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Revisiting Israel's "Gettysburg Address" — which was delivered in 1956 after an attack from Gaza

And ... the IDF wants you to know that not everything went wrong during the first hours. Two videos released by the IDF have a few interesting things worth pointing out.
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We begin with Moshe Dayan’s Eulogy for Roi Rotberg, which has become Israel’s Gettysburg Address:

In the mid-1950’s, what had been cross border attacks by individual infiltrators morphed into incursions by armed and well-trained squads of fedayeen who were supported and equipped by their host governments, particularly the Egyptian military.

One of the kibbutzim that was the target of repeated such incursions was Nachal Oz, on the Gaza border. Nachal Oz was, of course, attacked again this past week.

According to the IDF website, by the way, this is the woman whose heroism last week prevented a larger slaughter at Nahal Oz. Perhaps we’ll come back to that.


Back to 1956.

On April 29, 1956, twenty-one-year-old Roi Rotberg was patrolling the fields of Nachal Oz, where he lived, on horseback. Accustomed to seeing Gazans illegally picking the kibbutz’s fields, when Rotberg saw a group of Arabs in the fields, he rode toward them to get them to leave. But it was a trap, and as Rotberg approached the “farmers,” a group of fedayeen suddenly appeared, shot and killed Rotberg, then dragged his body into Gaza, where it was horrifically mutilated.

Not a lot has changed, obviously.

Coincidentally, Dayan had met Rotberg a few days earlier. He attended the funeral and delivered a brief eulogy (merely 238 words in total) that became Dayan’s—and then, many Israelis’—classic statement about the inevitability of a long and costly conflict between Israel and its neighbors. Dayan reminded his listeners that there was nothing surprising about Arab resentment and violence. “Let us not hurl blame at the murderers,” he said. “Why should we complain of their hatred for us? Eight years have they sat in the refugee camps of Gaza, and seen, with their own eyes, how we have made a homeland of the soil and the villages where they and their forebears once dwelt.”

Yet if mere Israeli survival was going to evoke Arab anger, Dayan then warned both his listeners and his entire newborn nation, Israelis had better be prepared to live by the sword.

In language filled with biblical imagery, as if to remind his listeners that the battle to stay in the land was not new but was a story that had begun thousands of years earlier, Dayan continued,

We mustn’t flinch from the hatred that accompanies and fills the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs, who live around us and are waiting for the moment when their hands may claim our blood. We mustn’t avert our eyes, lest our hands be weakened. That is the decree of our generation. That is the choice of our lives—to be willing and armed, strong and unyielding, lest the sword be knocked from our fists, and our lives severed.

It was a worldview that would guide not only Dayan, but the country he was helping to found, for decades to come. But it was a worldview that Israeli let slip from its sights in recent years, and last week, some 1500 people paid with their lives for Israel not having heeded Dayan’s warning.

We’ve added subtitles to the video above so you can hear the entire, very brief, eulogy.


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THE ARMY WANTS YOU TO KNOW THAT NOT EVERYTHING ON THAT HORRIFYING SHABBAT WENT WRONG. SOME UNITS PERFORMED ADMIRABLY.

The Shayetet rescues an army outpost overrun by Hamas

We begin with a short clip that the IDF Spokesperson’s office released showing members of Israel’s elite Shayetet 13 (Flotilla 13), akin to the US’s navy seals, retaking a small army outpost on the southern edge of the Gaza border, which had been overrun by terrorists.

The soldiers who had been stationed at the outpost were quickly overwhelmed, and took refuge in a bunker there. The Shayetet was helicoptered in to rescue them.

A few things worth noting as you watch:

  • 00:39 How were the soldiers to convince those inside the bunker that they were really Israelis? Hebrew? Maybe, but what if the terrorists also spoke Hebrew? So here, you’ll hear them say Shema Yisrael — no terrorist would know that.

  • 00:43 The word Shayetet in Israel is like “top gun.” It means more than the specific unit. It’s an image of excellence. All they had to do was yell “Shayetet” to let those inside know they’d be OK.

  • 00:45 “stay in the bunker”—you don’t need to know too much Jewish history from the Holocaust for the “stay in the bunker” line to send shivers down your spine.

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The navy was very busy on the first day, too.

We often have an image of the Israeli army that it’s the air force and the ground forces. We tend to think much less about the navy.

But on October 7, Hamas attacked by air, by land … and by sea. In the Yom Kippur War, when in the first days the air force and ground forces performed poorly, the navy never lost its footing. The same was true this time around.

There were no successful incursions from the sea, despite many attempts.

Aside from the fact that most of us are not aware of how intense were the battles on the sea (which this video makes clear), the following is also worth noting as you watch:

  • 1:52 Aviv is the name of the female soldier operating the MAG at the front of the boat, and you can her the others telling her to shoot. Mixed gender combat units aren’t unusual in Israel anymore.

  • 1:56 We can hear her yelling something back. Words unintelligible, but you can make out the female voice

  • 2:24 A few seconds of her reloading the MAG with new ammunition

  • 2:44 She says something again

  • 2:46 The longest stretch of the camera on her, firing the MAG.

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Even in dark times, there’s a lighter side, testimony to Israelis’ resilience in a war that is just getting started. Here are two social media posts making their way around:

The handwriting on the (rather large) projectile reads:

זה על שדפקתם לי את חופשת הלידה — “this is because you ruined my maternity leave.”

The type underneath:

“With love and a hug for my [female] hero friends who just gave birth.”


And then, this picture posted by former PM Naftali Bennett (who is looking pretty darn good these days, in retrospect), who visited a soldier named Tomer in the hospital. The caption that Bennett wrote is clear, but has an adorable afterthought.

Interestingly, this little post brings us back to Nachal Oz, once again. LOTAR, by the way, is a counter-terrorism special forces unit within the IDF.

Tomer, a commander in LOTAR, went down with his friends to fight the terrorists in Nachal Oz and to repel them. A number of his friends, fighters and commanders, fell in battle. Tomer was wounded, but he will heal and will be just fine.

Lions.

Tomer does not presently have a girlfriend.

** Sharing the photo with his permission.

How Jewish is that? The former Prime Minister trying to find the guy a girlfriend. ….


If you’re just joining us, Israel from the Inside typically posts a written column on Mondays and a podcast on Wednesdays. That is obviously irrelevant for the time being.

We’ve delayed all the podcasts that were ready to go, because the people whose stories they tell deserve to tell them when we all have the bandwidth to hear. Hopefully, that will return some day.

In the interim, we’ll post as possible. Here in Israel, there are non-stop funerals to go to, shiva homes to visit, grandchildren to help care for while sons and daughters are in the army, so we’ll see.

Schedules are the least of our worries.


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