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by Patricia Berlyn


"Let us be strong and strengthen ourselves for the sake of our people . . . ."
— I Chronicles 19:13

They were swifter than eagles,
They were braver than lions.

— II Samuel 1:23

The Perverse Children" [Issue No. 72] dealt with the class of Jews who chose to side with the enemies of their own people. This issue touches upon their opposites: The Faithful Children who offer — and too often sacrifice — their own lives to protect their people from its murderous enemies. [See further Issue No. 43 "The Mighty Men of Valor"]. They are not for the most party professional soldiers, but young men and women doing their service or called up for reserve duty in the Israel Defense Forces [IDF], putting aside their studies or their work when the call comes to go forth and defend the Land of Israel and the Children of Israel.

My enemies speak evilly of me [saying]
"When will he die and his name perish?" — Psalm 41:6.

The recent action in Gaza that was a response to years of missile barrages against Israeli civilians, was rather clumsily designated "Cast Lead". It was met with verbal and written barrages from afar, in an international operation of Cast Lies.

To many professional humanitarians it was intolerable to recognize that in fact the IDF went to unprecedented lengths to avoid injury to a population that was, whether willingly or not, a human shield for terrorism. Rumors of minor misconduct were believed without question and exaggerated into War Crimes. Fallen terrorists were deemed innocent victims of murder. Terrorist bases were deemed oases of peaceful function. Investigations that refuted the charges were dismissed or ignored.

Those seeking charges to level were given fodder by the Israeli leftist/anti-Zionist "intellectual" newspaper HaAretz that published remarks by one Dani Zamir, known to be himself far leftist and anti-Judaic. In a statement he has since retracted, he quoted remarks made by soldiers gossiping about rumors they had heard of two alleged instances of callousness toward Gazan civilians. None of them pretended to have any knowledge of whether or not those rumors were true.

For HaAretz that was grounds enough to cry "War Crimes", and its rumor-mongering was gleefully seized upon and propagated by the Britain's Israel-loathing newspaper The Guardian and spread out to other sloppy and influential international news media. They are now widely and unquestioningly accepted as proof of Israel's War Crimes.

For the BBC [British Broadcasting Company] launching spitballs at Israel is a company sport. Recently, one failed to hit the target. On 9 January 2009, it raised the subject of the Gaza Campaign with Colonel Richard Kemp, who was a commander of British troops in Afghanistan and is now a senior military advisor to the British government. The broadcaster pressed him to comment on media reports of civilian casualties in Gaza. Colonel Kemp did indeed express sympathy for any such victims, but then read from the wrong script.

Colonel Kemp's statement recorded on

"I think Israel has very little choice other than to carry on with its military operations until it reaches the conclusion it needs which is to stop Hamas from firing rockets at its people in its territory. "It has set out on this operation to do that and the civilian and military deaths on all sides of course are absolutely tragic. But Israel doesn't have any choice apart from defending its own people.

"Until such arrangements are in place, not just for Hamas to accept that they must stop attacking Israel territory, but also that any such agreement is enforced. Until those arrangements (are enforced) Israel has no choice but to completely dominate the area.

"I think — I would say that from my knowledge of the IDF and from the extent to which I have been following the current operation, I don't think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza.

"When you look at the number of civilian casualties that have been caused, that perhaps doesn't sound too credible — I would accept that. However, Hamas, the enemy they have been fighting, has been trained extensively by Iran and by Hezbollah, to fight among the people, to use the civilian population in Gaza as a human shield.

"Hamas factor in the uses of the population as a major part of their defensive plan. So even though as I say, Israel, the IDF, has taken enormous steps — and I can tell you about some of those if you're interested — to reduce civilian casualties, it is impossible, it is impossible to stop that happening when the enemy has been using civilians as a human shield."

