Monday, October 16, 2006

Bereishit, In the beginning... There was a chaotic mess!

Genesis Chapter 1

א בְּרֵאשִׁית, בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים, אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ. 1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
ב וְהָאָרֶץ, הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ, וְחֹשֶׁךְ, עַל-פְּנֵי תְהוֹם; וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים, מְרַחֶפֶת עַל-פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם. 2 Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.
ג וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים, יְהִי אוֹר; וַיְהִי-אוֹר. 3 And God said: 'Let there be light.' And there was light.
ד וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאוֹר, כִּי-טוֹב; וַיַּבְדֵּל אֱלֹהִים, בֵּין הָאוֹר וּבֵין הַחֹשֶׁךְ. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.

ה וַיִּקְרָא אֱלֹהִים לָאוֹר יוֹם, וְלַחֹשֶׁךְ קָרָא לָיְלָה; וַיְהִי-עֶרֶב וַיְהִי-בֹקֶר, יוֹם אֶחָד. {פ} 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. {P}


This coming Shabbat is Shabbat Bereishit, the Shabbat when we begin the cycle of Torah readings, starting from these very lines.

There's a chaos here in Israel. I'm going to copy a few recent articles about the conduct of the IDF during the "nameless" war. They are similar to what I heard from those who were there.

I have no doubt that G-d is watching, very close by, just like the phrase in the Bible, "and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters." G-d is waiting for us to save ourselves, to see the "light."

I find it very ironic that Bibi Netanyahu says: "We Need Leadership". Maybe he should just throw in the towel. Obviously, he's not the leader we need.

Here are the articles, depressing, but important to read.

Oct. 15, 2006 21:32 Updated Oct. 16, 2006 18:45
'Commanders failed to fulfill missions'
By YAAKOV KATZ


Commanders who did not fully understand their orders, who were not present with their troops during important battles and even failed to fulfill basic missions, were only some of the grave failures found by an internal IDF committee that probed Division 91's performance during the recent war in Lebanon.


The second Lebanon war: JPost.com special report
Led by Maj.-Gen. Yoram (Ya Ya) Yair, the committee probed Division 91, responsible for the border with Lebanon and led by Brig.-Gen. Gal Hirsch, on a number of levels from operational plans drawn up within the division to the handling of logistical issues as well as the division's integration with the top IDF command.

According to a high-ranking officer involved in the probe, Hirsch and his men were questioned over a five-week period during which they were asked "tough and probing" questions about the way the division functioned during the war. One of the problems found during the probe was in the way tactical orders were composed, sometimes without a time element. Since the orders were not clear, they were changed, in some cases, on an hourly basis.

"Brigade commanders did not properly understand their missions," the high-ranking officer said. "They didn't know what their goals were and how long they had to fulfill their missions."

Due to the lack of clarity in the orders, "military forces moved forward and then backward, forward and then backward." In one case the officer said, an entire battalion sat in the same location for several days without moving and when the commander finally received orders to push deeper into enemy territory he was confused and failed to fulfill the mission. The probe further found that territory that had been conquered by the IDF was later abandoned and then conquered again.

Except for Paratrooper Brigade Commander Col. Hagai Mordechai, all of the brigade commanders whose troops were fighting in Lebanon spent their time in war rooms set up along the northern border but did not step foot behind enemy lines. "This impacted their understanding of what was going on during the fighting," the officer explained.

The officer called on commanders to take responsibility for their performance during the war. "A commander needs to look at himself as if the fate of the entire war lies on his shoulders and as if there is no one else who can fulfill his mission," said the officer. "A commander needs to know to take responsibility immediately and not wait for his superior officers to push him out."

The probe also found that commanders were not devoted to their missions and in some cases even decided to ignore orders so as not to risk the lives of their soldiers. The overall sense within Division 91, the officer claimed, was that Israel was not at war and that the operations in Lebanon were "standard and routine."

"Since they didn't fully digest that the country was at war then the missions were not given the correct amount of weight and importance by the commanders," said the officer.

Despite the severe failures, the committee, led by Yair, does not plan at this stage to recommend personal sanctions against division commanders and officers. Instead, the committee will review a number of specific cases in which battalion commanders allegedly failed to fulfill their missions and drastically strayed from military norms.

