Syria’s Most Recent Attempt to Shoot Down an Israeli Jet: A Sign of Things to Come?

Oct. 18 2017

On Monday, Syrian forces fired a surface-to-air missile at Israeli planes conducting routine surveillance over Lebanon. This was not a first, but the planes in question were in Lebanese, not Syrian, airspace. In response, the IDF destroyed the battery that launched the missile—also unusual for Israel, which has generally refrained from striking so deeply into Syrian territory. Yoav Limor comments on the possible implications:

There are two ways to explain Syria’s part in the incident. The first is that it was not planned. The Israel Air Force (IAF) planes’ flight path took them further east than usual, and perhaps the Syrian troops manning the battery that night were frightened and decided to fire at them. If this was the case, the Syrians have not changed their policy, and for the moment at least there is also no special reason for Israel to worry.

The second possibility is the Syrian missile launch was the early phase of a new policy that includes a response to perceived threats not only in Syrian but also over Lebanese territory. If this is indeed the case, [the incident] constitutes a drastic change, reflecting a heightened self-confidence and a wish to relieve Hizballah—which defended the Assad regime with its own flesh and blood—of the task of protecting Lebanon.

Israel is leaning toward the first option, but there is no doubt that, in light of . . . the imminent defeat of Islamic State, . . . Bashar al-Assad is feeling confident in his rule, certainly while the Russian defense umbrella remains open above him.

This is also the reason that Israel resolved to be as clear as possible when it drew its red lines. Even though the missile did not put IAF planes at risk, another missile is likely to do so in a future incident. The Israeli response was meant to send the message that as far as Israel is concerned, Lebanon is out of bounds, and there is no better justification for an Israeli strike on Syria than if the Syrians shoot at a routine flight over Lebanese airspace.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Syria

The Proper Jewish Response to the Pittsburgh Massacre

Nov. 21 2018

In the Jewish tradition, it is commonplace to add the words zikhronam li-vrakhah (may their memory be for a blessing) after the names of the departed, but when speaking of those who have been murdered because they were Jews, a different phrase is used: Hashem yikom damam—may God avenge their blood. Meir Soloveichik explains:

The saying reflects the fact that when it comes to mass murderers, Jews do not believe that we must love the sinner while hating the sin; in the face of egregious evil, we will not say the words ascribed to Jesus on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We believe that a man who shoots up a synagogue knows well what he does; that a murderer who sheds the blood of helpless elderly men and women knows exactly what he does; that one who brings death to those engaged in celebrating new life knows precisely what he does. To forgive in this context is to absolve; and it is, for Jews, morally unthinkable.

But the mantra for murdered Jews that is Hashem yikom damam bears a deeper message. It is a reminder to us to see the slaughter of eleven Jews in Pennsylvania not only as one terrible, tragic moment in time, but as part of the story of our people, who from the very beginning have had enemies that sought our destruction. There exists an eerie parallel between Amalek, the tribe of desert marauders that assaulted Israel immediately after the Exodus, and the Pittsburgh murderer. The Amalekites are singled out by the Bible from among the enemies of ancient Israel because in their hatred for the chosen people, they attacked the weak, the stragglers, the helpless, those who posed no threat to them in any way.

Similarly, many among the dead in Pittsburgh were elderly or disabled; the murderer smote “all that were enfeebled,” and he “feared not God.” Amalek, for Jewish tradition, embodies evil incarnate in the world; we are commanded to remember Amalek, and the Almighty’s enmity for it, because, as Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik explained, the biblical appellation refers not only to one tribe but also to our enemies throughout the ages who will follow the original Amalek’s example. To say “May God avenge their blood” is to remind all who hear us that there is a war against Amalek from generation to generation—and we believe that, in this war, God is not neutral.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Amalek, Anti-Semitism, Judaism, Religion & Holidays