Finding Meaning in War, Crisis, and Defeat

The suddenness of the most recent assault on the Jewish state, as well as its date, has prompted numerous comparisons to the Yom Kippur War. That conflict brough about much political and strategic reconsideration among Israelis. For Religious Zionists, still filled with the messianic hopes inspired by the Six-Day War, it also raised some serious theological questions.

A few weeks after the war ended, Rabbi Yehuda Amital (1924–2010), the head of the prestigious Har Etzion yeshiva and a leading Religious Zionist thinker, delivered a discourse to his students about the theological implications of Israel’s near-defeat, which was soon thereafter published in a Hebrew journal and has recently been rendered into English by Ramon Widmonte. A native of Romania and a Holocaust survivor, Amital fought in Israel’s War of Independence. In this essay, he urges his disciples to search for the hand of God in historic events, and to avoid an attitude of recrimination:

According to what is happening now, it is clear that we are in the stages of the redemption brought about through suffering; however, the possibility that the redemption could come in another way draws us into a halakhic obligation—a positive commandment that is a function of our present time. That is, the obligation of crying out, described by Maimonides [in his code]. . . .

This fact—that the redemption could come without suffering, but that it is coming [currently] accompanied by suffering—obligates us in the positive commandment of crying out to God, of introspection, of reflection on our deeds, and knowing that God expects us to repent. . . . What is demanded is our own repentance; not that of others.

Amital also recounts a moving story that he heard from a fellow rabbi:

[The rabbi] had to inform a certain family that their son had fallen in battle. After about half an hour, the bereaved father said, “I survived the Shoah; in it, I lost a wife and five children who did not even merit a Jewish burial. My son now merited to be born in the Land of Israel, to live in it, to learn in it, to give his life on its behalf, and to be buried with a Jewish burial. Despite everything, there is some progress.”

I would not say it is only “some progress”; indeed, I testify that in my youth, when we were caught in the thick of the Shoah, our sweetest dream was that if it was decreed upon us to [one day] be killed, that at least we should fall in a war for the Land of Israel.

Read more at Tradition

More about: Gaza War 2023, Religious Zionism, Yehuda Amital, Yom Kippur War


Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security