Messages From the War – Tuesday


It’s been a quiet day in Yerushalayim, at least insofar as the sirens going off. In the skies above, it’s been non-stop bombing runs. Government schools will again be closed tomorrow. Busses are running, but not reliably.

On the first day of shiva for the lone soldier from the UK, there were about 50 visitors. Today, there were 500.

Collections of goods continues in high gear, both for soldiers and for the (surviving) families who lost everything in the 20 communities that were all but obliterated by the terrorists.

Since my professional responsibilities involve close contacts with Christian communities, I will provide a rundown of how they have reacted.

No sooner had I turned on my computer after Shabbos, that a flood of messages of concern came tumbling out of my inbox. Some were from folks in the US who don’t really think of Shabbos as a day free of messaging. But the lion’s share were from non-Jews, all of them Christian. They conveyed concern for our safety, revulsion for Hamas, and hopes that Israel would rid the world of these subhumans.

This was a morale booster, but not entirely unexpected. The surprises were the individuals – clergy and laity – who said that they were organizing “prayer armies” for people to take slots and pray for us around the clock. A few added that this included fasting for Israel!

There were so many messages of support (and they are still coming) that I have a backlog to clear by responding appreciatively. My response to one kind of question has been uniform. When asked how my family is, I answer that my immediate family is fine, but my larger, national, family less so.

These messages speak of the support of millions of decent believers in G-d, whose sense of morality has not been twisted by the surrounding culture. Then there are all the others.

The worst are those who are entirely into a moral relativism that sees the behavior of Hamas (a bit naughty, to have acted that way) and Israel as equivalent. They offer either some condemnation of the massacre – or not even that – and immediately go on to urge Israel not to respond and cause more death and destruction. These church groups should be seen – and I say this openly – as enemies of the Jewish people. There are lots of them on the left, and even on the evangelical left. The most important is the World Council of Churches, which claims to represent 580 million Christians. It did not mention a massacre, but only an “infiltration by Hamas gunmen.” Of course it called for an immediate cessation of violence between the sides, essentially telling Israel not to respond. Coming in for special condemnation is an organization of hopeless naifs, always blind to Jewish suffering: Christians for Middle East Peace.

The reaction of these and similar organizations gives G-d a bad name, as a well meaning but powerless buffoon who dispenses love freely without any regard for consequences or reality. The massacre was as close as anyone could come to viewing pure evil – but these churches cannot recognize and call out evil when they see it, despite the countless condemnations of evil in the Bible. How seriously can they take the Bible, when they cannot come up with the moral discernment of a rooster? As much as it hurts to say it, I think we must recognize that they don’t really believe in G-d as a Being. If they do, the god they believe in is not ours.

The Catholics (still, by far, the largest Christian group in the world) were better – but not by much. The Pope saw both “terrorism and war” as pointless exercises in violence that cannot serve peace. At least he called what Hamas did “terrorism,” which is better than most MSM. At the same time, he effectively would deny Israel the chance to defend herself and eradicate those who are evil incarnate who threaten her. This prompted a swift response from Israel’s embassy to the Holy See. It warned the Vatican not to engage in “linguistic ambiguities” and “parallelisms” that treated aggressors and victims as equals.

There has not been a time since 9/11 when the case for retribution was so obvious and so strong. For the Pope not to see this calls into question his moral vision. If it is born of a belief in an image of G-d shared by all – saint and sinner equally – then I will much prefer our own take on that. Specifically, the observation of the Seforno that the Torah refers to tzelem Elokim, rather than Elokus. If everyone possessed and immutable part of divinity in him, it should be labeled something more than just a tzelem. The point, he says, is that it in fact is just an outline, a faint image. Its content can be obliterated by the actions of its possessor. Hamas has long erased theirs.

Unlike his predecessor, Francis is not much of a theologian. Dr. RJ Snell, a former professor of philosophy at Eastern University, and current Editor-in-Chief of Public Discourse and Director of Academic Programs at the Witherspoon Institute offers a far more reasoned and nuanced Christian approach. Among other things, it accepts the notion – a notion that moderns don’t like talking about – of justice working alongside mercy:

Israel has long endured terrorist attacks, along with more conventional wars seeking to end its very existence. The most recent terrorist acts of Hamas, apparently planned with great sophistication, are particularly horrifying and barbaric. Rockets were launched without any distinction between military and civilian targets. Neighborhoods were infiltrated and civilians directly targeted with no regard for innocent life, directly seeking the death of children, the elderly, and young mothers. Kidnappings. Beatings. Street celebrations involving desecrated bodies and humiliated captives.

