Wednesday, January 3, 2024

In This Moment: The End of the Beginning?


In This Moment

The End of the Beginning?

“If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.” 

Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 72a


This headline above from Yediot Achronot proclaims the assassination, in Beirut, of Hamas's second in command, Saleh al-Arouri, who was also the head of Hamas in the West Bank. He was heavily involved in terrorist acts over the years, including the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in 2014, which led to a seven-week long confrontation between Israel and Hamas that summer (and the cancellation of a TBE Israel trip). Not only was al-Arouri killed, but reports indicate that the killing also resulted in the elimination of Hamas’s entire military command in Lebanon.

According to Barak Ravid of Axios (citing Israeli officials), al-Arouri was a target for Israel for years, but it hesitated to try to kill him in Istanbul and later in Beirut in order not to harm relations with Turkey and avoid provoking Hezbollah from starting a war. That calculus changed on October 7.


Here's what I wrote in this space the night before al-Arouri's "elimination":

If they kill Ismail Haniyeh and decapitate the rest of Hamas’s leadership, there will be a feeling of “Mission Accomplished.” Every Israeli is waiting for that. Whether or not it's proper to measure military success in this way, that is the perception, and perception in this case is reality. So the question arises: Why is Israel allowing Hamas leadership to sun themselves in Qatar and conduct diplomatic missions in Turkey and Egypt? Israel should make it clear that these leaders are fair game wherever they are. They should never be able to board a plane without the fear of being blown from the sky, Putin-style. Hamas leaders should not be able to conduct business as usual. Any pretense of them having diplomatic immunity should have ended on October 7. They've forfeited their right to diplomatic treatment. The kid gloves need to come off.

Evidently someone was listening. The gloves came off.

Those with a keen ear for the Hebrew might recognize the word Chusal ("eliminated") from a variant of the same word recited at the conclusion of the Passover Seder, right where the final section, Nirtza, begins:

Chasal sidur pesach kehilchato, kechol mishpato vechukato.

Ka'asher zachinu lesader oto. Ken nizkeh le'asoto.

Zach shochen meonah, komem kehal adat mi manah.

Bekarov nahal nitei kanah. Peduyim le'tziyon berinah.

The completion of the Seder and the elimination of a wanted genocidal terrorist would seem to have little in common. But in a subtle way, and perhaps intentionally, whoever chose the headline at Yediot Achronot was giving a gentle nod toward what we all hope comes next. The Chasal paragraph in the Haggadah brilliantly synthesizes the agricultural and the historical liberations celebrated on that Night that is Different from All Other Nights. It speaks of God's redeeming the Jewish people in metaphoric terms, as a planting of saplings in the sacred soil of the Promised Land, bringing about a liberation from winter's, and Exile's, deadening chill. These plantings are called, in the Haggadah, peduyim, "redeemed," using the term traditionally associated with the ransom of captives - Pidyon Shevuyim. How much more resonant could an allusion be to our current predicament?

Then, the very next line proclaims something not connected to the cycles of nature at all; rather it captures the deepest, most primal aspiration of the exiled Jew, whether in 19th century Minsk, Mainz during the Crusades, Castile during the Inquisition, or right now, at a hotel in En Bokek filled with exiles from Be'eri, Sderot and Nahal Oz.

At our Seders, following L'shana Haba'ah B'Yerushalyim, we throw in several songs about goats and cats and angels of death. But for the narrative of Nirtza, that "Chasal" paragraph announces the fulfillment ("elimination") of our ritual and storytelling obligations, to God, tradition and future generations.

Eliminating this most wanted terrorist fulfills an obligation as well, and like the end of the Seder, it produces a small glimmer of hope. This killing will no doubt produce short term chaos, but it is a step toward restoring Israel's precious deterrence and a modicum of pride in its security and intelligence services. It's a start. These new plantings are now popping through the ground in the Gaza Envelope, where ruins have dominated the landscape, and maybe they foretell a rebuilt and renewed State of Israel, not too far off.

One Hamas leader may be gone, but the threat is far from "eliminated." As Churchill said famously after the Battle of El Alamein in 1942, "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

We don't know who caused the mayhem in Iran today, but someone has just taken the fight to them. Is the tide beginning to turn in this global battle against Iran and its axis of evil?

Maybe it's my indefatigable Jewish hope talking rather than my beaten down exile-driven cynicism on the eve of New England's first winter snowstorm in two years.

But this feels like the end of the beginning.

Share this on Substack

Tomorrow's Israel's Front Pages

Jerusalem Post


Yediot Ahronot

Recommended Reading

Temple Beth El
350 Roxbury Road
Stamford, Connecticut 06902
203-322-6901 |
A Conservative, Inclusive, Spiritual Community

No comments: