Monday, July 24, 2017

Armchair Commandos

(Apologies in advance if this post is too angry. I just arrived in Australia and I haven't slept much in the last two days.)

My nephew. A very sweet and sensitive young man.
In the aftermath of the terrible slaughter of the Salomon family in Neve Tsuf, there have been all the expected reactions. But one reaction, from a surprisingly large number of people, is catching my family by surprise, and is extremely upsetting.

There are a lot of people criticizing my nephew for only stopping the terrorist and not killing him. I'm not talking about people innocently seeking to understand what happened; I am talking about people passing judgment on my nephew, and saying what he should have done instead.

It's hard to find the words to explain how foolish this is. In order to voice any such opinion, you'd have to (A) know what it means to be a soldier, (B) know the IDF rules of engagement, (C) understand the reasons for the rules of engagement (there are at least three good reasons not to kill wounded terrorists, and even more in this case), (D) know what it's like to suddenly run from your Shabbos table to find your neighbors being killed, and (E) know the precise details of what happened in Neve Tsuf, including the layout of the house and how the shot was taken. I'm pretty sure that all these people criticizing my nephew fail on most if not all of these.

People voicing these criticisms are not only being foolish; they are also causing a lot of distress to my family. Now, when I first spoke to my sister, right after Shabbos went out, and I told her how sorry I was for her, she replied, "It's not about me, it's about them." Of course, she was being her typically selfless self; the truth is that while nobody's suffering can compare to that of the Salomon family, my sister and her family are also suffering immensely. How people can add to that by criticizing the heroic actions of my nephew is beyond me.

The problem is that people do not realize that they do not understand that which they think they understand. And it's so easy to lecture other people as to what they should have done, when you're merely sitting at your computer, with no real knowledge of such situations. It's the same with people criticizing the government for not enacting wide-scale actions against the Palestinians as retribution. It's easy to say such things when you don't actually have to consider the potential consequences of such actions.

I understand that people feel tremendous grief and rage. But if you're giving voice to that, please try to express it appropriately. And if you don't understand why someone acted as they did - whether a soldier, a prime minister, or anyone - then try to find out and understand why they did what they did, before passing judgement. (This is an important lesson for lessening disputes in general. People are not usually "crazy." If someone does something that you see as deeply wrong or absurd, try to understand why they did it. There's usually a reason.)

And if you really want to help Neve Tsuf, please donate to help them install a more advanced security system, at this link.

57 comments:

  1. This is always wrong. It's wrong when it's someone screaming right-wing platitudes ("Kill them all!" etc.) that don't even really make sense (and I say this as a right-wing extremist), but it's also wrong when it's people making long, agonized blog posts trying to "explain" the story or "understand" it or, even worse, finding some "solution" from the other direction (e.g., close the Har HaBayit to Jews, as one prominent Orthodox blogger suggests every time anything happens).

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    1. You're right... I say irradiate the Temple Mount and close it to everyone for 100,000 years. It's time religious people grew up and realized that an entity or force that's capable of creating a universe certainly doesn't "live" on hilltops or "dwell" in "houses".

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    2. and to use the famous joke, close all the space observatories and sack the astronomers and let everyone who wants to know more about space just say 'twinkle twinkle little star'.
      sheesh. what do you know about spirituality?

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    3. Yoni - DOn't yu think that perhaps it is also time for people who know nothing about religion to stop giving advice to religious people?
      Yes, some religious people may express ideas that you find 'silly'.
      I assure you, that they find some of the comments of non-religious people equally 'silly'.
      Yours is a particularly good example.

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    4. Wob
      How about those who spent decades being religious until their eyes were open, can we express how we feel about silly religious people

      Irradiate the Temple Mount now!

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    5. Wob
      How about those who spent decades being religious until their eyes were open, can we express how we feel about silly religious people

      Irradiate the Temple Mount now!

