Op-Ed: To My Soldiers and the Jewish People: We Have Won!
Words written as the fighting ceases. Officer Shechter adds: “Hope you will all have the patience to read to the end. Send this to everyone and tell all the Jewish People that we must realize that we have won!”
Lt. Col. (Res.) Uri Shechter, INN
The writer is Dep. Commander (Res.) of the IDF Nachal Brigade.
These words are dedicated to the wonderful officers and soldiers of the Nachal Brigade, to the bereaved families, wounded soldiers and their families, to all the IDF soldiers and to our wonderful Jewish People.
As we end a month’s battle in Gaza, and I hear questioning noises about its outcome, it is important to me to tell all of the Jewish People that we have won. Victory is ours from both a military and a civilian point of view.
As far as the military results are concerned, we can be holding victory celebrations. Hamas is on the rocks, at best he can stick his head out of his hiding places for a second and signal a “V” with his hands – until he gets a welll-aimed rocket, that is.
Hamas cannot bring in more missiles via the Egyptian border, as it did freely during the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule.
It took years for Hamas to build tens of tunnels to attack from within our communities and we have destroyed them all.
Everything they attempted to do to fight us has failed, from the air, land and sea.
So why are we giving Hamas the feeling that it won? Every contact with the enemy in this Operation ended with a decisive victory for us. Every town we wished to conquer was in our hands within hours, with the help of the IAF and artillery units.
In the Yom Kippur War, we were at a terrible disadvantage and managed to regroup and achieve victory at the price of 2,656 of our soldiers. We won – but, sadly, in our national consciousness there was created a sense of defeat. In this war, fighters and the commanders who led them, as opposed to our enemies where the commanders stay behind, went out to battle filled with motivation that cannot be contained. Wounded soldiers refused to leave the battleground so their friends would not go on without them. Our soldiers fought with bravery and although we lost tens of our best sons, the army returned to its real objective: defending Israel’s citizens.
Some of the soldiers and commanders feel that we have not completed our mission, and they want to continue to lay it in to the terrorists. That’s how fighters and commanders should always feel, it’s great that they feel that way. It would be a grave misconception for them to have left with a feeling of satisfaction and finality. I also do not accept the expression “the IDF retreated.” The upper levels of decision making have a broader picture of the situation than we, and not everyone who writes a hysterical blog or article understands them.
The IDF continues to fire without restraint at the places it needs to reach and is located in places where it should be.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad are on the run to Egypt to beg for a ceasefire agreement and we haven’t sent a single delegate to the talks.
Not only have they accomplished nothing in the present fighting, they have also lost a great deal. The people of Gaza will return to their no-houses without seeing rhyme or reason for their destruction nor can they point to any results.
But no less important than the military achievements, is what happened to the Jewish people during this period. The citizenry, all sectors of it, stood strong and gave the fighters and their officers the backing they so needed – this is how a nation’s victory looks!
A terrorist organization’s goal is not to conquer land, but to frighten the society it is attacking and crumble its foundations. About a month and a half ago, before our three sweet and wonderful boys were kidnapped, our people were divided and falling apart as they had not been for a long time. The spoken flames rose higher than every before: the hareidim termed the religious Zionists Amalekites, and the rest of the nation saw them as extremist “settlers”. The hareidim were seen as corrupt parasites, the secular were considered heretics, Judaism-haters and assimilationists.
Just look at what has happened to us in the last month and a half. The Jewish people and the IDF have become one solid body, filled with power and deeply connected with tradition. Even the media, which sometimes pulled us in other directions, were mostly swept along with the massive tidal wave of the Jewish people and its armed forces.
I saw the Jewish People at home standing strong: tens of trucks kept coming from all over the country bringing equipment and treats for the soldiers. A bereaved father came with a truckload and said that his son had been killed, so he is busy taking care of his other sons – the IDF soldiers. My children found it funny that I had never before heard of the singer Muki, but he and other performers came to appear before us, even if only ten of us were free to listen. People got together to help all the wives whose husbands were called up to duty, doing shopping and babysitting and more. The owners of a hi tech company gave every wounded soldier a tablet. Restaurant owners and caterers came down to run barbecues for thousands of soldiers who came out of Gaza for a break, with totally non-observant ones carefully keeping to kosher restrictions in choice of food, dishes and utensils.
And that’s not all: the mother of a hareidi soldier wounded in the stomach by a bullet asked me to make sure he returns to fight with his friends when he recovers. A truck came from the Mir Yeshiva with food and equipment for the soldiers, Rav Shteinman, the leading Torah Sage in the hareidi community today, cried at his grandson’s bar mitzva, saying: “There are soldiers at the front who are being wounded and killed and I am expected to be happy?”
(Just for the record, it is told that when his beloved wife died, he told the paramedic who came where she was and returned to learning Torah.)
A joint dance of hundreds of soldiers from all “the tribes of Israel” on Friday night. Kiddush for 1500 soldiers whose “Amen” made the heavens tremble. A wounded company commander who shouts to us to count his soldiers, his children, to make sure we haven’t forgotten any of them by mistake – as he is being evacuated. I can add hundreds of examples of the power that emanated from our soldiers, commanders and the wonderful people I met this past month.
Let’s all come out of this skewed and unfounded feeling that we have lost and Hamas has won. Let us change the atmosphere together, when talking to our families and colleagues at work.
Let us inject our national consciousness with the understanding that this is what real victory looks like!
Translated from the Commander’s Hebrew Facebook page by Rochel Sylvetsky