than bullets and bayonets meant that war was any less destructive in the ancient past. Primitive warfare was hugely more destructive than modern. Even the terrible wars of the twentieth century were not, on a per capita basis, as destructive as primeval war. It’s estimated that if WWII had the same per-capita casualty rate as primeval war, there would have been two BILLION deaths.

    I’m sorry to inform you that you’re not a member of a very noble species.

    However, our Torah is one of the things that have led mankind from this awful primitive bloodbath to a state in which people can express puzzlement at why war needs to be fought. The history of mankind, I believe, is one in which the Torah has helped to lead mankind from its awful beginnings to a more peaceful future.

    • tesyaa

      Many others say that religion has been an impetus and promoter or war, rather than the other way around.

      • Ari


        And those people are simply wrong. The evidence against your claim is overwhelming.

        • MarkSoFla

          Are you kidding? The evidence is almost overwhelming that religion has caused many of the wars throughout history.

          • Holy Hyrax

            What evidence? The 100 year war, the ancient wars between persia, greece & Rome? The power hungry kinds of europe? Religion? Also, I specifically said 20th century. I’m not saying religion doesn’t heat things up between groups. most of the wars throughout history?

            • MarkSoFla

              Crusades, Dark Ages, etc. Christianity was rather violent and relentless for many centuries.

              My pet theory is that it takes a religion a few millennia to civilize itself. Judaism was quite violent 2500-3500 years ago, Christianity was quite violent 500 – 1500 years ago, and Islam is quite violent now. There is also some evidence of warfare in Neolithic China as their religions were forming.

              • Holy Hyrax

                what is Etc.? Of course Christians were violent, but who is to say the wars that Christians fought were due to religion, as opposed to the usual reasons Man fights?

                The dark ages was not a war. It was a bad time, but it wasn’t war due to religion.

              • Ari

                Dark ages? You’re obviously historically illiterate. No respectable historian uses that term for the early middle ages. Sorry. The “dark ages” were actually a time of remarkable progress in Europe. The number of inventions that improved the lives of the common man from that era is staggering. Three field agriculture, the padded horse collar, better ships than those built anywhere or at any time previous, the list goes on and on. I leave it to you to look up the specifics beyond what I’ve written.

                Your theory sucks. You obviously don’t have much acquaintance with world religion to have a theory so incapable of holding water. If you think it does, could you please explain to me how the cults surrounding the Egyptian Pharaohs were violent in their origins but became peaceful over time?

                Yeah. I didn’t think so.

                • Ari

                  BTW, as evidence of the great intellectual fruitfulness of the so called Dark Ages, the Europeans so mastered the means of production of war materiel, strategy, finance, commerce and communication that they were able to travel thousands of miles to the holy land and, at the very end of their supply lines, defeat an aggressive, resident enemy that far outnumbered them in unfamiliar and hostile terrain. Say what you want about the moral value of the crusades (and you can easily argue that the moslems had it coming, considering how aggressively they had attacked Christian Europe in the centuries preceding), but it’s overwhelming evidence that Christian Europe was better developed in many important respects than either the Moslem middle east or the Byzantines. Take Kenneth Harl’s course on the crusades by the Great Courses for more detail than you probably are interested in.

          • Ari

            Mark, listen, it’s no shame to be wrong. See for instance: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/08/06/god_and_the_ivory_tower?page=0,2

            From the article: Moreover, the chief complaint against religion — that it is
            history’s prime instigator of intergroup conflict — does not withstand
            scrutiny. Religious
            issues motivate only a small minority of recorded wars. The
            Encyclopedia of Wars surveyed 1,763
            violent conflicts across history; only 123 (7 percent) were religious. A
            BBC-sponsored “God
            and War” audit, which evaluated major conflicts
            over 3,500 years and rated them on a 0-to-5 scale for religious motivation
            (Punic Wars = 0, Crusades = 5), found that more than 60 percent had no
            religious motivation. Less than 7 percent earned a rating greater than 3. There was little religious
            motivation for the internecine Russian and Chinese conflicts or the world wars
            responsible for history’s most lethal century of international bloodshed.

            Anyway, Mark, I will only respond to data-based claims against the above, if you can provide. Rhetorical claims against it will be ignored.

