Are we winning or winning? Part 1


As a believing and practicing Jew, I am duty bound to await Mashiach daily, even if he delays. Yet I cannot help wondering, at this time when Jews in Israel and throughout the world are beleaguered by war, hatred and conflict, whether the present moment is really opportune for him to be revealed.

Or does the intensity of our pain and suffering, coupled with our age-old yearning for Mashiach, make us cling to our hopes in face of a dark reality that makes our final redemption seem as far away as ever?

We would like to believe that Israel is “winning the war” and that it is only a matter of time before the Israel Defense Forces will finally smash Hamas and go on to crush Hezbollah and hopefully overturn the regime of the Iranian mullahs.

But are we really “winning”? Even after eight months of the Gaza war, many of the October 7th hostages – if they are alive – are still in captivity, and enemy rockets and drones are still being fired from Gaza into Israel proper, albeit at a somewhat reduced rate. Granted that the task of urban warfare facing the Israeli army is formidable, with terrorists in heavily built-up areas shamelessly using the local population as human shields, genuine progress has been impeded by internal Israeli government and army divisions as well as by the unceasing pressure from the USA to hold back. After all our pain and sacrifices in this war, there is no guarantee whatever that Hamas will not succeed in regrouping quite soon in the future.

This is all the more galling given the failure to rescue more than a limited number of hostages, and the heavy casualties the Israeli army has suffered and continues to suffer daily, not only in active engagement with heavily armed terrorists in booby-trapped areas, but worse still, through repeated incidents of deaths through “friendly fire” and horrendous “accidents”. Everyone in the country knows people – and not just a few – who have lost sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters in this war, or whose lives have been destroyed through injuries sustained. Livelihoods have been destroyed, and the trauma suffered by people of all ages, and particularly children, is incalculable.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of residents of Israel’s southern border communities still cannot return to their homes because of the danger of continuing attacks, and the situation on Israel’s northern borders with Lebanon and Syria is even more desperate, with many more tens of thousands in exile from their homes there. Almost every day barrages of rockets, missiles and drones are penetrating all parts of the Galilee and the Golan, and even deeper into the country. Time after time the Israeli government and army heads threaten to “deal decisively” with Hezbollah and their allies with overwhelming force. Yet repeated IDF air strikes on alleged terrorist strongholds and resources in Lebanon and Syria have so far not brought about any reduction in the rate of their attacks.

Moreover, if the war in Gaza is complex, any operation in Lebanon has the potential to be far more harrowing given the advanced training of the Iranian-sponsored terrorists and their sophisticated weapons and defensive systems. For years residents of Israel’s northern border communities have complained of strange noises and signs of active work on underground tunnels from Lebanon into Israel for use in an October 7th-style terror invasion. However, their pleas for action have been largely ignored by the Israeli government and defense forces.

As so often in the sad history of Israel’s wars, the authorities have consistently done too little and too late to protect the country’s citizens from our enemies.

When is the Redemption going to be?

If we soberly examine the desperate situation confronting us, as Torah-believers we can only hope and pray fervently that the Almighty will see our plight and take account of our fallen and injured, our collective suffering, pain and tears, and miraculously deliver us from our troubles. Indeed, our sages taught that if we are worthy, the Redemption can come today, though if not, it will certainly come in the end, at its appointed time.

We should therefore perhaps take a careful look into ourselves and consider just how worthy or unworthy we are.

Moreover, it is crucial for Torah believers to clarify to ourselves and understand which is the Israel that we want to win this war, and what is the victory for which we hope.

In the minds of the millions and millions across the world whose hatred against us has exploded in the last eight months, there is no distinction between Israel, Zionists and Jews. All are perceived as part of the same scourge which they claim to be afflicting humanity. Likewise, among Israel’s remaining allies, helpers and supporters across the world, the war is largely perceived as a war between “us” and “them”, between Israel as the standard-bearer of “civilization”, “freedom”, democracy and “western values” on the one side, as against barbaric religious fanatics who want to force everyone back into the middle ages.

Clearly the “Israel” that her secular population, together with the US government, Britain and her other “allies”, want to win is the Israel that is supposedly the paragon of western-style democracy and freedom, where gay pride and “inclusivity” are officially embraced (the gay chairman of the Knesset lives unashamedly with his male partner), where shopping, leisure facilities and entertainment to suit every conceivable taste are available 24/7 on weekdays, Shabbat and festivals (foreign diplomats posted to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah prefer to live in Tel Aviv), and there is no serious Jewish religious education whatever for the children of over half of the Jewish population of the country who are enrolled in the public school system.

Is this the Promised Land of the future that the biblical prophets envisaged?

Jews everywhere instinctively support “Israel” whenever we are under attack, and rightly so. But to understand how and where to direct our support, we also need to consider carefully whether the present war is simply the war of “civilization” against “barbarianism”, or whether there is more that we need to learn and internalize from the seemingly intractable situation in which we find ourselves.

To be continued

Avraham Ben Yaakov

About the author

Avraham ben Yaakov

Avraham ben Yaakov is a Torah teacher based in Safed Israel & author of translations and commentaries on Bible, Hassidut, Kabbalah, Spiritual Growth, Health & Healing.

By Avraham ben Yaakov

Avraham Ben Yaakov

Avraham ben Yaakov Greenbaum is a Torah teacher in Tz’fat (Safed) in Israel’s Galilee, and author of translations and commentaries on Bible, Hassidut, Kabbalah, Spiritual Growth, Health, Healing and the Environment.

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