A rebuttal of the eager maligners is found in "IDF soldiers refute claims of immoral conduct in Gaza"
YNET Israel News, 19 March 2009:

"'It is true that in war morality can be interpreted in many different ways, and there are always a few idiots who act inappropriately, but most of the troops represented Israel honorably,' soldier says in response to claims of immoral behavior during Operation Cast Lead.

"IDF soldiers who took part in January's offensive in Hamas-ruled Gaza refuted on Thursday claims of immoral conduct on the military's part.

"The claims were made by soldiers who took part in the war during a post-op conference at the military academy at Oranim. The conference protocol was published Thursday.

"'I don't believe there were soldiers who were looking to kill (Palestinians) for no reason," said 21-year-old Givati Brigade soldier Assaf Danziger, who was lightly injured three days before the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead.

"'What happened there was not enjoyable to anyone; we wanted it to end as soon as possible and tried to avoid contact with innocent civilians," he said.

According to Danziger, soldiers were given specific orders to open fire only at terrorists with weapons or people who posed a threat. 'There were no incidents of vandalism at any of the buildings we occupied. We did only what was justified and acted out of necessity. No one shot at civilians. People walked by us freely,' he recounted.

A Paratroopers Brigade soldier who also participated in the war called the claims 'nonsense'. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said 'It is true that in war morality can be interpreted in many different ways, and there are always a few idiots who act inappropriately, but most of the soldiers represented Israel honorably and with a high degree of morality.'

"'For instance, on three separate occasions my company commander checked soldiers' bags for stolen goods. Those who stole the smallest things, like candy, were severely punished.'

"We were forbidden from sleeping in Palestinians' beds even when we had no alternate accommodations, and we didn't touch any of their food even after we hadn't had enough to eat for two days.'

"According to a reservist who spent a week in Gaza during the offensive, the claims of immoral behavior on the soldiers' part were 'fictitious.'

"'Wherever we were we tried to cause minimum damage,' said the paratrooper, who also asked to remain nameless. 'We left some of the homes cleaner than they were before we occupied them. [....]

"'During one incident, we were informed that a female suicide bomber was heading in our direction, but even when women approached us and crossed a certain point we made do with firing in the air, or near the women,' the soldier recalled. 'Even when we came across deserted stores, we didn't even think of taking anything. One soldier took a can of food, but he immediately returned it after everyone yelled at him.'"

"Major (res.) Idan Zuaretz of Givati said 'in every war there is a small percentage of problematic soldiers, but we must look at it from a broad perspective and not focus on isolated incidents.' [. . . .] According to the officer, the IDF went to great lengths and employed the most advanced technology to avoid harming civilian population.

"'I've seen a few things in my time, but even I was blown away by the level of professionalism displayed by the army,' Zuaretz said. 'I personally gave my soldiers an order on the day we withdrew from Gaza to leave all of our goodies in the last house we occupied. Some reservists even left an envelope full of money to one Palestinian family. [. . . . ]"'


A way to see straight into the hearts of these defenders of Israel is through their own words:

[1] Joshua Eastman, an Israeli soldier originally from Baltimore, tells us how he survived Gaza. His complete essay can be read here.

"Eleven days ago today, Israel terminated an operation after having reached a state of cease-fire with a cowardly and murderous foe. We pulled out of Gaza. I pulled out of Gaza.

"We were first called up on a Shabbat, right at the end of ten months of regular training and an extra two months of specialized training with the whole brigade in the Golan Heights. We were told that Israel was preparing for a possible conflict with Gaza. We were allowed to stay in phone contact at the beginning, and we listened for news from our families, always better informed than the army. We heard the bombs falling near the Strip, and readied our gear.

"And we waited. And waited. Every day another rumor came in: 'We're going today.' We waited a week. We were sent the following Shabbat. [. . . . ]

"The world is already trying to fault Israel, telling everyone that civilians died, and Israelis murdered. But I was there. I saw the twelve-year-olds with missiles and RPGs strapped to their backs. We watched in anger as our bombs, so as not to fall on large civilian centers, fell on our own troops.” [. . . .]