            • MarkSoFla

              That, THAT, is what you want to put forth as proof? A document that says that the very thing (religion) that is meant to ensure morality in the world, is responsible for 7% of the world’s wars?

              Now add in pure human suffering absent formal wars and you can add the many centuries of Dark Ages to the suffering heaped upon humanity in the name of religion.

              • Holy Hyrax

                You said “The evidence is almost overwhelming that religion has caused many of the wars throughout history.”

                Now you are switching to human suffering absent wars. And yes, a lot of human suffering has been caused by religion.

                • MarkSoFla

                  Depends how you define war. If a neighboring Earl burned the marketplace of another neighboring Earl to gain control or money in the region, is that a war? I say yes – it’s a small regional war that caused great misery to the local peasants.

                  If you define war as only between countries/empires, then perhaps yes, because those wars are mostly due to resource scarcity.

        • Holy Hyrax

          Tesya has a point that religion CAN be a factor and a promoter of violence, but ANY ideology can. Religion is an ideology. And as long as man exists, so will ideologies. Lets not forget that all of the horrific wars of the 20th had nothing to do with religion.

  • Richard F

    …would you have cry for the bombings of Dresden and the destruction of Germany in the Second World War? These Islamists were allies of the Nazis particularly the Muslim Brotherhood the font of Wahabist ideology that Hamas and Al Qaeda share. Hasn’t this conflict between good and evil played itself as a leitmotif throughout all the Torah. Why all of a sudden does moral equivalency apply to this Amalek- like force of Jew- hating evil?

    • I would cry for the people who didn’t choose to be evil, rather they were born into it with no way out.

    • MarkSoFla

      would you have cry for the bombings of Dresden and the destruction of Germany in the Second World War?

      In general … yes. And I’m no dove, far from it.

      The rampant destruction of everything on the ground has proved to be a bad military tactic. Better targeting of things of value has proved to be a better technique. Sure it sows fear among the enemy’s people, but that alone doesn’t change the trajectory of the military leaders during a war. The one exception I can think of is Hiroshima and Nagasaki which ended the war many months earlier than otherwise possible and saved countless lives on both sides.

      Another example of bad military tactics was the overuse of automatic weapons in Vietnam. “Spray and pray” didn’t work well at all, all it accomplished was extra-heavy knapsacks for the soldiers who had to carry large amounts of ammunition. Turns out a soldier shoots much more accurately in single-shot mode. And I can testify to that myself having practiced both in the field.

      The other thing to consider is that there is always an “after the war”, and if everything is rampantly destroyed, it takes a lot longer to recover some semblance of normalcy. Of course, the rampant destruction in Europe and Asia contributed to the generation of economic supremacy that the USA enjoyed after WWII.

  • Holy Hyrax

    >I don’t think many of them would choose to fight the war. But they are sent into harm’s way by people of authority, while those people who are making the decisions are mostly out of harm’s way.

    I think you underestimate young israelis and their understanding of what is at stake. These aren’t young Americans being sent to a far off jungle with no connection to their homeland. This is their backyard. Also, decision makers are always of out harms way. You have to have a functioning government and branch of authority for things to run.

    >you are wrong is something that does not fit in with modern thinking.

    It’s human nature. And human nature is human nature We can hopefully TEACH right and wrong, but it doesn’t look like one side wants to. So if one side doesn’t want to, then its time to go to the next phase.

    >If a member of Hamas was born in Tel Aviv he would feel differently too.

    Not likely. I just saw a Facebook status by a student over at (I think) Hebrew university where local arab students are standing in solidarity with Gazans against Israels’ attacks.

    • I’ve talked to many young secular Israelis (out of the army already), it’s one of my favorite things to do when I visit Israel. They all have Palestinian friends and think that the fighting is unnecessary.

      • Holy Hyrax

        I’m sure you have many of all mind sets. There are many Lefty Israelis that simply refuse to fight along sides in an occupying force. So if you are talking about some of those people, than ya, you are right.

