Heartbreak. Shock. Agony. Devastation. Confusion. Rage.
These are just a few of the emotions flooding the hearts of millions of Israelis in the midst of an unprecedented terrorist attack by Hamas.
This is a time to stop and pray for the merciful intervention of God.
What makes this attack all the more insidious is that it comes almost 50 years to the day of the infamous Yom Kippur War in 1973. At that fateful time, Israel was attacked in the midst of 24 hours of prayer and fasting on the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
The current attack, on October 7, 2023 did not just come on Saturday, the Sabbath, but on what is called Simchat Torah, “the joy of the Torah,” the greatest day of celebration on the Jewish calendar. This is the culmination of the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), a day of singing and dancing and rejoicing.
But this day, instead of dancing there is wailing and mourning.
Bloodshed has filled the land.
First there were reports of a limited number of casualties. Then shocking news of as many as 40 Israelis killed and 700 wounded. Then reports of more than 100 dead and 900 wounded.
And the battles still rage as I write, with reports of Israeli soldiers taken hostage by Hamas.
And consider that the Jewish population of Israel is roughly 45 times smaller than the population of America, meaning that, proportionally, Israel has already suffered far more casualties than our nation suffered on 9/11.
Talk about devastation.
A report from friends in Israel, sent out in the midst of the hostilities, stated that,
“At approximately 06:30 am Israeli time, on a quiet Shabbat morning, we were awakened by the repeating wailing of air raid sirens. For the past four hours the Islamist terror group Hamas has been firing rockets across southern Israel (Beersheva, Arad, Dimona, Sderot, Ashkelon, Ashdod, etc.) and also at the Greater Tel Aviv area and at the outlying suburbs of Jerusalem. . . .
“Simultaneously, at least ten white pickup trucks driven by Hamas suicide squad jihadis crossed into Israel (as well as some on ultra-light single-place powered parachutists) and attacked approximately 21 sites, including kibbutzim and moshavim (farms), small towns (including police stations). They have been slaughtering civilians, including mothers and children, breaking into houses and indiscriminately killing the inhabitants. We have friends who have terrorists in their house as I write.”
What an indescribable nightmare.
And remember: slaughtering women and children and innocent civilians in cold blood is a major goal of these murderous terrorists. This is how they wage war.
To the unsuspecting Israelis, this onslaught must surely have looked and felt like an invasion from hell — from the air, on the ground, from house to house.
All with venomous intent, and every single terrorist ready to die for the cause. For them, this was a holy war.
What a satanic perversion.
In response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proclaimed “Operation Swords of Iron,” stating, “Since this morning, the State of Israel is at war.” Without a doubt, the response will be fierce, intense, and unrelenting. Much more blood will be shed.
Of course, there are endless questions and, at this early stage, few definitive answers.
What, specifically, provoked this attack? Was it Israel and Saudi Arabia finding more common ground in their shared hostility to Iran?
It is well-known that Iran helps finance and support terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad who serve as proxies in their war against Israel. And the Saudis, who are Sunni Muslims, recognize that their greatest enemy in the region is not Israel but Iran, which is Shiite.
Our friends in Israel write,
“Iran is catalyzing terror attacks against Israeli civilians to threaten Israel, Saudi Arabia and the USA about the warming of military ties between the Saudis and Israel. This is a warning shot across the bows.”
This could well be true.
On Israel’s side, what happened to the nation’s fabled intelligence systems? How could an attack like this, which doubtless required months of careful planning and coordination, catch Israel by surprise? And what of the right-wing Israeli government’s promises of greater national security?
How on earth could this happen?
More broadly, what can be done to stop this cycle of violence? Hamas wants to exterminate or drive out every Jew from Israel. The Jewish nation simply cannot exist.
So, it would seem that Israel must permanently break and disable Hamas, and America has assured Israel it will have everything necessary to strike back.
Yet Hamas governs Gaza Strip by democratic elections, and this terrorist organization continues to have great influence in the West Bank, which is currently governed by the Palestinian Authority.
Worse still, every Hamas terrorist who is killed by Israel becomes a martyr for the cause, inspiring the next generation to fight back against what they perceive to be the evil occupier. And every attack by Israel on Hamas in Gaza, no matter what precautions are taken to avoid civilian casualties, is perceived as an attack on the populace as a whole. It almost feels like a lose-lose situation.
That’s why we need to pray for God’s merciful intervention and for the hearts of everyone in the region – Jewish and Christian and Muslim and others – to turn to Him as the only One who can save and deliver.
May He guide Israel during these critical hours and days.
And may He be near to the shocked mourners who now fill every part of the Land. The day of joyous celebration has become a day of agony and loss.