A Few years ago, at one of our Bnai Abraham meetings, a newly returned Baal Tshuva attended. His name was Shimon.
Oh! I didn’t explain what Bnai Avraham is? Well, it is nothing, it was an attempt to create an environment where primarily gerim and also Baaley Tshuva can come and share experiences; like for example the integration with their FFB’s communities and all kind of other struggles.
Shimon was ex member of the Israeli commando. He was sent by his government to kill some terrorists in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon.
With great pride, he told us the details of his actions including the fact that after the mission came to an end, he came to the conclusion that since he was one of the two out of twenty commandos who survived, that it was a suicide mission. It caused him to think about life … about the gift of life, about the Giver himself.
For almost an hour in some quiet home in Boro Park, the room was filled with smoke, the loud noise of machine guns, the smell of sweat and human blood. His English was good enough to describe his experience with details describing the death of his enemies and friends. But also, his miraculous survival.
It was painful to hear that he still took some amount of pride from the fact that he killed human beings, people who he didn’t know. Somebody’s husbands, fathers, uncles, brothers.
I was afraid to ask if there were any wives, mothers, sisters, aunts…children.
The action took place in an apartment building and everybody in the way got eliminated. Or as they call killing in the nice way.
I met Arieh not long ago. Arieh was someone whose experience was similar to that of Shimons. In his early fifties he lives in California for around thirty years. Although he was covered with thick layers of tattoos on his skin, I saw a precious Jewish soul yearning to connect with what was taken from him in his youth – the connection with his G-d.
Being on the sharp curve of his life he told me:
“I can’t take it off of my body but, I am telling you, when I get my stuff in order, I will go to the mikva. I will let my beard grow, and also my payos. I will not hide my connection to Hashem. I want everybody to see the kedusha. I will keep Shabes and eat only kosher and put tefilin every day. May Hashem help me…”
I wish him the koach - strength and providence to straighten his life up and fulfill his desire that he expressed while choking on tears. Seeing him like this was enough for me to appreciate the Yidishe Neshuma at work once more.
We shared some difficult life experiences and I asked him in a delicate way, how he got to where he is.
He was also a member of the commandos with a mission in Beirut.
They sent us to die – he told me – we were doing crazy things there…
“After that, I told myself I will not defend this f… country I will not let my children do it either. It was crazy…” hes said.
Exactly a week after my encounter with Arieh, I met the senior rabbi who visited President Reagan in his oval office a few days after blowing up an American military base in Beirut by Hezbollah militants. Some two hundred young people who were told that they are going to defend their country had died there.
The rabbi, when mentioning Hezbollah used some words that we usually add when talking about our enemies, like those who caused many Jewish deaths, physical or spiritual forms of death.
I raised my head in wonder but kept my tongue behind my teeth, out of respect and due to the presence of other people I didn’t ask – Who sent those kids to Beirut? Isn’t it the capital of the other country? If our American fighters would defend Spokane for example, from North Korean invaders, would we call them terrorists? Why did we get involved? Is a war our Jewish business? Don’t we comprehend that this is the two sides of the same coin, with the picture of the straight sword on one side and a curved sword on the other? Eisav’s and Yishmael’s swords?
Shimon’s and Arieh’s government told them to go and kill. Kill the enemies before they kill you.
But they didn’t know those people!
The Jewish principal of self defense applies only when there is situation of life endangerment, but it can not be used as a practical application of Von Clausevitz doctrine!
The Talmud teaches clearly. When you hear the noise and find someone digging under you house you are allowed killing him in self-defense since you can suspect his worst intentions.
When you see someone digging – taking action, there is no time for negotiation, it is to late, your life is only what you have, and you should defend it even if the cost is the life of another human being. At that moment his life has no value since he intends to spill human blood. However, intentions alone can never serve as a justification to kill!
Before Yaacov met his brother Eisav, The Torah says that he was afraid, and he was in distress.
Rashi explains – He was afraid for his life and his family, but he was in distress that perhaps he will have to take a human life.
What are we doing there… in Beirut… and other places…?