by Itamar Segal
We will continue to fight the lies and the slander
Two years have passed since we tore down the gates of Gaza City during Operation Protective Edge. As the rabbi of a reserves combat battalion in the Paratroopers Brigade, I had the privilege of fighting shoulder to shoulder with the soldiers in the battalion. For about 30 days, we pursued elusive tunnel openings, located enemy command centers, and fought Hamas terrorists. We also lost comrades in this justified war, friends who joined the growing group who have given their blood so the Jewish people can come back to life in their natural homeland.
It was hot and exhausting in Gaza at the height of summer, after long sleepless nights. Our backs burned with pain from the combination of sweat, sand, and the heavy protective gear that was stuck to our bodies day and night. The wives and children we left behind added to the challenge of staying alert, concentrated, and focused on our mission, with great belief in the justice of our path, for the goal we had been sent to fight for. Besides my operative role as a rabbi, I tried to lift the soldiers' spirits, strengthening them in the storm of battle.
In the middle of the neighborhood where we were fighting, a major Hamas stronghold in the center of the Gaza Strip, was an enormous mosque, topped by a minaret. Next to it was a water tank that supplied water to the local residents. During the operation, the combat engineering soldiers who were sent to fight with the battalion were ordered to blow up the mosque and the water tower next to it. To do so, they needed dozens of explosive bricks and detonators.
A year ago, I happened to be at the Hebrew Book Week fair in my city, Tel Aviv. My eye was caught by a stand that attracted an especially large crowd. The leftist group Breaking the Silence had gone to the trouble of renting a booth, and, unlike the other booksellers there, was giving its wares away for free.
Representatives of the group were handing out postcards for people to stick on their refrigerators, lest we forget the "crimes" of the IDF. I recognized the buildings pictured immediately: the blown-up mosque and water tower. A difficult image, no doubt.
"Why did they have to blow up the water tower?" shouted one young woman who was determined not to stay silent. That was when I intervened.
"I was there. I helped blow up the mosque and the water tower," I said.
After being screamed at, I told anyone who wanted to listen the rest of the story. The water tower had been used as a Hamas lookout point, and the mosque covered the entrance to a terror tunnel, a huge one, that started inside the mosque and ended inside one of the kibbutzim on the Israeli side of the border fence.
We, the members of the reserves and the fighters on compulsory service in various units, will not be shaken by all the organizations, all the nonprofit groups, or the European funding. We are determined, confident, and devoted to defending this country, the only Jewish state on the face of the earth. We will continue to fight the lies and the slander and we promise this: We will not surrender, we will not grow weak, we will continue bravely.
Capt. (res.) Itamar Segal serves as an IDF rabbi in the Paratroopers Brigade.
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