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    6. Nachum, I agree with you fully, and NRS's nephew is of course a 100% hero, a גבור בידראל. I object only to the moral equivalency of your comment. No one on the right ever advocates anything remotely similar to "kill them all." The closest we have seen is R. Kahana z"l, who advocated removal, not killing; or the proportional revenge of random killing for random killing, a policy that was actually carried out in the early days of the state, with successful deterrence, by Unit 101.

      By contrast, the left has not just advocated, but actually implemented demented schemes that everyone knew would, and did, lead to nothing but disaster. It's an insult to the right to compare them to the naïve and benighted fools of the left. So I know everyone is angry, but in the efforts to stay calm, let's stay clear of false equivalency. Leave that kind of nonsense to the UN.

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    7. DF: rav kahana hy"d advocated paying them to leave, not simple removal.

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  2. Agreed.

    I quietly gave a sigh of disappointment that the sheehad was not sent directly to receive his 72 virgins. I'm sure that we all did. But how can someone think much less give voice to groundless criticism of this soldier. Ugh.

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  3. Shimshon OstropolerJuly 24, 2017 at 1:25 PM

    Which prominent Orthodox blogger is that?

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  4. People say stupid things and you are sot on Natan, they think they know everything when they actually know very little about the situation. Very well said. Rachel Selby

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  5. I thought your sister's comment was great - we aren't murderers.

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  6. the truth is that while nobody's suffering can compare to that of the Salomon family, my sister and her family are also suffering immensely.

    ......

    insensitive question. without giving personal details, why should a hero who stopped an evil palestinian terrorist be suffering?

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    1. Because his neighbours and close friends were murdered.

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    2. Because his neighbours and close friends were murdered and because it happened extremely close to home. The terrorist could just as easily have walked into their house instead of the one opposite. That's a lot to deal with.

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  7. Kudos to your nephew. I hope that the general unacceptably of extra-judicial killing is one of the reasons you hinted at.

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  8. While your frustration is well understood, people fraught with emotion often do not express themselves in a well thought out manner. This young man, in an instant in a very intense situation, apparently placed a shot through the window, into the terrorist, neutralizing him without harming anyone else. For this he deserves a medal. He could have then entered the house in the mayhem and dispatched the perpetrator without anyone being the wiser. To this his father answered immediately "we didn't need to be Elaor Azariya". Were he a civilian maybe the Drori law would have been to his defense or were he in a Jewish state הבא במחתרת might have been all he needed. But he is currently a conscript in an army who has lost its moral compass. Many young men hesitate to enlist in an army who sees its purpose more in molding the conscripts according to some ideology or ism of the day (eg. mixed units and feminism) then defending the citizens of the country or into an army that on a weekly basis uses its conscripts to expel citizens from their homes arbitrarily rather then defending its citizens. The critics' frustration is not with this exemplary soldier but with the ROE; rules that value the lives of murderers of innocent civilians above the lives of civilians and the young conscripts who risk their lives for us while our government makes it clear that their lives are not its priority. We have seen too many videos of soldiers in combat situations where they are not defending themselves for fear of reprisal by the system (eg the soldier in the burning pillbox in Anata who repeatedly was told not to respond but to wait for a commander to arrive but there are many). Those who expressed criticism of the soldier were mostly redirecting their frustration with the system that trained and restrained him.

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    1. You are exactly wrong. It may be true that there are issues with the ROE, but without having been there, you have no idea why he acted as he did. Like all good soldiers, he had to make instantaneous calculations balancing speed,and efficacy and came up with the solution he deemed best. For you to turn it into a political rant is precisely what Natan is objecting to.

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    2. " The critics' frustration is not with this exemplary soldier but with the ROE; rules that value the lives of murderers of innocent civilians above the lives of civilians and the young conscripts who risk their lives for us while our government makes it clear that their lives are not its priority."

      This is false. You would need to demonstrate how the ROE value the lives of murderers over those of innocents. And you cannot.

      Indeed, since October 2014 there were more than 200 cases of Israeli soldiers, policemen, security personnel and civilians using weapons to defend themselves and the public. And in some 30 of these cases, it was later found that mistakes had been made, and the people they had shot were the wrong person, or for some other reason did not need to be shot. And of all those cases, in only one case, were the actions were viewed as particularly egregious, were charges brought.

      In spite of your enthusiastic, bitter rant, the facts demonstrate that the ROE and the way they are applied do indeed protect the IDF and the police and others when they need to use their weapons - even when they make mistakes.

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    3. He could have then entered the house in the mayhem and dispatched the perpetrator without anyone being the wiser.

      Thank you for playing the role of armchair commando to perfection. You did a great job of motivating why this post was needed. Bravo!

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    4. So let's take some comments by former vice-Chief of Staff and head of Sayeret Matkal, Uzi Dayan, and dismiss them because 'he was not there'? http://www.inn.co.il/News/News.aspx/351568

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    5. My Hebrew is not good enough to catch all the subtleties, but IIUC he specifically said that he was not criticizing the actions of the soldier who did a correct and proper jobs to prevent further murder. So he specifically went out of his way to avoid getting into the details of this occurrence. What he said that he thinks it would have been a better outcome if the terrorist had been killed; he is entitled to his opinion, but this is a moral judgement which he has no special authority on. He say neither says that he should have violated the ROE, nor that the ROE should be changed (which again, he could have an opinion on without having any special insight).

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  9. Rational SkepticJuly 24, 2017 at 3:45 PM

    "The problem is that people do not realize that they don't understand that which they think they understand."

    How ironic that you suddenly realize this now. That is precisely what people said about you before and after you published your books on Torah, science and Creation!

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    1. Skeptical RationalistJuly 24, 2017 at 4:32 PM

      It all depends on whether you think the real experts on science are scientists or rabbis. And whether the real experts on Torah and science are theologians or lamdanim. Evidently, you believe that the experts on science are rabbis, and the experts on Torah and science are lamdanim. Others disagree.

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    2. No they said it about YOU!

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  10. There are a lot of "armchair everything" in this world -- not just armchair commandos, but armchair policemen, armchair politicans, armchair diplomats, armchair Israelis, armchair Palestinians, etc....

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  11. Jordan, it seemed pretty clear from Roland's comment that he was not criticizing or passing any judgment on the soldier at all, as you seem to accuse him of doing. In that case it seems perfectly acceptable to judge the RoE separately and politically.

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  12. Reason D is the most compelling reason not to directly criticize the soldier. No one knows what it's like to be that individual facing that horror. However these types of circumstances may appropriately give rise to criticisms of the rules of engagement as they stand. One certainly is capable of understanding the rules and their rationale and fundamentally disagreeing with them and correspondingly the conduct they give rise to.

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  13. I actually wrote about the important lesson he sent to the world with his actions: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/halamish-the-idf-and-the-value-of-life

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  14. Well said Rabbi Slifkin.

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  15. The rage is not directed against your relative. It is directed against the Israeli government, who time and time again eventually releases even the most sadistic, cruel, and murderous terrorists to live in freedom as heroes of their sicko cause after spending x amount of years in prison. Your relative did an amazing thing.

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  16. You seem predisposed to assuming that Netanyahu's giving in to diplomatic pressure is reasonable. Actually not. Another leader with more backbone and more Emunah would act differently. And bring better long-term results.

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    1. For an intelligent view on the question of strong leaders and of how to have a better future, try this instead:
      https://www.ted.com/talks/rabbi_lord_jonathan_sacks_how_we_can_face_the_future_without_fear_together

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  17. Replies
    1. It does help. It shows the world the level of intelligence of rabbis. (well, some of them, no offense intended, R. Slifkin).

      Let me rephrase. it gives a concrete example of how rabbis are fallible so that the wider public can clearly see that it is important not to follow rabbis blindly.

