Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Av 5766 - August 16, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Opinion & Comment
What is Victory?

This is already the longest war the State of Israel ever fought. Although it is far from the worst in terms of casualties, it is also unprecedented in the fact that so much of the Home Front has been under fire.

The human suffering in Israel has been tremendous. Dozens killed, hundreds wounded, huge amounts of damages. Even when the report says that the missiles fell on an open area and there were no injuries and they caused no damage, that is not fully correct. It means that no buildings were damaged, but it does not include damage to crops and forests. Some 10,000 dunams (2,500 acres) of forests were destroyed, and there was extensive damage to crops.

In addition, hundreds of thousands of people have been living under a constant threat of sudden death or injury for over a month, and have been spending their time in structures like shelters that are cramped and oppressive. It is hoped that the immediate nightmare is over for them, with the implementation of a cease-fire.

Hizbullah appears to have been surprised by the strong reaction to its provocations, though in a larger sense this is certainly what it has been preparing for during the six years it controlled south Lebanon.

Israel initiated the action so it cannot be said to have been surprised by it, though in a larger sense the leadership seems to have been unprepared for what to do after the initial attack, and how to bring the effort to a successful end.

The main issue that has been discussed among the pundits in Israel is how to achieve victory -- a condition that is very elusive when one is confronted with a shadowy militia that has no territorial identity and that is basically a part of a worldwide Islamic ferment that glorifies death -- its own as much as that of its enemies.

There are various opinions about what would constitute an Israeli victory: the elimination of Nasrallah, the occupation of south Lebanon up to the Litani River, the forceful cessation of Hizbullah rocket launching (as opposed to their agreement to stop firing under a cease-fire), disarming Hizbullah -- all these have been suggested as essential to be able to declare victory.

On the other hand, many commentators noted that the raw fact of Hizbullah having lasted for so long against the mighty Israeli army is claimed by them to be victory already. Merely surviving now and on in to the future allows Hizbullah to trumpet its feat as a victory.

Hizbullah, and the Lebanese people of which it is a part, certainly suffered extensive losses. Even if they are perceived as having "won" it is not a victory that they will want to repeat too often.

Although it is certainly more pleasant to win than to lose -- at the time -- what is certainly more important are the long- range results.

Up until now, Israel's approach to the Arab world has been based on ga'avah -- the clear military superiority that it displayed on the battlefield and felt strongly in diplomatic encounters as well. The Israeli approach has relied on tough talk and tougher action.

Our rabbonim have stressed repeatedly that this is neither a healthy nor a realistic attitude for a Jew in golus like we all are, even those who gratefully live in Eretz Yisroel. We are dependent on many other countries, and especially the United States whose valuable support in the recent crisis we must acknowledge.

We also mourn every drop of Jewish blood and hope that no more will be spilled.

But we just wish to suggest that pursuing a policy based on caution and humility may prove more successful than the basis of unJewish ga'avah.

And most of all we wish to restate that the victory that we seek is nothing more than the freedom to pursue our avodas Hashem under optimal conditions. If Torah study and mitzvah performance are strengthened and increase, that is the true nature of victory for the Jewish people and ultimately for the entire world.

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