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Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Gush Katif and our Fallen in Lebanon

I spent last Shabbat in Nitzan, one of the refugee camps for Gush Katif/Northern Gaza expellees. I really wanted to say something about that, but it was both too overwhelming and overshadowed by all the events in the North. After Shabbat at some point I got some more names of the fallen from the battle of Bint Jbeil and discovered that among them was Capt. Amichai Merchavia of Eli. Amichai was an amazing son of amazing parents. I knew his parents from the period when Kochav Hashachar was just getting off the ground. Moshe was the helping hand from the Amana settlement movement in setting up Kochav Hashachar. My wife and I were members of the original group. Moshe Merchavia was a legend. He lived, ate and breathed Kochav Hashachar up to his eyeballs until it got itself organized. The Merchavias lived at the time in Ofra and later moved to Eli to get it started. When Moshe was single in Ofra, he lived in a tent. When buildings with walls became available (refurbished Jordanian army camp buildings), Moshe stayed in the tent. Let other people have comforts first. I never knew or never noticed before that Amichai Hy"d (may Hashem avenge his blood) had been the co-editor of a volume called Ein Ganim, about the Jewish history of the area around Jenin. It was dedicated to the memory of Shmuel Weiss Hy"d, a boy from Kiryat Arba who fell in the battle of Jenin during the Defensive Shield operation.
The weekly Manhigut Yehudit e-mail newsletter just came in this afternoon with a piece on Amichai which I am passing on:

A Chilling Answer

The following letter was written by Second Lieutenant Amichai Merchavia on the first day of the expulsion from Gush Katif. He never got an answer to his letter. The Chief of Staff promptly dismissed him from his position. Only after the soldiers under Amichai's command intervened was he re-instated as officer of his unit. He continued to be an admirable officer and personal example for his soldiers. Amichai Merchavia was killed last week in the battle of Bint Jbel. Perhaps he finally got his answer...

10 Av, 5765
To Chief of Staff General Dan Halutz,
I am writing this letter at a time of deep pain and a feeling of lack of faith in the foundation of justice and morality that is behind the army's orders. Today's difficult pictures of thousands of Jewish brothers being driven out of their land and robbed of their property puts a moral stain on the IDF uniform.
The decision to drive the Jews out of Gush Katif that passed in an immoral and undemocratic manner and was authorized by the Supreme Court with a wink of the eye to the government and police is hypocritical from its very foundation. Basic human rights were trampled in the implementation of the decision, effectively turning Israel into a corrupt dictatorship.
I am ashamed of the army and disappointed in the commanders who hide behind empty words of the obligation to carry out orders and army discipline while they are actually working toward a corrupt and immoral goal.
Second Lieutenant Amichai Merchavia
Dan Halutz and Amichai Merchavia are in totally different places. The concept of "morality" comes up again and again in the young commander's short letter. He approaches the Chief of Staff in the language of values. He points to the severe spiritual deterioration of the army and he expects the Chief of Staff to understand his language and to grapple with it. Amichai lived his values and was willing to put his position and personal comfort on the line on matters of principle. He actively protested the destruction of Havat Gilad and of Amona. (
Click here for pictures of Amichai protesting the expulsion of Jews from Amona.) But he was naive. He didn't understand that the army heads no longer speak about values. Army language is strictly technological.
A year after Amichai wrote his letter, the technological thinking that has lost its moral foundation once again encounters reality. This time it faces an entirely different type of spiritual challenge. A primitive, religiously fanatical Arab is ranting about his God. Once again, the IDF attempts to deal with a spiritual challenge with a strictly technical solution. And once again it fails.
Why? Because the moral stain that "defiled the IDF uniform" has blotted out the basic values that the army needs in order to win. Technology devoid of belief cannot overcome an enemy that is fighting for its values -- no matter how ghastly those values are.
Only soldiers like Amichai can save our nation from the Hizbollah and from the Islamic tsunami behind it. Only soldiers like Amichai can counter Nasrallah's deity of holy war and death with the living G-d of Israel -- and back it up with technological know-how.
But Second Lieutenant Amichai Merchavia, may G-d avenge his blood, was killed in the battle of Bint Jbel. All that we are left with is technology.
Dan Halutz and Amichai Merchavia are in completely different places.

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