        • Brian Cohen

          Any Lefty Israelis who were called up are in their units and ready to fight. I haven’t heard a single case of anybody refusing the callup order. Hamas and Jihad are trying to kill the leftists, the rightists, the centrists and those who have no political opinion. You seem to think that shooting rockets at civilians is “ok” if you’re “occupied”. It isn’t. It’s a war crime (not my definition, but that of HRW and Amnesty, let alone the UN and civilized countries…excluding California, of course).
          It’s a shame that the internet gives anybody a soapbox to spout stupidities from – especially that 18 year olds are fighting this war. My neighbor and friend is a battalion commander…married with 6 kids. The husband of my daughter’s grade 7 teacher got called up – he’s got 4 kids and is also in a front line combat unit. The tens of thousands of reservists called to action are older, many are married with kids, and are from all streams of Israeli society from left to right. They all choose to fight the enemy, whereas Fink appears to want to lie down with them as they shecht him for dinner.
          And yea, right or left, (I’m pretty left myself) none of us like getting shot at by some terrorists who say very bluntly that they want death for not just me, but for Fink and you his 300 million fellow Americans too.

          • Holy Hyrax

            Oh please, you really think I meant that there are no Lefties that aren’t serving? Reread what I wrote. I said there are many leftists that are against the army in general and refuse to serve. Nothing so outrageous about that claim.

      • MarkSoFla

        I’ve read reports of, and spoke to 2 friends, that have reported that quite a few units have an over 100% response rate to the recent callups. That means that more soldiers than called up appear ready for duty. That almost never happens, it’s almost always fewer soldiers than called showing up (may be overseas, may be ill, may just not be in the mood to serve, may be preparing for a simcha like a child’s weddings, etc).

        So apparently they do indeed think the fighting is necessary this time.

    • MarkSoFla

      The photo I saw was Haifa University.

  • Menachem Lipkin

    You’re piece is naive, at best. You seem divorced from both the reality of living in Israel and the reality that is religious fundamentalism.

    “I don’t think 18 year old kids are old enough to appreciate the gravity of war. I don’t think many of them would choose to fight the war.”

    This is simply false. The young men and women who live here are far more mature than the spoiled Californians you’re used to dealing with. They understand what’s at stake here and they serve with purpose and pride. Really? You don’t think a young man who grew up in the shadow of constant rocket fire in Sderot would choose to take part in defending his home and country???

    “It seems to me that the groups at war should be able to resolve their issues without killing one another. I know it sounds idealistic to believe this, but I honestly believe that people have the capacity to love and care for anyone.”

    This shows a fundamental lack of understanding of religious fanaticism, specifically the Islamic brand. The Hamas leadership has explicitly stated that they “Love Death” as we “Love Life”. Really? You can “resolve” such an issue. And let me tell you something sweetie pie, this mentality is coming to a town near you. We (and not just us here in Israel) are faced with the most dangerous witch’s brew: A belief in an absolute truth and the belief that that “truth” was given directly be a supreme being, ie God.

    Yes, “Humanity” is growing away from war. No two democracies have gone to war with each other. But there are still plenty of “inhuman” ideologies out there, and they too are expanding. And unless you’re willing to completely submit to those ideologies you’d better grow a pair real fast.

    How dare you perpetuate the “cycle of violence” meme of the terrorists! You know damn well that this age old saying is 100% true: “If Israel’s enemies put down their weapons there would be peace. If Israel put down her weapons there would be no more Israel.” Let’s take Gaza as an example. I, relatively unique among my peers, was in favor of the concept of a withdrawal from Gaza. It truly gave the Palestinians a real potential for a model of how they could build a civil society. They failed and were failed by their leaders. By now Gaza could and should have been a Shangra La on the shores of the Meditterean. The truth is that the people of Gaza should be rising up and revolting (yes as in WAR) against their leaders. If Israel ever succeeds in eradicating the evil in their midst we will have done an amazing chessed for them. Unlike Hamas, it pains us when innocents are hurt. We grieve, they give out candy.

    Yes, it’s unfortunate that people were born into bad situations. I feel bad for children born in the Sudan, Iran, Gaza, etc. However, that in no way mitigates the culpability of the leadership in these places. If anything you’re anti-war attitude is grossly immoral for you would condemn these innocents and their descendants to living in the most inhuman of situations in perpetuity. Crying for them will do nothing to ameliorate their dire situation. It only lets you feel morally superior.

    You’re mentality is a perfect of example of “those who kind to the cruel end up being cruel to the kind.”

