A Novelist Reflects on Faith, Literature, and the Yom Kippur War

Next Monday, Yom Kippur, marks on the Jewish calendar the 50th anniversary of the simultaneous Syrian and Egyptian surprise attack on Israel. The rabbi and novelist Haim Sabato was one of the hundreds of young Israeli men rushed to the Golan Heights to fight a series of desperate tank battles against overwhelmingly superior numbers; among those in his unit was the late Shimon Gershon Rosenberg, who later became a beloved Talmud teacher and innovative theologian known to his acolytes as Rav Shagar. Sabato fictionalized his wartime experiences in his novel Adjusting Sights. In a 2014 essay—or perhaps, a work of metafiction—recently translated into English by Jeffrey Saks, Sabato recounts how his brothers in arms reacted to the book. The essay begins thus:

Twenty-five years had passed since the Yom Kippur War. That’s when I met him. Two days after my book Adjusting Sights was published in 1999, I attended the wedding of an old student of mine. An energetic wedding band of eight musicians played with full force. The drummer pounded away mercilessly and, while doing so, would crash the cymbal and shake the maracas. Three trumpets blasted loudly. Circles of young people full of gaiety danced with youthful vigor, encircling the bride and groom, stomping their feet with all their might, waving their hands in the air and singing loudly. Older guests chatted at the tables about this and that, raising their voices, and repeating ever more loudly, trying to talk over the sound of the deafening drums. Young waiters, not much older than children, walked cautiously, with measured steps, squeezing between round tables and crowded guests, carrying full platters on one hand that were more than they could handle, struggling to steady themselves, to keep their balance, so that towering stacks of plates and dishes wouldn’t topple over.

There, among the trays of colored soft drinks and guests tucking in to taste fish delicacies on toothpicks, that’s where I met him. His face was covered in scars from severe burns. I barely recognized him. He approached me with great agitation, his body shaking, his eyes burning, and he stood in front of me gripping my shoulders in his two hands with severe force. At that moment it felt like pliers were cinching my body.

“You know!” he said. “I knew all along that you knew! Now tell me! Right now. You can’t dodge me anymore.”

“What am I dodging? What do you mean? What are you asking?” I quietly inquired, drawing out the words, trying to keep calm, trying to identify the speaker with certainty.

Read more at Tradition

More about: Haim Sabato, Israeli literature, Religious Zionism, Yom Kippur War

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict