More than five years and 1,900 days ago, Hamas terrorists from Gaza executed a brilliant plan: they ambushed Israeli soldiers at the Gaza border and kidnapped one of them, Gilad Shalit. Their goal was cunning: use this lone soldier to barter the release of hundreds of their fellow-killers from Israeli jails. They understood their adversaries. They believed they would win. What they had no way of knowing, however, was how grandly they would win.
They won three ways. First, they achieved their goal of prisoner release. But, under the law of unintended consequences, they also achieved two other goals. You see, at the moment of the kidnapping, Hamas could not predict how Gilad Shalit’s parents would weaken the fabric of Israel’s political resolve with their campaign to win their son’s release. The Shalits’ behavior proved perfect for Hamas because their protest became the straw that broke the back of Israeli resolve: Netanyahu’s government might well resist the attacks of Leftist professionals in NGOs and the media, but the Shalits were different. In the politicized enterprise called, ‘attack Netanyahu’, the Shalits were non-political. They were not professionals. They were ordinary. Their pain appealed to every Jewish parent. Their attacks were wonderful because they were innocent and appealing—and they clawed relentlessly at the emotional underbelly of Israel’s body-politic. Through the Shalits, in other words, Hamas would not only free terrorists, it would also inject into Israel’s civic lifeblood a toxin called fear, anguish, guilt and confusion, the consequences of which would delight Israel-haters everywhere.
The third unexpected win came with the timing of the agreement. Israel could not have given Hamas a more propitious moment: Fatah, engaged in statehood discussions with the Quartet, could offer the ‘Palestinian’ people no comparable victory, for by agreeing to talk, the most obvious potential outcome they were creating was compromise. Hamas, on the other hand, could now stand triumphant before their people—uncompromising, dedicated absolutely to their cause, and victorious. Thanks to the Shalits, this victory was a true gift to Hamas from the gods of hate.
In America, October 12 is the day the entire population celebrates the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. Among Arabs immediately surrounding Israel, October 12 will now become the day entire cities celebrate yet another victory of Hamas over Fatah, and the unalloyed victory of unrelenting and uncompromising Jihadist rejection.
For Israelis, October 12 will not be a day to celebrate. Instead, it could become a day remembered as one that brought death and woe to the Jewish nation. But it may also be the day the Jewish nation finally began to understand that a Torah-based Jewish leadership gives us a better chance to survive than the status quo.
Let’s be honest here. This war with Hamas-Fatah is not about territory or borders. There have been by now dozens of essays that have reminded us that, if land was the issue, we could have had peace long ago. The Jews have made that many offers. This war is about hate. It is a war to purify the land, to rid the land of infidels, to remove the cockroach Jew so that there will be cleanliness for Islam. It is a war of belief—and the Muslim is strong because his belief is strong.
A recent survey may tell Israelis that 58% of us are mildly-strongly religious. But the truth is, we support our current Jewish leadership as if only 5% are religious. While we say we are religious, we expect our leadership to be pagan. The Arab has no such problem. The Arab votes for Hamas and gets what he wants—a religious-based leadership based on clear values. Yes, those values are not Torah-values. But these people are not Jews. They hate Jews—and their leadership, their religion and their values all unite on this one focal-point. They are strong because of it.
Israelis, meanwhile, are clueless. Even though 58% say that believe in their religion, they also seem to believe that any Torah-based national leadership that focuses on Jewish values will lead to oppression. Why do they believe this? Because they see daily in Israeli media the subliminal—and often not so subliminal--message that a Jewish Israel would be a disaster. The Israel media is, like Hamas, unrelenting: Judaism spells darkness and, surely, public stoning. Israeli Jews, meanwhile, forget their religion and behave as if they believe what they see in this anti-religious drumbeat. By apparently believing the religious self-hatred of the media, Israelis weaken their leadership by demanding that their leaders commit to non-Jewish values; and to make sure that their fellow citizens tow this line, we have politicians like Livni, Barak and Peres showing us how wonderful political pagan-worship is. For 63 years, this country has delightfully embraced G-d-denying leadership—and look where it has gotten us. Can any Prime Minister really do his job if he has to swim against this stream? Ask the tent protesters, B’Tselem, Peace Now and the Shalits. They’ll tell you. Israelis are clueless.
But the release of hundreds of Jew-killers might be a wake-up call. Remember, we have been to this movie before. After a similar 1985 release, we got the first Intifada—and we had no answers. But this time might be different because these times are different. Increasingly, Jews in Israel are waking up to the fact that we see religious Jews every day—and they are not devils. More and more Jews in Israel are beginning to understand that Judaism is not a religion of darkness because they see too many bright smiles on the street. More and more of us realize that religious Jews are productive and energized, working beside us as scientists, soldiers, doctors and entrepreneurs; we have seen too many religious Jews in the light of day to believe that our religion is darkness. We can see clearly that Judaism is compatible with modernity.
Israelis might be clueless. But we are not stupid. We see productive Torah-Jews everywhere. We also see God-denying leadership, the nations of the world gathering against us—and 1,000 angry Jew-haters about to go free. We might look like we are clueless, but many of us do remember that our 3,300 year-old Heritage has told us that these days of trial would come—just as our Torah has told us that we would be scattered, persecuted and then ingathered as we experience a resurgence of belief. We may act like we’re clueless, but some of us are starting to re-think the promised benefits and actual results of G-d-less leadership. More and more of us are starting to think about something else: Torah-based leadership for our Jewish nation; and make no mistake-- a leadership based on Torah values would not take us to surrender and humiliation before our enemies.
We will see what these 1,000 prisoners bring to us. As this is written (October 16, 2011), we have seen no evidence that Israeli officials have confirmed Gilad’s condition. We will see what that means. We will also see what these 1,000 prisoners teach us about the fruits of leadership that appears to deny our Torah.
Because of Gilad, this might indeed be the year we change our values.