"I saw many things. I heard things. While I was in Gaza. I saw soldiers who were virulently anti-religious don tzitit [fringed undershirt worn by Orthodox men — Numbers 15:38] under their bullet-proof armor. As one soldier said, 'Why do I put it on now, if I never wore it before? When do you ask your father for help? When you need it.'

"I saw heroes. Boys just out of high-school, young men who should have been playing sports or starting families or going to college, loading weapons and placing armor on their fragile frames, securing helmets, and checking gear.

"They suppressed the fear that lurked at the edges of their minds, and as a unit swept across the fence and planted unwavering lines of boots in the soil of Gaza. I watched them fight like grown men against evil.

"The first night we went in, we were unable to wear bullet-proof armor in my unit, and had to settle for flak vests (we couldn't wear armor when we first went in because, due to the weight we were carrying, it would have hampered our movements, creating a safety hazard). My young commander, who had an easy load to carry that wouldn't interfere with his vest, still left without bulletproof armor. 'If my men don't, I don't.' I told him the next day, I would have followed him through the entire Arab world if need be, my respect for him was so great.

"I saw my brave wife, Chana, who came down to volunteer, just to be close to me, braving rockets and missiles, and watched her help soldiers by handing out desperately needed winter gear and food. I watched Habadniks who came to us every day and inspired the soldiers with song and mitzvot. I saw heroes praying for our safety, and feeding us, and caring for us.

"I saw pain. Just today, I ran into yet another friend from another unit, who tells me, when asked how he is, 'I am fine from the neck down.' Sixteen of his friends were injured in a blast on the first night. [. . . .]

"I saw lies. The world is already trying to fault Israel, telling everyone that civilians died, and Israelis murdered. But I was there . . . . I saw the truth. I saw that warnings were given, I saw the enemy that fought us. I saw the twelve-year-olds with missiles and RPGs strapped to their backs. I saw that it was with sadness and great anger Israeli troops recognized the need to fire on people who crossed the red line, the danger zone which meant they saw us, and knew where we were. Old people mined with bombs, children with detonators, tunnels that opened in the ground to swallow our soldiers. I watched my commanders passing out all of our food to the children who were taken prisoner. I received the commands 'closed to fire on the right' if our intelligence had reported civilians in the area. I watched us, more often then not, taking cover when supposed civilian positions fired on us from 'the right.' Yet the world thinks it can bend the truth. We were not allowed to fire on schools. We were told not to loot. We watched in anger as our bombs, so as not to fall on large civilian centers, fell on our own troops, so that we could tell the world we were attempting to scare the enemy while limiting civilian losses. Yet they won't say that in the press. [. . . .]

"I saw cowardice. We listened with concern when Hamas threatened to use snipers and bombs on us, to fight us every step of the way with their fifteen thousand men, and we watched videos of full brigades parading, waving their weapons and threatening Israel. But as we invaded, they fled.

"They would attack in small groups, hit us with missiles and sniper fire, and then flee. The 'warriors' of Hamas were brave when their rockets fell unanswered on the schools of children and the homes of elderly, but they did not stand when the enemy called them up to answer for their crimes.

"I saw miracles. Rockets that blazed past our houses, bullets that scarred the outside of windows we were watching from. A unit near ours that was walking in to Gaza had RPGs pass straight between their ranks without hitting a single soldier. Mines that didn't explode, mortar rounds that landed next to friends that didn't explode. RPGs that blazed into the earthen barrier directly in front of our APC, detonating before penetration.

"The night walk through a neighborhood that wasn't on the map, that was full of snipers and mines according to reports, that we walked through unawares, by accident, without harm or incident. And that was just what we knew. I felt fear. Every time I entered, every time I squeezed the trigger, every time a missile landed nearby, I was struck with fear. It is a deep fear, hard to explain. Your body shivers as if you are frozen to the core. You find yourself staring at the ground, trying to adjust to the ringing in your ears. [. . . .] Eventually, your training pulls you out and forces you to stay alert, your gun snaps up, and adrenaline masks the fear and hurt. You roll on seemingly fearless, with adrenaline telling you that you are invincible.

