The Master of Israeli Fiction Comments on King David and the “Secret” of the IDF

 In 1964, an Israeli journalist asked S.Y. Agnon, a towering figure of 20th-century Hebrew literature, to comment on the fact that the Jewish state was now defended by a Jewish army. Herewith, an excerpt from Jeffrey Saks’s translation of his reply:

I think the army is nothing to play around with, but dabbling in pacifism is a bad business. Regarding our regular pacifists, who bask in their pacifism, the sages have already said, “Whoever shows mercy to the cruel ends up being cruel to the merciful.” I had one of the Shomer HaTzair members visit, from that leftwing youth movement. In response to the opinion he shared with me, I responded that the time when the people of Israel outstretched their necks for slaughter has passed. They claim that an army and war are not fitting for the people of Israel. Is it “fitting” for our enemy to slaughter us and for us to be slaughtered? Regarding the messianic era, it is said, “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation” (Isaiah 2:4)—but to achieve that we must be worthy of the messiah.

I don’t like the military. I would not talk about a Gentile army this way. I am not moved by anything practical or technical. . . . Yet when I witnessed, here in the Talpiot neighborhood [of Jerusalem], the young men in the War of Liberation, how they defended us and how they would come from their posts on Shabbat eves to hear kiddush—then I couldn’t hold back tears.

Israel, which had the insight to make the great and valiant warrior King David into a poet of the Psalms, one who sits and passionately studies the Torah—perhaps this is the secret of our army’s endurance.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: IDF, Israeli literature, King David, S. Y. Agnon


An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security