  • G*3

    > It seems to me that the only thing a war proves or accomplishes is that one group can be established as physically stronger or better strategists than the other group. War does not set morality or determine which group is more fit to exist

    War is not about proving a moral point. It’s about forcing one group to accede to the demands of the other through the application of brute force. It’s what happens when diplomacy fails to bring about results acceptable to one or more of the involved groups. Carl Von Clausewitz, a leading military theoretician in the 19th century, described war as “the continuation of politics by other means.”

    > People don’t go to war with their friends.

    Sure they do. Before WWI started, there was a series of letters exchanged between Czar Nicholai and Kaiser Willhelm, both of whom shared a grandmother in Britain’s Queen Victoria, addressed to “Dear cousin Nikki” and “Dear cousin Willie.” Germans came home from their vacations in the south of France to join their regiments. There’s the famous Christmas soccer game, played in no-man’s-land between the trenches. Before the war started, experts expected it to be over in a few weeks, because a modern economy, where countries all depended on each other for trade, couldn’t tolerate a protracted war. French and German strategy was designed with this assumption. Yet despite the expectations of experts and friendliness of individuals, monarchs, corporations, and countries, Europe descended into nearly four years of horrific warfare.

    From what I’ve read, it seems that Israelis and Palestinians like each other rather less than did Europeans of different nationalities in 1914.

    > The entire idea that since I am born in Place A and you are born in Place B means that I am right and you are wrong is something that does not fit in with modern thinking.

    You underestimate the power of group affiliation, and how easy it is to establish groups. It’s not rational or “modern,” but it is thoroughly human.

    I remember watching interviews with captured Iraqi soldiers during the second gulf war who talked about how they had fought for Iraq. Not just to protect their homes, families, and friends, but for Iraq, a country that had been arbitrarily created out of a couple of provinces of the former Ottoman Empire by the British after WWI.

    Yes, war is senseless, and destructive, and horrific. It would be wonderful if different groups could settle their differences through negotiation. But it’s been tried, and it rarely works.

    • Holy Hyrax

      >War is not about proving a moral point. It’s about forcing one group to accede to the demands of the other through the application of brute force.It’s what happens when diplomacy fails to bring about results acceptable to one or more of the involved groups.

      Right, and in times, war, becomes the moral imperative.

  • Rachel Hershberg

    Rabbi Fink, everything you say is true. But perhaps being in LA for so long has perhaps lulled you into the illusion that life can be clean and simple. Things are a lot more hard-core around here.
    Let me clarify something else. We can handle this war. It is scary, traumatic, disruptive, and tragic. But we can handle it. The kids, the teenagers, the women sending their husbands off on Tzav 8 (calling up the reservists), the soldiers. It will scar us, and we will survive, just like Am Yisrael has been surviving war since the time of Tanakh.
    What you also may not know is that generally, wars in Israel are tremendous times of unification and mutual support. It is sort of pathetic and sad that when the war is over, we go back to fractiousness as usual, but that’s still where we’re holding as a nation.
    Maybe you should come visit. You might be surprised and impressed.

  • Hadassa Margolese

    I have lived in Israel most of my life. We all grow up knowing that some day we will serve our country. I lived in LA for four years. I can tell you, that childhood in america, and one’s childhood in Israel is VERY different. I have been through the intifadas, I have lived through the gulf war. I I have lived through having to lay down on my school bus floor so as not to get hit by rocks. And so have many other people and children. Yes, we want to live in peace. Badly. We dont want to be scared when we get on a bus not knowing whether or not it will blow up. We dont want rockets fired at our homes. We dont want to get stabbed walking around Jerusalem. We gave Gaza away hoping for peace, that I personally didn’t think would actually happen. But, we hoped. They then used the given back areas to fire rockets even closer to us. These people have been suffering for YEARS from rockets being fired at them. Should Israel not respond? Should we continue to live this way? Any 18 year old understands that he or shet is going to defend and protect our small country. They know what war is. They grew up with it. I understood it when I was 18, my siblings understood it when they were 18. My 9 year old understands it. Yes, its sad. Yes, we want peace. No, the Hamas not our friends. They are terrorists. Terroists are not friends. I hope that someday our children can grow up like the children in LA, not having to think about war, not being scared to go take a bath by themselves upstairs. Not being scared to walk home from their youth movement. Hearing airplanes in the sky and not wondering if it’s a fighter jet or a rocket coming our way. Israel is defending itself. 18 year old going into Gaza know exactly what they are going in for. They are eager and proud to go and defend our country.

