On the eve of a threatened ground invasion of Gaza, the commander of the Israeli army’s Givati Brigade has told his soldiers that they are engaged in a war to “wipe out” an “enemy who defames” God.
In a Hebrew language letter to his troops published by Israel’s NRG news website and laden with bibilical references, Colonel Ofer Winter writes, “History has chosen us to be the sharp edge of the bayonet of fighting the terrorist enemy ‘from Gaza’ which curses, defames and abuses the God of Israel’s battles.”
“We will act together forcefully and with resolve, with initiative and with deceptive tricks and aim for contact with the enemy. We will do everything to live up to the mission and wipe out the enemy and remove the threat from the Nation of Israel,” Winter’s letter adds.
In Hebrew, the phrase used for “Nation of Israel” refers specifically and only to Jews.
“In the name of the IDF [Israeli army] fighters and in particular, the fighters and commanders from the Brigade, make the phrase ‘For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you’ come true, and we shall answer: Amen,” he concludes.
Winter’s letter is an “astonishing document,” Israeli playwright and journalist Kobi Niv commented on Facebook.
Niv criticizes the “clumsy language which ridiculously combines recitations from the military and the religion but also the fact that on our part (not on their part; on our part) the wars against the Palestinians have turned from a national dispute to a holy war.”
Israel expert Dena Shunra, who translated Winter’s letter for The Electronic Intifada, notes that its appearance reflects the increasing participation of observant Orthodox Jews in the Israeli military. Shunra adds:
This demographic, often associated with the settlement movement, has displaced the traditional Kibbutz-member (militantly secular, socialist/communist leanings) in the Israeli army. Switching from nationalist rhetoric to the language of holy war is part of that transition. Another part is insisting that holy figures appear in battle to comfort/save the Jewish soldiers (and seeing them as Jewish, rather than Israeli). Reports of visitations by “Mama Rochelle” – the Matriarch Rachel, wife of Patriarch Jacob, traditionally buried in Bethlehem – have surfaced in the last few rounds of fighting (from 2002 onward). This changes the nature both of the wars and of the forces engaging in them, pushing towards a clash of civilizations.
Translation of letter
Full translation of Ofer Winter’s letter:
Commander’s Combat Material for “Solid Rock” Operation [a.k.a. “Protective Edge]
Dear commanders and fighters,
It has been our great privilege to command and serve in the Givati Brigade at this time. History has chosen us to be the sharp edge of the bayonet of fighting the terrorist enemy “from Gaza” which curses, defames and abuses the God of Israel’s battles. We have practiced and prepared for this time and we take upon ourselves the mission with full humility, and being willing to endanger ourselves and give our lives to protect our families, our nation and our homeland.
We will act together forcefully and with resolve, with initiative, and with deceptive tricks and aim for contact with the enemy. We will do everything to live up to the mission and wipe out the enemy and remove the threat from the Nation of Israel. Nobody here returns without performing.
We will act and do everything to return our lads safely. Using all means at our disposal and with all required force.
I trust you, each and every one of you, to act in that spirit, in the spirit of Israeli fighters who are the pioneers leading the camp. The spirit of Givati. I turn my eyes to the sky and call with you “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.” God, the Lord of Israel, make our path successful, as we are about to fight for Your People, Israel, against an enemy who defames your name. In the name of the IDF fighters and in particular, the fighters and commanders from the Brigade, make the phrase “For the Lord your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.” come true, and we shall answer: Amen.
Together and only together we will win.
Ofer Winter, Colonel
Commander of the Givati Brigade