Such barbarism is without excuse. To attempt to excuse or defend it, let alone to celebrate it, is unjust, wicked.

Like many others, I pray for peace. Like many others, I think prayer is efficacious and contributes to God’s action in the world, however mysteriously. I pray especially for the innocents and most vulnerable in this horror.

At the same time, I resist what I see as a sentimentalism and soft-headed confusion infecting much of the West just now, including Western Christianity. Peace is not merely an absence of conflict but rather, as St. Augustine knew, “the tranquility of order” (tranquillitas ordinis). Peace is not an emotional state, or warm fellow-feeling, or “everyone getting along.” Peace is an accomplishment on the far side of order.

Without order, peace is not established. There is no order without justice, and justice, contra sentimentalism, sometimes requires punishment, and sometimes legitimizes war.

At least someone is still capable of reasoned perspective.

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57 Responses

  1. Bob Miller says:

    I was driving today in North Carolina and South Carolina on business. The hosts and callers I heard there on non-PBS (!) news/talk radio were aghast at the Hamas brutality, and urged Israel to obliterate Hamas by all means necessary. That is, to really finish the job. One caller wanted Israel to “turn Gaza into glass.” Except for the most liberal denominations, I think the laity back Israel now. The more realistic Christians realize that they’re targets, too.

    By the way, Jews in and near big cities outside Israel ought to plan seriously for self-defense. Terrorist threats to humanity have been streaming across the southern US border despite some inadequate efforts to contain them. All public utilities are at risk.

    By the way, many organizational leaders whom you charitably call naifs have actually joined the Other Side. Exposure to the wrong seminaries and universities can cause that.

    • mycroft says:

      BTW NC has a liberal Dem non Orthodox member of Congress who was a founder of Ptizmah, after having been Prez of local community day school.

  2. Steven Brizel says:

    The WCC has been anti Israel for many years

  3. Reb Yid says:

    How about some Hakarat HaTov to the President of the United States.

    From the White House, he harped on Hamas’s terrorism by name, repeatedly, and from his kishkes. That speech will go down in the annals of US-Israel relations–no US President has ever come out with such a forceful, unequivocal backing of Israel when the chips were down. Not so long ago, President Biden said that the US has Israel’s back. He is proving this without question in both words and deeds.

    • No argument there. Bibi sent him pictures of the massacre that reportedly brought him to tears

    • Steven Brizel says: Don’t preach about Hakaras hatov when nothing was said aboutIran where this plan was developed , funded and green;lighted as noted by both the WSJ and WP and this statement was issued subsequent tio Biden’s statement. Wars are won by destroying the enemy’s complete caoacity and will to fight-even and especially if civiloans sustain casualties-that is the lesson of how WW2 and the Civil War were won

      • mycroft says:

        .I think the jury is still out-but I’m pessimistic-already heard on TV that Biden gave them a free pass to extent except warned Israel about war crimes. Sadly, big talk by Israel Defense Minister of blockade of water etc. is a war crime under customary international law.
        There is no dispute Iran is a major funder of Hamas, but apparently no smoking gun that Iran direct involvement. Can’t expect an intelligence service that did not know of a major attack to have evidence who’s behind it. I agree that Biden admin will try and pretend Iran not involved.

    • Steven Brizel says:

      What about his backing of the iran deal and unfreezing of Iranian assets and paying ransom to Iran which played an integral role in the planning, training and execution of the slaughter on Simchas Torah and his request to avoid civilian casualties? Hakaras Hatov is appropriate but only to a certain degree

      • mycroft says:

        Hakaras Hatov is appropriate but only to a certain degree.

        Excellent formulation.

      • Reb Yid says:

        Mr Brizel:

        Any response to what President Biden’s predecessor said last night about Bibi, Israel and Hezbollah?

        And even David Friedman came out with effusive praise for the current President and his Administration about all matters related to the current situation in Israel.