  • Mayer Reich

    Rabbi Fink your foolishness and soy drinking LA mentality has clouded your world view. Did you know most of the people called up by the Army are reserve soldiers many of whom are fathers and husbands? Did you know that Israel only responded to attacks after years of sitting back and letting rockets fall on her people? Did you know that not every person on earth is a tree hugging liberal and radical Islam exists (i.e 9/11)?

    Your points about not understanding war or the fact that young adults in Israel are sent into battle are irrelevant, you lost credibility with your statements but clearly you got what you wanted with all of this attention.

    Sorry got to go as I hear war planes overhead right now after watching the sound and light show over Ashdod yesterday. What you managed to do was not question war because that has always existed but questioned your ability to show compassion and empathy for those going through one.

    I wish I could be as Naive as you, unfortunately my and my childrens reality is one of war and one we didn’t choose to fight, in fact it’s one we have avoided for years. Your statement of “I want to be very clear, I support Israel and its right to defend itself.” Is like me saying some of my best friends are Jews so it’s ok.

  • Esther Wolfson

    My 21 year old son is currently on his way to join his unit on the border of the Gaza Strip. He left the army 3 weeks ago to study in yeshiva for 6 months and he could have stayed there. And yet, upon hearing that his unit was sent to the border of Aza, he CHOOSE, to go. And he is not the only one. Almost all of his friends are currently down there proudly waiting to defend their county. I can assure you that your statement “It seems to me that the people fighting the war, as in the soldiers, are fighting a war for their parents. I don’t think 18 year old kids are old enough to appreciate the gravity of war. I don’t think many of them would choose to fight the war. ” is patently false. I did not send him to this war or encourage him to volunteer despite the fact that the army did not yet call him. He chose to go despite his parents fears because it is his war and he feels it is his responsibility to defend his country. That Rabbi Fink, is what the youth of Israel are made of. All of us wish we could resolve our differences without death and violence, but this point is simply irrelevant. When the other side chooses to rain upon our citizens violence and the threat of constant death, then we as a society have no choice but to defend ourselves. It may be that in the United States there is no 18 year old that is able to appreciate the gravity of war, but I can assure you that in Israel this is not the case. Our children do appreciate the gravity of war and they are down there, thousands of them, ready to risk their lives for their county, so that the thousands of people who have lived under the threat of rocket fire for years can once again live normal lives. I tremble in fear of something happening to my son, but I am proud I have a son that at such a young age, is willing to risk his life for what he believes in. Please Rabbi Fink, retract your comments about this being a war being fought by children on behalf of parents. You are wrong. It is war that many children, who in Israel are already young adults, are ready to fight by their choice, to protect their county. My child and my neighbor’s children. And not your children.

  • I generally enjoy your blogs and I am sure that you did not mean for this one to be inappropriate. And to be clear I am all for open discussion about the pro’s and con’s for government policy. Last night on the news here there was an open debate on whether this current action was avoidable.

    However whatever the intent, it comes across very poorly:

    I will pick two ideas that you have suggested that I have a major problem with.

    “It seems to me that the people fighting the war, as in the soldiers, are fighting a war for their parents. I don’t think 18 year old kids are old enough to appreciate the gravity of war.”

    It is patronising in the least to make this statement. I was a tank driver in the regular army and in reserves. I made aliya without my parents and it seems strange to blame my parents for that decision. I am not alone, and there are thousands who have made similar decisions.

    Secondly, unlike Gaza, decisions about war are made by an elected government, open to criticism and indeed Israeli governments have fallen due to decisions around the decision to go to war or not. Thank G-D that it is politicians and not generals that make these decisions. (Obviously fundamentally different to the decision making process in Gaza).

    Finally fathers and sons go to the army because they are fighting to protect their houses, not
    to fulfill some destiny that they don’t understand or identify with. We have had military campaigns in the past that have not enjoyed a complete support of the public. This is palpably not the case this time, so I suggest that it is an unfortunate timing from your part to talk about this, as you put it “theoretical” discussion. Not too theoretical over there – and by the way, and without cynicism, you are welcome to come and visit!

    “War does not set morality or determine which group is more fit to exist”

    I have no idea what you mean by this. I understand it to mean that war is a moral leveller. NOTHING could be further than the truth. Israel may or may not achieve the Darwinist victory you speak of, but one thing is clear to all, even within the international community. Hamas fires rockets from within residential areas, often next too or in the same building as schools or mosques. To compound this war crime and immorality they specifically target civilian areas.

    Israel on the other hand separates its military installations from civilian areas, and goes to incredible lengths to minimise civilian causalities often at the cost of taking higher risks for its own soldiers/civilians. If there is something immoral about that, then one might say that playing morals with the lives of people you have the responsibility to protect is problematic.

    I shall stop here. I am sure others will have other comments to make. Rabbi Fink I am sure that you love Israel and the Jewish people. Please reconsider the way that this is expressed in your recent blog!


    Beit Shemesh

  • Do you have any idea what’s going on here?

    First of all, the idea that there are naive 18 years olds fighting the wars of an older generation is just plain false. I’m 30, and I’m one of the younger guys in my unit. Most of the army is in fact made up of reserve units like mine.

    Second, you’re treating this war as if it’s some far off Vietnam, where we only hear about it in news reports (as you are). This is a war that’s being experienced by everyone in the country! You think there’s a corner somewhere in this country where the there’s a gan yeladim without a contingency plan in place in case there’s an air raid siren?

    The “18 year olds” who are off to fight this war are just as worried about their mothers at home as their mothers are worried for them. If I get called back up, and I pray I wont (having just gotten home last week from a month of miluim), I’ll be marching off with the intent to kill the people who are trying to kill me and my family. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • Abraham

    This is a ludicrous post. You sound like someone who has never read an article or done a modicum of research into the situation in Israel. Your equivalency is disgusting. Your naivety disgraceful. I am very very disappointed in this post. You are better than this

  • Avi

    First, I have little to add to the criticism below – only because it is so sweeping and accurate. I would, however, like to point out that offering a half-baked apology as an after thought as not nearly as commendable as some of your readers have felt. The way you write is as if you stab a child in the heart and then, as he bleeds out, you condescendingly offer: You’re too upset to hash this out. Let’s talk tomorrow tatteleh”.


    I appreciate a little sensationalism as much as the next guy but to proactively pursue a reprehensible worldview which is counter-intuitive to everything our Torah espouses (everything you’ve been taught – we learned in the same schools) is a Chillul Hashem

  • I read your apology. I read this post. This is what I have to say to you: It is my fervent wish that all peace loving hippies someday come in very close contact with someone actively trying to kill them just for the sheer fact that they do not believe or adhere to a random set of social rules. Then I wonder if these people will truly be so judging about those that make the hard decision to go to war. We that make war do not take it lightly and we calculate and are aware of the dangers to all those in the way to include the innocents that are regrettably affected – on both sides, including innocent Muslim civilians and our own young soldiers — who, by the way are NOT fighting their parents war — they are fighting a war for themselves, and their families and their RIGHT TO EXIST – yes, IN PEACE.

  • Zahava Englard

    I cry that the “Rabbi of the beach at the shul on the beach” is actually in a position of influencing thought.

  • ihatemakingnewuserids

    You really think the sympathy it comes down to where someone lives? That there is no actual difference between the sides – the side that wants to destroy the other and the side that wants to kill only the terrorists?

    There are many Palestinians who grew up with their state media’s hateful propaganda and yet agree with Israel. Yes, they were born there but see that there is a meaningful difference between the sides. (There are Israelis who side with the Palestinians, but I would argue there would be many many more detractors on the other side if they had free press and freedom of speech)

    I’m shocked you think it comes down to where one grew up.

  • I cry for you and your followers, like amputated limbs long separated buy not yet forgotten of the Jewish People.

  • Read Civilization and its Enemies, by Lee Harris. It’ll help you grok your inability to see that while you have a reasonable outlook, people who hate and want you to die, don’t and will NEVER listen to reason.that is why we have to defend ourselves or we WILL die. and, also read , March of Folly, by Barbara Tuchman.

