A friend of mine has a family member who has been called up for duty in Israel. I know that, all over Israel, young men and young women are being mobilized. Some sadly, may not come home, although I wish all of them would, just as I wish every one of our troops in Afghanistan could return home.
As always when I think about war, I think, not about those who die, but about the many who live. My expectation that people will return home is shaped by my parents’ experiences. My father was in the Mediterranean theater from 1939 through 1944 — and never got a scratch. He then fought in the Israeli War of Independence — and never got a scratch. During that same war, a sniper shot at my mother. The bullet grazed the back of her neck, singeing off the fine hairs — but that was all it did. Both of them walked remarkably near the Valley of Shadows, without being physically touched.
I’ve had my own near misses. When I was 17, I was riding shotgun in a car that flipped off of an overpass and landed, upside down, 25 feet below. I walked away without a scratch. When I was 20, my Mom and I were driving on the freeway when, from the cab in the pickup truck in front of us, a manhole cover came spinning off like a giant Frisbee, heading directly for our windshield. She and I gazed in horror at imminent death by decapitation, only to have the wind grab that Frisbee within an inch of our windshield and send it rocketing to the side of the road.
My parents and I were, and are, not religious people, but we have tried to live righteously. Whether because of faith or superstition, I believe that matters. It has always mattered:
19 Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated.
20 And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
22 Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flames of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.
25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.
27 And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.
29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.
30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.
My prayers are for Israel, a righteous nation, and my prayers are for our own quite righteous troops in these dangerous times.
Incidentally, would it surprise you to know that the New York Times, while it acknowledges Israel’s right to defend herself, really wishes she wouldn’t:
No country should have to endure the rocket attacks that Israel has endured from militants in Gaza, most recently over the past four days. The question is how to stop them permanently.
On Wednesday, Israel launched one of the most ferocious assaults on Gaza since its invasion four years ago. At least 20 targets were struck and a Hamas military commander, Ahmed al-Jabari, was killed. Israeli leaders also threatened another ground war.
Hamas has controlled Gaza since Israel withdrew in 2007. The group has mostly adhered to an informal cease-fire with Israel after the war there in the winter of 2008-09. But, in recent months, Hamas has claimed responsibility for participating in rocket firings, and last week it took credit for detonating a tunnel packed with explosives along the Israel-Gaza border while Israeli soldiers were working nearby.
Israel has a right to defend itself, but it’s hard to see how Wednesday’s operation could be the most effective way of advancing its long-term interests. It has provoked new waves of condemnation against Israel in Arab countries, including Egypt, whose cooperation is needed to enforce the 1979 peace treaty and support stability in Sinai.
It seems to be beyond the Times’ editors’ comprehension to understand that, for twenty years, Israel has done it the Times‘ way, by making nice with her enemies. That hasn’t worked. Israel’s enemies have perceived her as weak and, now that they believe the U.S. has abandoned her by re-electing Obama, they’re attacking with murderous ferocity. Turning the other cheek, a la Gandhi, works only when your enemies are the moral British. Otherwise, if you’re fighting the modern equivalent of Nazi Germany, there’s something to be said for a scorched earth policy.