    • Mark says:


      President Biden deserves much credit for his speech yesterday.

      • Reb Yid says:

        As well as his speech today.

        Talking about taking his children to Dachau at an early age so that they would bear witness. Reminding us of Elie Wiesel’s admonition that silence is complicity. He gets it.

        It is a shame that some on this board want to attack this President no matter what, and heap undeserved praise on his I’ve lost count how many times indicted and twice impeached predecessor no matter what. For shame.

      • mycroft says:

        Talking about taking his children to Dachau at an early age so that they would bear witness

        A few years ago, I visited Dachau-site basically was filled with almost nonstop school buses of German children. Many appeared bored. Of course, must realize most of their grandparents were probably born after the Holocaust. Site easily accessed from either downtown Munich or the airport by public transportation.

    • Steven Brizel says:

      Obama waited almost two days before saying anthing said the same word mush and withheld ammunition and threw Israel under the bus by negoitiating a terrible deal with Iran.Biden’s personnel who all worked with Obama may have had information about the pending raid which was withheld deliberatelly from Israel to protect Iran and embarras Netanyahu .I think that the American statements so far can be summarized as follows: Hit Hamas but not too hard, and don’t even think of a preemptive strike against Hezbollah which has far more dangerous rockets and missiles, which may be stratgeically necessary before sending the IDF into Gaza Don’t nominate Biden for the Chasidei Umos HaOlam Club-

  4. Shades of Gray says:

    “The massacre was as close as anyone could come to viewing pure evil”

    President Biden gave a strong and heartfelt address today supporting Israel which should not be taken for granted(the part though, about “uphold[ing]the laws of war” could become tricky should issues of proportionality come up).

    An important part of the speech was the moral clarity when Biden said at the beginning, “There are moments in this life when pure, unadulterated evil is unleashed on the world.”

    I likewise remember being at the National Rally for Israel in 2002 outside the U.S. Capitol, having come on a chartered bus that left from Boro Park, where Netanyahu said, “Americans know that if it looks like a duck it walks like a duck and talks like a duck. It’s a terrorist.” Bibi would later use this line at an AIPAC speech regarding a nuclear Iran in 2012. See Minute 2:01:30 below:

    By contrast, the Boston Globe’s ombudsman wrote an infuriating(and dangerous) column in 2003 entitled “Who should wear the ‘terrorist’ label?” following Israeli suicide bombings:

    “To tag Hamas, for example, as a terrorist organization is to ignore its far more complex role in the Middle East drama. The word reflects not only a simplification, but a bias that runs counter to good journalism. To label any group in the Middle East as terrorist is to take sides, or at least appear to, and that is not acceptable. The same holds true in covering other far-flung conflicts. One person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter; it’s not for journalists to judge” See CAMERA response linked below:

    When thinking about this week’s mind-boggling and heart-rending attacks, I recalled Justice Robert Jackson’s opening statement at the Nuremberg Trials:

    “The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated… Civilization can afford no compromise with the social forces which would gain renewed strength if we deal ambiguously or indecisively with the men in whom those forces now precariously survive.”

    May Hashem protect העם היושב בציון

    • Reb Yid says:

      I think the President is being true to himself about the upholding the laws of war portion. He has for some time been very skeptical of the military-industrial complex in this country. He got burned very badly when supporting the first Iraq War. If you read President Obama’s memoirs you will see frequent mention of Biden being the voice (and sometimes the only one) to exercise caution and expressing legitimate concerns that the military brass are trying to “pull one over” the politicians.

      • Steven Brizel says:

        Biden opposed the raid on Bin Laden and seeks to appease Iran .PM Begin rejected a heavy handed attempt by Biden threaten aid to Israel back in the early 1980s. Biden is truly a Manchurian President who has a strong odor of corruption and taking money from both the Ukraine and China rewarding his allies and spreading millions around to his family He truly has no principles other than rewarding his friends and doing what the polls demand and is a captive of the far left base of the Democratic Party . Let’s see how much tolerance for the necessary turning of Gaza into the Stone Age

      • Steven Brizel says:

        If the so called “laws of war” were followed in the Civil War we would still have a Confederacy and we would have lost WW2

      • Steven Brizel says:

        Former Secretary of Defense Gates wrote in his memoirs that he could not think of a senator who was so wrong on so many issues involving national security as Biden

    • Reb Yid says:

      Mr. Brizel:

      Apples and oranges. Hamas is neither a country nor a Confederacy. It has ruled by fiat. And the current Israeli PM created and propped it up as a counterweight against those in the West Bank who were more open to accommodation with Israel.