  • Jeffrey R. Woolf
  • Shlomo

    As a Jew living inIsrael, Gush Etzion to be specific, let me say that I agree whole heatedly with the article, if not with every specific word. Do not think that just because I had to run into my shelter Friday night that I do not mourn the victims in Gaza. My idealism makes me search my soul for a better answer than what we currently have. I guess that is the definition of bitachon. Without the intercession of a higher power we are caught in an endless loop of bad choices that kill us and them. It does not make you any less pro Israel to feel pain at the death of innocents on the other side or to feel sadness that war seems to be the best answer. I admit to being naive, but I hope for a world where my naïveté is more prevalent and contagious than the alternative. Never give up your idealism. It is what separates you from what you hate!

    • Thank you for commenting. I appreciate your support.

  • Rav Dov Fischer

    First, a few thoughts about the current
    Mideast situation. I was listening to and
    reading news reports this weekend (i) about shortages of medical supplies in
    Gaza, (ii) about Gaza civilians displaced from homes, and (iii) about
    concern over the “human tragedy” in Gaza. As I said this Shabbat in

    I don’t care about any of the above

    If Israel deliberately starts targeting Gaza women or children or men for the purpose of just
    murdering people, just to murder them, just to terrorize them, just to enjoy
    imposing suffering on them, I will be the first to speak out against Israel. However, since
    Israel’s founding in 1948,
    that never has been Israel’s
    way, not has it ever been the way of those associated with any of the Zionist
    movement streams since Herzl came to Basle, Switzerland in 1897 to call for the
    establishment of a Jewish homeland.

    The Hamas in Gaza have
    been launching scores and scores of murderous rockets into Israel for months and years, and no one cared a
    whit or reacted until Israel finally hit back. If
    Israel did not have elections
    scheduled in nine weeks, who knows whether they would have hit back yet? But
    they do, and they did. Good for Israel.

    The whole idea propounded by then-Prime Minister Ariel
    Sharon and his Kadima Party was supposed to be that Israel unilaterally leaves
    Gaza (just as it did from South Lebanon under former Prime Minister Ehud Barak),
    handing over to the Gaza Arabs all of Israel’s infrastructure there, all
    synagogues, all agricultural resources, all technology there, and everyone, Jews
    and Arabs, would live happily ever after. Kumbaya. So Israel did so, handing over the land
    unilaterally, and Hamas has been shooting murderous rockets into Israel
    ever since.

    Over time, Hamas’s rockets have improved. First, they
    only could reach Sderot. Then Ashdod and
    Ashkelon. Now Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. They also are gaining
    in accuracy. Higher quality rockets are being smuggled in through underground
    tunnels linking Gaza to Egypt.
    Now that Hosni Mubarak has been ousted by the freedom loving, pro-democracy
    Arab Spring,
    Egypt is in the
    hands of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, and there is no restriction on what is
    smuggled through. These smuggled weapons include materiel coming via Libya,
    which is in total anarchy, with all of Khaddafi’s arsenal up for grabs. (For
    those who missed the news, an American ambassador recently was murdered in
    Benghazi after a
    12-minute YouTube video was seen by 46 views.) Libya is out of control, their government is
    unable to control what is going on there, and many of Khaddafi’s weapons are
    going into Gaza. Iran also is getting things into Gaza. And this is why
    Israel blockades Gaza from the Mediterranean, regardless of the Flotilla
    Brigades that try to test Israel’s resolve. When the blockades
    stop, any food being shipped by sea will be sushi-wrap to cover over the
    firearms and rockets packed inside. Israel knows that. So do we: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOGG_osOoVg

    It is noteworthy, by the way — and I am surprised that
    no one has noted this in news reports — that Hezbollah has not chosen this moment to attack Israel in
    the same way from Southern Lebanon in the north, as Hamas is attacking from
    Gaza. One of Israel’s
    concerns has been that a direct hit on Iran and its nuclear weapons program could ignite
    a free-for-all, with Iranian surrogates, Hezbollah in South Lebanon and Hamas in
    Gaza, shooting everything they have into
    Israel. The current unexpected
    situation that Hamas instigated raises the intriguing question whether, once
    Israel finishes its
    objectives in Gaza and somewhat neutralizes the
    current Hamas threat, it stands to encounter as much adversity from Hezbollah if
    it strikes Iran. Just thinking out loud as to
    how the strategic balance may be affected by this present unexpected

    We observe that Hamas stores its rockets and launchers
    in apartment buildings, on school grounds, in hospitals — and on the rooftops of
    such structures — all with the strategic purpose of leaving Israel with the
    impossible choice of (i) not hitting back and inviting decimation, or (ii)
    hitting back and then being condemned hypocritically by terrible publicity
    photos of apartment buildings, school grounds, and hospitals flattened by
    Israeli strikes. It is a blatant violation of international rules of law for
    any combatant to place weapons among civilians. However, no one ever cites
    international law except when Israel is defending itself.