Three other divisions will present interim findings over the coming weeks including Division 162, headed by Brig.-Gen. Guy Zur, an elite reserve division commanded by Brig.-Gen. Eyal Eizenberg and an armored reserve division led by Brig.-Gen. Erez Zuckerman.

Oct. 15, 2006 22:14 Updated Oct. 16, 2006 18:18
Reservists present 'chilling' testimony
By REBECCA ANNA STOIL


As the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee's subcommittee charged with investigating the recent war in Lebanon began to hear testimony Sunday morning from a dozen reservists who volunteered to appear at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds, politicians proved to be a sideshow to the jeans-and-t-shirt clad men who came to tell their stories. Squinting and occasionally perplexed by the cameras thrust in their faces, officers and enlisted men, CEOs and students began to tell stories of long marches with no orders or goals, and lack of even the most basic equipment needed to fight a well-prepared enemy.

Subcommittee chair Tzahi Hanegbi opened the session saying that the MKs had published the advertisements calling for volunteers to testify because "we want to feel what they felt and understand what they want from the government of Israel."

Before testifying, the soldiers were asked if they would be willing to testify before other committees - including the Winograd Commission - and were reminded that because the committee does not have the status of an investigative committee, the reservists were not offered any immunity from proceedings against them as a result of their testimony.

Asher Menashko, an infantryman who also served in Lebanon during his regular service in the mid-eighties, described what seemed like a hopeless situation as he and his comrades reached the front. Although his battalion, he said, had just drilled a similar scenario of kidnapped soldiers and combat in Lebanon during an exercise weeks before the war, they were given no orders or goals when the situation proved all-too-real. "We walked into Lebanon without any clear orders like a flock after their shepherd," said the Nazareth-Ilit resident.

"We entered buildings to take cover which they then shelled until we thought that the building would collapse on top of us. Every night we moved "apartments" in the same village without any direction or orders." While his company left the battlefield licking its wounds, Menashko said that he believed that it was only a matter of good luck. Another company in his battalion caught without orders in a hostile town suffered fatalities as well as a number of wounded.

But Menashko's tale did not end there. He said that the battalion doctor was sent to the front without even the most basic flack jacket, but stayed in the field to care for the wounded. Once Menashko's wounded friends were evacuated to hospitals in Israel, he said, responsibility for their care was juggled through levels of bureaucracy between the Ministry of Defense and the IDF. "This sends a bad message to reservists - we are willing to sacrifice our lives for the army, but if we come home wounded, the government leaves us behind. They can't keep taking the reserve army for granted."

But, despite the disappointment conveyed during his testimony, Menashko felt good about the testimony. "I gave my point of view as a simple soldier," he said, and said that Hanegbi told him that his testimony was authentic and spine-chilling. "We have no other country and no other army and must be prepared for the next war," Menashko concluded.

The committee heard similar accounts from paratroopers and tankers, all describing missing bullets, water shortages, and unclear orders.

Two reservists stood outside of the committee room comparing stories of knee guards.

"It's not really so serious if you don't have enough to go around," a young paratrooper smiled. "You only really need one on your kneeling leg. So you just share, one each."

Etzion Harel, a population officer from the Home Front Command was the sole representative of the relatively-new unit in the first day of reservists' testimony. The former tanker-turned-social worker said that he was not meant to work in the north, but that he was quickly sent to Safed when commanders realized that one population officer could not possibly work with the over 20,000 civilians in the eastern sector of the Upper Galilee.

"With a lack of equipment and a lack of orders, the officers and soldiers did what they could," Harel said, describing how officers "borrowed" equipment from the hi-tech firms where they were employed. Initially, the entire emergency administration of Safed and surrounding areas had been allotted one computer with no connection to internet.

Harel also came prepared with a list of recommendations signed by four of the officers who served in the beleaguered Upper Galilee city. The list of possible solutions to problems that Harel and his officers noticed included the observation that bomb shelters that are used in everyday life are in better condition, and thus recommending that Safed utilize bomb shelters as day-care centers and synagogues during routine situations. He also recommended that the command increase the number of population officers, as only one per battalion which gives a ratio of one per tens of thousands of civilians.

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