Simchat Torah War, Day 5.

The news is mostly horrible. The Israeli deaths now exceed 1200, mostly civilians. Reports of beheadings are unverified, but it is verified that the dead include many women, children, toddlers, and elderly. The Palestinian death toll is reported to include 1500 terrorists who invaded Israel plus 1000 killed in Israeli airstrikes.

I literally felt sick to my stomach contemplating what kind of animal could kill children. 

As lefty and peace loving as I am, it is clear that Hamas must be stopped and taken out of action, and if that means thousands of Palestinian deaths, it is sad, but necessary. Hamas has shown they are not “freedom fighters.” They are ISIS or Al Qaeda. They are barbarians. Israel will not rest until all of the Hamas terrorists are killed or exiled. I do not know what will come next for Gaza, but Hamas cannot remain in power.

I have been forced to reconsider my thoughts on the withdrawal from Gaza. I have long felt that even though the withdrawal from Gaza enabled Hamas, it was a good idea. We had 20,000 soldiers defending 8,000 settlers. I figured it was better to put up a fence, and just go in stop them every few years, as we did in 2014. It now appears that strategy was a mistake. The IDF needs to operate in Gaza to dismantle terrorist infrastructure, just as it does in the West Bank.

Israelis felt very good about Biden’s speech, and by the fact that a second aircraft carrier group is on the way. This will be a long and difficult conflict, and hopefully the US presence will help keep Hezbollah out of this fight.

I’m also furious with my government that has screwed things up so badly. The first job of the government is to protect its citizens. The government has failed miserably. Many people are saying that the military has been excessively deployed to the West Bank to protect settlers who are the supporters of the extreme right wing in the government, leaving Gaza understaffed.

An emergency government has been formed that should put more responsible and experienced people in charge of the country during this difficult time. That’s a good thing. I do expect when it’s over Netanyahu will be out, and good riddance.

On a more positive note, I went for a drive up north with a friend visiting from the US to go for a run and visit a winery founded by an Israeli friend of mine. We had a lovely run, and enjoyed some good wine in a place where sirens are rarely heard. Any respite from “doom scrolling” is welcome here.

Most of my family and friends who came in for the wedding are on flights leaving tomorrow. They say the airport is chaos – people were advised to get to the airport seven hours ahead of flight time.

Some countries, such as Canada, are taking steps to evacuate their citizens. So far the US is not doing anything to help US citizens who want to get out.

Here in Jerusalem we feel physically safe. It is just very stressful and sad. And worried about the prospect of escalation with Hezbollah in the north.

Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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