    If Israel were to depart from Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”),
    a third front would be opened there. The most extreme terrorists always enter
    to fill the void. Within a year, probably six months, of any Israeli departure,
    the “West Bank” would become another Gaza, with
    Israel becoming a veritable shooting
    arcade, being rocketed from all over the place.

    Notwithstanding any future developments that may impact
    Gazan “civilian life,” and any pictures or uncomfortable news stories that may
    break over the next few days, the bottom line to remember is that, in a free and
    monitored election, the civilians of Gaza overwhelmingly voted for Hamas to be
    sovereign in their society. They chose Hamas freely, as the Germans freely
    elected Hitler in 1935. Those who voted to be led by Hamas and to place Hamas
    in charge of their weapons and directing their destiny deserve the same sympathy
    and understanding as did the Germans of Dresden who were among those who put
    Hitler in power. http://frontpagemag.com/2010/dov-fischer/who-chose-hamas-to-lead-them/

  • Dear Rabbi Fink,

    I am a little confused as to the negativity that this post has generated. You state at the beginning that you are not addressing the decision on the part of Israel to start an operation in Gaza, you are simply addressing the fact that “War is hell.” One would think that everyone would agree with you on this (I most certainly do). When you say “It seems to me that the people fighting the war, as in the soldiers, are fighting a war for their parents” I would add to that “and for their leaders.” This is not an offensive statement and is nothing new either (though by the responses that you received, it seems that it does need to be reiterated). Christmas in the the Trenches is an amazing example of that (for those that do not know what that is, look it up, it’ll restore your faith in humanity: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_truce ).

    War is indeed petty. What do we think of when an individual tries to muscle his way into what he wants? We think that it is barbaric. Unfortunately when we increase the magnitude of the damage, we tend to numb it all out and it seems alright.

    Let us assume that there are Just wars, I will never complain about the fact that people are opposed to it, simply because those people are the ones giving voice to the tragedies that occur in war, and tragedies occur in Just wars.

    Let us assume a civilian population is responsible for the actions of its leaders. No one can make the case that children and infants share that responsibility. The idea that an innocent child will die in war should make war immensely repulsive. If you have a kid, or any individual that you hold dear, imagine them torn apart. Imagine them suffering when you cannot do anything but watch. That image is not in your mind, that image is a reality to too many people.

    I hate war and while plenty of my friends that support Israel take issue with war for the tragedies that accompany it, too many of my friends (and from the responses to your post, it would seem that too many people in general) are completely blind to the fact that if Israel “wins” the war, it still lost morally by having to participate in it.

    Thank you for posting this, and it seems that more people need to follow your lead.

  • vladimir

    Rabbi, you should forgive yourself, – for your soaring big heart feels the pains of many innocent lost at war lives. Your burning words carry the ultimate truth: “…they are sent into harm’s way by people of authority, while those people who are making the decisions are mostly out of harm’s way.” This war was not authorized by Israelis’ citizens. Not every war is a necessity. As a child I’ve been thrown into nightmare of seeing death and for 4 years fearing for either being killed or taken to the German concentration camp. Miraculously – I survived. Today I worried for the Israel, and I’m crying for the dead.

    PS – love your humaneness..

  • D. Kern

    I am astounded by this post. I got to it by a link and cannot believe the inaccuracies.
    1. I live in Israel and see all the young people of my neighborhood going to fight to protect their country and people. They are not driven by hatred, and they are not being sent by their parents. So this statement is completely false:
    ” I don’t think 18 year old kids are old enough to appreciate the gravity of war. I don’t think many of them would choose to fight the war.”

    2. You go on about your sympathies for the people of Gaza. You know that the Hamas was elected in a democratic election. Does that fact have any relationship to your misplaced sympathies? Yes, there are innocent children, and that is a tragedy. But the population as a whole elected a radical religious fanatic movement to lead it.

    3. Please stop being so naive. Please get acquainted with your homeland and people. The fact that you are thousands of miles away in Galut shines through in every line of your post.