September 18, 2018

He took Torah into war

Tomorrow is Judgement Day.

It is also the 45th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, when our enemies attacked us in the style of the Amalekites 3,000 years before; striking when we were ‘weak and weary’ through fasting and at prayer.

Though 1973 was an age before mobile phones, which can now mobilise the IDF reserves in seconds, our enemies forgot one thing. The fact that most Israelis were in or around their synagogues on Yom Kippur enabled the alert to spread instantly and mobilisation took a fraction of the time that it would have on a normal working day in the generation before iPhones.

That was only the first showing of the Almighty’s hand in this war, which over the following days produced stories of deliverance that defied all logic and reason. Legends like Zvika Greengold who singlehandedly held off and destroyed columns of Syrian tanks for 20 hours while reserves were being mustered to the Golan Heights frontline.

One of the iconic photos of the war was of my cousin Hillel Unsdorfer carrying a Sefer Torah in the Sinai desert. He was the young rabbi of Kibbutz Beit Rimon doing his reserve duty on Yom Kippur in a bunker along the Suez Canal. Wherever he went, he took the Torah and this bunker was no exception. After Egyptian forces sprang over the canal, his unit was soon surrounded on all sides and after brave resistance in the opening 48 hours of the war, he was ordered by Moshe Dayan to surrender to the Egyptian army. He did so very reluctantly.

He and his comrades languished in an Egyptian dungeon for a long time until prisoners were finally exchanged. He never spoke of the interrogations and harsh treatment suffered during that time.
Hillel survived the war and Egyptian captivity, but not Israeli roads. He tragically died some years later in a road accident.

His legacy is an iconic image of taking the Torah into war, as it must be with us in every other aspect of Jewish life.

As I write these lines, there is only one airport on the entire planet that is now closed for the next 24 hours. It is the airport of the Jewish state. Our one and only nation state. May G-d always protect it as He did 25 years ago, always and forever.

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