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Shabbat, and war. Glimpses from Israel's weekend press.

Astounding national unity. A resurgence of Jewish identity. And an enraged population.

If two Shabbatot ago was the actual pogrom, then last Shabbat was the Shabbat of shiva. It wasn’t shiva, of course, but it felt like it. There wasn’t a person in shul who could say, sing or recite what they were supposed to, without their voice cracking, or having to stop, wait a moment and gather themselves before proceeding. On Shabbat, usually, shiva is suspended. Ordinarily, there is no such thing as a Shabbat Shiva minyan. On Shabbat of that week, the mourning family goes out of the house and joins whatever community they wish.

Last week though, the mourning family was the entire country. And given the heaviness in the air, the cracks in the voices and the tears in the eyes, a friend of mine remarked to me, “this was actually a shiva minyan on Shabbat.” He was right.

But yesterday, Shabbat, was a week after that. The horror remains, as does the rage, as do many, many questions about Israel’s future, but Shabbat felt like the first real Shabbat of the “war.”

Now we know what happened. We still don’t know the number of hostages, though number as high as 300 or 400 are being batted around on the news, and we still haven’t identified half the bodies from the first two days of carnage. But it’s war … the long slog of waiting to hear what changes, the deep dread we all feel with so many people we know and love who are at the front. It’s not the “day of”, or the “shiva” a week later. It’s just war. And Shabbat.

So in this very brief column (since we obviously couldn’t work on this during Shabbat), a few glimpses of the national mood, along with the historical background that one needs to understand them.

In the next few days, we’ll be sharing translations of some of the more remarkable pieces in some of the Israeli press over the weekend. Not because I agree with them, or because you will, but because they reveal better than anything the complex feelings that now have Israeli society in their grip.

Israelis are facing an unfolding horror. If you would like to share our conversation about what they are feeling and what is happening that the English press can’t cover, please subscribe today.


There is a national motto, which has been plastered on the news and in the press everywhere one turns. It’s on TV, and many companies, organizations and the like have taken out full page adds just to publish the motto.

The motto is יחד ננצח. “Together we will win.”

You see it in the green circle on the TV show below, and it’s the main language of the full page add just below that. There were dozens of such pull page adds in the Israeli press this weekend.

At the very end of this post, I’ll suggest that “Together we will win” isn’t so obviously going to happen. We can see the signs already.

Now, though, three other glimpses of that Shabbat here was about. We’ll cover the following:

  1. The video above, the singing of Lecha Dodi from the Friday night liturgy, and what’s worth noting about it.

  2. An “excerpt” from the IDF Moral Code that was distributed in the newspapers, that the ad said should be cut out (it even shows you where to cut) and put in every soldier’s pocket. That might not seem like much, except for two factors. FIRST, the “excerpt” is actually not really from the IDF Moral Code at all. You can search the text of the moral code, and it’s not in there. It’s what the authors of the ad believe SHOULD be the Moral Code this time (you can agree or disagree—I’m just trying to show the Israeli mood). And SECOND, the notion that every Israeli soldier “should have this in his/her pocket” is an idea with roots that go back to 1948. You can’t appreciate the irony of the ad without knowing what David Ben-Gurion said in 1948 should be in the code of every Israeli soldier, so we’ll explain that briefly.

  3. And finally, a simple political cartoon which almost better than anything captures the national mood.

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