"I have felt weakness. I have felt my supposedly mighty muscles shudder, felt my devastatingly powerful weapon shake in my hands, felt my heart hammer against my armor, felt my soul and mind search for some way to avoid pain and the nightmares that were becoming real.

"I felt strength. I would have been lost, but for the words of my Rebbe. 'Ein od Milvado — There is no one but Him." The mere utterance strengthened, and a surge of faith and hope carried me through the invasion, through the detonations and whistling of ricocheting rounds and falling bombs. For I knew, for once KNEW and understood absolutely that I was in the hands of the greatest general on earth. A veteran of every war and every conflict, the ultimate warrior and defender of His people.

"I remember the joy that swept through the lines when they said the head commander was entering the field, because of his experience and strategies, everyone felt safer. It reminded me that an even greater Commander had been there all along. I understood the words of Tehilim [Psalms] 147, 'God favors those who fear Him, those who hope for His kindness.' My strength had failed me, yet when I begged God to allow me to be a conduit for His strength, to be His shield and a sword for His people, I was able to stand and fight. Those nights, my body was there, but God fought on that field. [. . . .]

"My strength lay in the thousands of people who prayed for me, who prayed for the wellbeing of the army, who cried for the return of the fragile and precious Jewish youth who fought like lions where men twice their age would have fled. You are the reason we returned. You are the reason I am alive.

[. . . .]"


[II] 'Raful Youth' made officer for first time Lioz Shaashua, who once belonged to a program for disadvantaged youth launched by former IDF Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan, receives officer's rank and position commanding paratroopers in basic training. By Hanan Greenberg, 1 March 2009:

"Less than a day after receiving the rank of officer and before heading back to the paratroopers he will command, Lioz Shaashua headed to Havat Hashomer military base to direct a phys-ed class. The visit had great significance, not just for Shaashua but for all involved in a project launched 30 years ago by former IDF Chief of Staff Rafael (Raful) Eitan.

"The project, dubbed 'Raful Youth', was intended to assist and support soldiers from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds and to reinforce their integration within the IDF.

"The army was reluctant to enlist Shaashua, 22 from Bat-Yam, who dropped out of high school after completing the tenth grade and became involved in criminal activity. But he claims the army changed his life as he became the first 'Raful youth' to complete the officers' training course on Thursday.

"'It's an amazing feeling of satisfaction and personal victory, but it's also more than that," Shaashua told Ynet. "My message is clear — whoever wants to reach the top just needs to know how to get the right tools, and no one will be able to stop him.'

"Havat Hashomer base is the scene of one of the army's most complicated missions — training and integrating within its ranks newly enlisted soldiers from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds, many of whom are involved with drugs and other criminal activity.

"Shaashua, remembering his pre-army days, said he had basically stopped studying in the eighth grade. "I started to get into trouble with the law, I turned to drugs, I ran away from home and lived on the beach," he recounted. "My uncle told me about his service in the Golani Special Forces, and I dreamed of being like him.'

"The IDF, hesitant to enlist Shaashua, referred him to Havat Hashomer to begin basic training. [....] Lieutenant-Colonel Raz Karni, commander of Havat Hashomer base and a veteran of the Second Lebanon War, said the base's pastoral green scenery can be deceiving. "This is the backyard of Israeli society," he said. "An environment with negative energy that doesn't respect values, and an extraordinarily difficult place." But Karni says the hardships only serve to encourage him and the other officers at the base. "This is Zionism," he says. "We're taking care of the most difficult cases: Youths who were abandoned, who became addicted to alcohol or drugs and involved with criminal activity."


For Shaashua, the turning point came when he received a medal of excellence during basic training. "I felt appreciated, it totally changed me," he said. "I decided no more drugs, no more crime. I want combat and I have to do everything."

Finally he was sent to the Paratroopers Brigade. "I arrived at Battalion 890 and started to connect with people," he recalled. "I told them who I was and where I was from. I wasn't ashamed, just the opposite. It's true that sometimes I felt laughed at and teased, but I wasn't insulted. After you get to know the man behind, you become friends."

Shaashua went on to complete a squad commander course and then decided he wanted to enter an officers' training course. "The activity in the course was so intense I didn't really have time to think about myself," he recounts. "I did have some difficulty in certain subjects, such as speaking before a class, but I made up for it in other areas."

[....] Shaashua commended his officers in the course for supporting him without mentioning his background too much. "But in the end it was my achievement," he states, adding that he was pleased to rejoin Battalion 890 to command troops undergoing basic training. "I couldn't be happier," he concluded.


[III] An Israeli reserve soldier soldier named Yishai [Jesse], who for a time was stationed in an apartment building in Gaza, left behind a letter to the owner of the apartment: "I Am the Soldier Who Slept In Your Home." English translation from IMRA [Independent Media Review and Analysis] (, 29 January, 2009.

[Comment: Yishai was apparently unaware of or unable to comply with the orders cited against touching the furnishings in Gazan homes.]


"While the world watches the ruins in Gaza, you return to your home which remains standing. However, I am sure that it is clear to you that someone was in your home while you were away. I am that someone.

"I spent long hours imagining how you would react when you walked into your home. How you would feel when you understood that IDF soldiers had slept on your mattresses and used your blankets to keep warm. I knew that it would make you angry and sad and that you would feel this violation of the most intimate areas of your life by those defined as your enemies, with stinging humiliation. I am convinced that you hate me with unbridled hatred, and you do not have even the tiniest desire to hear what I have to say. At the same time, it is important for me to say the following in the hope that there is even the minutest chance that you will hear me.

"I spent many days in your home. You and your family's presence was felt in every corner. I saw your family portraits on the wall, and I thought of my family. I saw your wife's perfume bottles on the bureau, and I thought of my wife. I saw your children's toys and their English language schoolbooks. I saw your personal computer and how you set up the modem and wireless phone next to the screen, just as I do.

"I wanted you to know that despite the immense disorder you found in your house that was created during a search for explosives and tunnels (which were indeed found in other homes), we did our best to treat your possessions with respect. When I moved the computer table, I disconnected the cables and lay them down neatly on the floor, as I would do with my own computer. I even covered the computer from dust with a piece of cloth. I tried to put back the clothes that fell when we moved the closet although not the same as you would have done, but at least in such a way that nothing would get lost.

"I know that the devastation, the bullet holes in your walls and the destruction of those homes near you place my descriptions in a ridiculous light. Still, I need you to understand me, us, and hope that you will channel your anger and criticism to the right places. I decided to write you this letter specifically because I stayed in your home.

"I can surmise that you are intelligent and educated and there are those in your household that are university students. Your children learn English, and you are connected to the Internet. You are not ignorant; you know what is going on around you.

"Therefore, I am sure you know that Qassam rockets were launched from your neighborhood into Israeli towns and cities. How could you see these weekly launches and not think that one day we would say 'Enough'?! Did you ever consider that it is perhaps wrong to launch rockets at innocent civilians trying to lead a normal life, much like you? How long did you think we would sit back without reacting? I can hear you saying 'It's not me, it's Hamas." My intuition tells me you are not their most avid supporter. If you look closely at the sad reality in which your people live, and you do not try to deceive yourself or make excuses about 'occupation," you must certainly reach the conclusion that the Hamas is your real enemy.

"The reality is so simple, even a seven-year-old can understand: Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip, removing military bases and its citizens from Gush Katif. Nonetheless, we continued to provide you with electricity, water, and goods (and this I know very well as during my reserve duty I guarded the border crossings more than once, and witnessed hundreds of trucks full of goods entering a blockade-free Gaza every day).

