Israel Ziv is a sixty-six-year-old decorated former paratrooper. On the morning of October 7, the retired Army general was taking a bike ride when news broke that a rocket barrage had been fired from Gaza and gunmen were pouring across the border. He raced to his home overlooking olive groves near Tel Aviv, put on his uniform, and grabbed his weapon, a nine-millimeter pistol.
He then drove to the battle zone around 10 a.m. with his close friend, Noam Tibon, a retired general whose son was trapped in the Nahal Oz kibbutz. He found disorganized groups of young Israeli soldiers, piled several of them into his Audi, and began attacking Hamas gunmen on the road. After a soldier in his car was wounded, he snatched his M16 and started firing out the window.
Gen. Tibon was eventually able to rescue his son while Gen. Israel Ziv raced to other hot spots. He spent nearly twenty-four hours around the kibbutzim and villages under attack, firing his own weapon, organizing evacuations of civilians, and coordinating with the military to dispatch backup units.
Why is Israel important to America?
At this juncture in the war, it’s worth asking why Israel is so important to America.
As Israel prepares for the next stage in this conflict, Americans remain solidly supportive of the Jewish state: 49 percent say the US is doing “about the right amount” to support Israel in the war, while 29 percent say the US is actually doing too little. Only 18 percent say the US is doing “too much” in the aftermath of the attacks.
However, the nation is tiny, ranking 149th in the world in land size at approximately the size of New Jersey. It is not unusually significant to us economically, ranking only twenty-fifth among US trading partners. Of the sixteen million Jews in the world, less than half live in Israel.
But Israel Ziv, with his sacrificial and unselfish bravery on behalf of his people, answers our question in a way that is far more significant than it might first appear.
“Butchering people was the aim”
After a week, let’s ask ourselves what we have learned about Hamas and Israel in the context of their worldviews.
- Hamas attacks noncombatants, intentionally targeting young children, elementary schools, and a youth center. Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote: “Butchering people was the aim. It was what they set out to do.” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Hamas “vividly reminds me of ISIS: bloodthirsty, fanatical, and hateful.”
- Israel has sought to protect civilians in past conflicts with Hamas and is doing the same now, warning Palestinians in Gaza ahead of military advances there. Israel Defense Forces seek to follow the law of armed conflict against targeting noncombatants, while Hamas uses civilians (and often disguises its soldiers like them) to shield its forces and weapons.
Regarding the future of the other state:
- Hamas is pledged to the annihilation of the Jewish people, which is why they staged the largest slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust. Andrew Sullivan compared them to the Nazis’ quest to exterminate the Jewish race: “The same ethno-fascism; the same blood-and-soil ideology . . . the same internalization of an entire group of humans as subhuman, to be treated like dangerous vermin; the same hideous sadism; the same eliminationist ideology; the same glee.”
- Jewish leaders accepted the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan that would have created an independent state of Palestine (with more land than the West Bank and Gaza Strip today), but the Arab nations rejected it. Every Jew I know in Israel (I have been traveling there for nearly thirty years) believes the Palestinians deserve to have their own homeland.
Regarding their leaders:
- After Hamas came to power in Gaza in 2007, there have been no more elections. More than 65 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, but the party’s leaders are wealthy, some estimated to be billionaires. They are currently living in Qatar in what the Telegraph calls “five-star luxury.”
- Israel’s democracy is often divisive and chaotic, as recent months have shown, but its leaders are ultimately responsible to those who elect them.
“The rock-solid foundation of Western culture”
Two caveats: Hamas is not the Palestinian people (a subject I intend to address later this week), and Israelis are fallen like the rest of us (also a subject I intend to address soon).
But the way Israel lives out its worldview raises a crucial question for us in our secularized culture: Is it a coincidence that the only true democracy in the Middle East, the nation in this conflict most committed to just war and to the law of armed conflict, was birthed from a biblical worldview that values all humans as made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27)?
In “The Nihilism of Antisemitism,” Thomas Balazs and Yonatan Hambourger write: “It is precisely because the Jews advanced a moral system that doesn’t tolerate murder, theft, rape, or mistreatment of the weak, and demands we care for other human beings, that other peoples have tried to wipe them out. The spree of killing and rape committed by Hamas is, among other things, a cry for freedom from a Jewish moral system that forbids such things.” They call Judaism “the rock-solid moral foundation of Western culture” and note that Hitler was reported to have said, “Conscience is a Jewish invention.”
As post-Christian America continues its unconscionable march away from biblical truth and morality into self-centric immoral relativism, what is our future?
Shakespeare’s observation comes to mind: “We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”
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