      • Steven Brizel says:

        Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and Hamas defeated the PA in elections Its government was never created or propped up by anyone other than Quatar and Iran

      • Steven Brizel says:

        Lincoln never accepted the legitimacy of the Confederacy Please read some real history not fake woke history

  5. Lacosta says:

    א-ל נקמות ה׳ may He do as at עוד היום בנוב לעמוד. So that no more חיילים need die.
    If בלק was zoche to a Parsha name due to his open Jew hatred, we owe Musk gratitude for making X , like the UN, a forum for open unmitigated Jew hatred. May זכריה׳s nevua of only a third surviving be overturned

  6. Mark says:

    While I have many differences with the Pope whomever he may be, there is no question that previous pope at least had common sense. Sadly, Francis seems to be in short supply of that. He’s mostly a male version of Mother Theresa – good to all regardless of any considerations. Unimpressed.

  7. Lawrence King says:

    This Sunday, at my Catholic parish, the pastor had set up a table with candles in Israeli colors. He even used the correct shade of blue for the table covering and the candles. It was set up next to the altar, and the candles were lit for the whole day (they may still be lit now).

    My hope (and prayer) is that the ubiquity of cell phones will allow people to see the deeds of Hamas for themselves. The videos are horrific, but maybe they can shock some people out of their “moral equivalence.” Or maybe I’m naive to hope for this.

    Dr. Snell’s quotation mentions Augustine, whose criteria for a just war are well known. One of these criteria is “proportionality.” Sadly, this is often misunderstood. It doesn’t mean that our side is supposed to launch attacks that do the same quantity of damage as the other side: that would be absurd. Rather, it means that the damage done by an attack should not be out-of-proportion to the purpose of the attack. Sherman’s march through Georgia was justified because it was a reasonable way to topple the Confederacy and end slavery. But I fear that in the next few weeks there will be people in the media and on college campuses who complain that Israel has used such-and-such number of bombs, as if somehow that exceeds their quota.

    My hope is that Israel will respond to these attacks not with “punishment” designed to “teach Hamas a lesson” (as if that were possible), but will respond in such a way that Hamas is never again able to kill innocent Jews.

    • …or the people whom Hamas inspires to kill anyone at all. Given the fifth column that has opened in America, with two representatives of the savages in Congress (Omar and Tlaib), this is an important prayer

      • Reb Yid says:

        The one causing the most damage right now is Senator Tuberville. By continuing to hold up recommendations for key military and diplomatic posts, there is a very real danger of slip ups to the very considerable amount of assistance being given so that it can be used effectively.

      • Bob Miller says:

        We have Andre Carson (D, IN) in the House, a follower of Farrakhan amply supported by liberal Jews. Maybe they’ll get wise.

      • mycroft says:


        What do you expect-she was born in Michigan-both her parents grew up in areas near Jerusalem when controlled by Jordan-one from Beth Hanina the other from near Ramallah. They both moved to Michigan after 6 Day War. Nothing got to do with her politics-she represents Palestinian views

      • Steven Brizel says:

        Tuberville’s objections are rooted in his view that the Armed Forces must first and foremost be combat ready , which many studies have shown that they are far from battle ready and not a tool for woke points of view,

    • Bob Miller says:

      Look up Amalek

      • mycroft says:

        The one causing the most damage right now is Senator Tuberville. By continuing to hold up recommendations for key military and diplomatic posts, there is a very real danger of slip ups to the very considerable amount of assistance being given so that it can be used effectively

        I’m not a fan of Tuberville–but if an expert is acting as Ambassador rather than a politician does not impact US ability to deal with country. Key military posts are all being led by Acting-no big deal-detailed work/planning done by experts-at the level we’re discussing the issue is a slight pay difference for expert paper pushers.