"Despite all this, for reasons that cannot be understood and with a lack of any rational logic, Hamas launched missiles on Israeli towns. For three years we clenched our teeth and restrained ourselves. In the end, we could not take it anymore and entered the Gaza strip, into your neighborhood, in order to remove those who want to kill us. A reality that is painful but very easy to explain. As soon as you agree with me that Hamas is your enemy and because of them, your people are miserable, you will also understand that the change must come from within. I am acutely aware of the fact that what I say is easier to write than to do, but I do not see any other way. You, who are connected to the world and concerned about your children's education, must lead, together with your friends, a civil uprising against Hamas. I swear to you, that if the citizens of Gaza were busy paving roads, building schools, opening factories and cultural institutions instead of dwelling in self pity, weapons smuggling and nurturing a hatred to your Israeli neighbors, your homes would not be in ruins right now. If your leaders were not corrupt and motivated by hatred, your home would not have been harmed. If someone would have stood up and shouted that there is no point in launching missiles on innocent civilians, I would not have to stand in your kitchen as a soldier.

"You don't have money, you tell me? You have more than you can imagine. Even before Hamas took control of Gaza, during the time of Yasser Arafat, millions if not billions of dollars donated by the world community to the Palestinians was used for purchasing arms or taken directly to your leaders bank accounts. Gulf States, the emirates — your brothers, your flesh and blood, are some of the richest nations in the world. If there was even a small feeling of solidarity between Arab nations, if these nations had but the smallest interest in reconstructing the Palestinian people — your situation would be very different.

"You must be familiar with Singapore. The land mass there is not much larger than the Gaza strip and it is considered to be the second most populated country in the world. Yet, Singapore is a successful, prospering, and well managed country. Why not the same for you?

"My friend, I would like to call you by name, but I will not do so publicly. I want you to know that I am 100% at peace with what my country did, and what I did. However, I feel your pain. I am sorry for the destruction you are finding in your neighborhood at this moment. On a personal level, I did what I could to minimize the damage to your home as much as possible. In my opinion, we have a lot more in common than you might imagine. I am a civilian, not a soldier, and in my private life I have nothing to do with the military. However, I have an obligation to leave my home, put on a uniform, and protect my family every time we are attacked. I have no desire to be in your home wearing a uniform again and I would be more than happy to sit with you as a guest on your beautiful balcony, drinking sweet tea seasoned with the sage growing in your garden. The only person who could make that dream a reality is you. Take responsibility for yourself, your family, your people, and start to take control of your destiny.

"How? I do not know. Maybe there is something to be learned from the Jewish people who rose up from the most destructive human tragedy of the 20th century, and instead of sinking into self-pity, built a flourishing and prospering country. It is possible, and it is in your hands.I am ready to be there to provide a shoulder of support and help to you.But only you can move the wheels of history.

Yis hai, (Reserve Soldier)"

These men and others like them are depicted by cartoonist Oliphant in a crude drawing that appeared in The New York Times. It personifies the IDF soldier as a hideous mechanical monster-figure in Nazi gear, rolling a war machine onto a fleeing Gazan woman and child.

This stupid canard is an examle of "The Gathering Darkness" — topic of the forthcoming Issue No. 74.

Patricia Berlyn is a writer and editor. A native of New York, N.Y., she now resides in Israel.

This article was submitted April 19, 2009. It is archived in Volume IX:2 (No. 73), April 2009-Nissan/Iyar 5769 of TIME TO SPEAK, February 2009 — Tevet/Shevet 5769

"A Time To Speak" appears once a month, and each issue is on a theme that relates to Israel and the Middle East, past and present. The contents includes history, background, current events, analysis and comment and excerpts from published writings. A complimentary subscription to the e-mail edition is available by request to: Texts of past issues can be read on:


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