    • Steven Brizel says:

      wars are won by eradicating the complete capacity of the enemy to fight-the Civil War and WW2 are the best examples

  8. DK says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein, are you going to put an article out every day?
    They are both informative and enjoyable to read.

    • I had gotten the impression that few people were interested…

      • Mark says:

        We’re interested. Very

      • mycroft says:

        Disagree-your articles are always worth reading.

      • William Gewirtz says:

        I think the last 2 days are the calm before the storm. I expect that it will take a few more days for the IDF to get supplies where they are needed and a detailed operational plan in place. I worry that memories are painfully short.

        My wife and I visited the Kotel this afternoon. There were at most 50 people in total between the outside plaza and the men’s and women’s sections adjacent to the Kotel. Unprecedented and frightening!! I was mesmerized As I watched as 3 young chayalim praying fervently directly In front of the Kotel.

        my children are upset that I ventured out. Given my limited mobility my children are frightened if, God forbid, I would have to move quickly to a shelter. I accompanied my wife who was busy the rest of the day with her friends baking Challah to go to the troops for Shabbat.

      • Bob Miller says:

        We need more unofficial news! You’re the man!

      • too tired says:

        Your regular readership is VERY interested in hearing from you! Please continue!

  9. Steven Brizel says:

    Mycroft-would you find it problematic for either Omar or Tlaib to sit on any House committee that dealt with aid to Israel? I think that both are Hamas agents of influence who should not be granted any security clearance let alone a congressional assignment to such a committee

    • mycroft says:

      I don’t like their viewpoints are, but they express the viewpoint of someone born of parents who left the Middle East after the Six Day War when Israel captured where they lived and a woman from Somalia-what would you expect US population is changing.

      • Steven Brizel says:

        You are naive Both are Hamas agents of influence and should be denied any security clearance

  10. Steven Brizel says:

    For those who are still kvelling at Biden’s remarks see here

  11. Shades of Gray says:

    “They are both informative and enjoyable to read”

    I second that.

    If daily posting is too difficult, maybe a slower frequency would work.

  12. Steven Brizel says:

    R Asher Weiss truly has the broad shoulders and to use the Yiddish expression can dance at two Chasunahs I would also highly recommend learning the Sefer on Halacha by R Rimon which is a superb survey of Halacha for anyone in the IDF and which has wonderful Divrei Torah as well

    • william l gewirtz says:

      My SIL received a sheailah last week from someone involved in dealing with those who were killed by Hamas. The query involved the observance of a chumrah, likely kabbalistic, told to this individual by a well-meaning member of Zaka. Rav Osher immediately called the individual, and told him to disregard the chumrah; the greatest Kavod Ha’met is helping bring him to kevurah expeditiously. HE proceeded to give him chizuk for his performance of a great mitzvah

  13. Steven Brizel says:

    See here

    Let’s see how real a friend Biden is if and whenn when there is a need for a preemptive strike against Hezbollah before the invasion of Gaza and the legacy media start blabbing about the casualty count in Gaza caused by Hamas using civilians as sacrifical lambs

  14. Steven Brizel says: This massive display of Chillul HaShem and calling for a ceasefire against Hamas is what happens when one’s sense of Jewish identity is entirely rooted in the woke world view of social justice as opposed to any committment to Torah, Avodah and Gmilas Chasadim

  15. Steven Brizel says:

    Reb Yid-this is of interest to you and anyo else who thinks that Netanyahu “created” the rule of Hamas in Gaza

  16. Steven Brizel says:

    As I predicted talk is cheap .That adage is especially true with respect to Biden snd the Iranian agents of influence in this administration which equates the massacre of 10/7 with isolated incidents of prejudice against Moslems , which is restricting Israeli tactical and strategic options and giving Hamas 100M and tells Israelis not to be governed by feelings of rage Thus is throwing Israel under the bus snd rewarding the perpetrators of 10/7 instead of eliminating them . IMO The praise by the American Jewish establishment for the decisions of Biden and the pressure rendered by Blinken showed a lack of courage when our streets media and academic worlds are beset by a metastasizing anti Semitism that it has ignored and continues to do so at a risk to the Jewish identity of these students in the face of physical and verbal abuse.

  17. Steven Brizel says: For those who are still qvelling about Biden’s trip to Israel,.see here

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