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  18. Absolutely agree with both this post and the previous post about Rabbis Dweck and Mirvis. There is little to be gained by sounding off on matters we don't fully understand.

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  19. Hi I wrote a comment earlier here unrelated to the topic but about your book The Challenge of Creation because I didn't know another way to contact you. I wrote it on my iPhone but I wasn't sure if it sent or not. Just checking. Thank you. Nathan Hakimi nhakimi14@sbcglobal.net

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  20. I sit here in Canada, and except when I visit Israel, I don't have to live with the consequences of my advice. My son, who is just finishing his army duty, does. But I've never offer my opinions for just that reason.I just daven for them all everyday.

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  21. Although no one can really judge, and regardless of this specific incident:
    1. Not all critics are sitting at their computer.
    2. There is a valid opinion for security reasons that a neutralized terrorist is a dead one.
    3.

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  22. Based on what I read in the papers, your nephew did his job perfectly in an almost impossible situation.

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  23. There's an additional point that I would offer. Most soldiers (and policemen) do not get the extensive training needed to control their bodies when under an tremendous adrenaline rush. Your hands start to shake and sometimes you get tunnel vision. People (at least in the USA) complain about policemen that have killed a suspect in self-defense saying "why couldn't you just shoot him in the arm or leg". Police are trained to stop the threat against themselves and that generally means center of mass because that's the easiest part of the body to hit when under an intense flow of adrenaline.

    The fact that this soldier was able to neutralize the terrorist through a window as quickly as he did is simply incredible. Any comments beyond that are, I believe, based on ignorance of the use of firearms under extreme pressure.

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  24. I am not going to comment on your nephew's reasoning for not whacking the terrorist, but, in general, The IDF's policies are not halachic based, and in many cases, their policies lack common sense. Al pi halacha, R Shmuel Eliyahu, says that terrorists/attempted terrorists should be killed.

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    1. Fed Up With MoronsJuly 25, 2017 at 3:04 PM

      So go find some Palestinians who have killed Israelis (it's probably not that hard) and kill them. What's stopping you? Al pi halacha, you should do it!

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    2. thank G-d the IDF doesn't work al pi halacha. we would be at war all the time with people like r. eliyahu in charge. and then hundreds of kids would die. perhaps he should stick to giyur and marriages - matters of personal status. he can still cause plenty of suffering that way.

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    3. While I admire R Eliyahu for his IDF service, he is a bit of an extremist and conspiracy theorist. I think it is likely that this "halacha" is based more on his somewhat extremist views than on halacha. E.g. he has apparently proposed killing the children of terrorists. He has also apparently endorsed a pamphlet whic "asserts that the Pope and the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church allegedly help organize tours of Auschwitz for Hezbollah members, in order to teach them how to wipe out Jews."

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shmuel_Eliyahu

      I also find it unlikely that you are going to be able to get the ROE out of our traditional books of halachah, which do not deal with such issues. In any halachic state (if Israel is not one), then they would need to have the same institutions making the same kinds of decision as Israel and every other country has now.

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    4. What are the three reasons not to kill wounded terrorists that Rabbi Slifkin hinted to?

      I don't believe we can get very much information from this particular terrorist, seeing that he's not part of any terrorist organization, just another brainwashed Muslim fanatic.

      Holding a terrorist in an Israeli jail (and not executing them--not that Rabbi Slifkin's nephew should have performed the execution) will only make it more attractive for Hamas (or whoever) to kidnap IDF soldiers and bargain for another lopsided "prisoner exchange", as in the Gilad Shalit case.
      --Yehudah P.

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    5. Apart from the "ethical" side of the ROE, there is also the point that beyond the effect of the attacks, the Palys are trying to produce casualties from their own side. The media loves nothing better than showing the image of a brutal IDF occupation soldier killing an innocent occupied Paly. The army's response to this game therefore is to avoid paly casualties at almost all costs, which is why the soldiers have such tight engagement rules. Above all, this is a media war, as the ruckus about magnetometers shows.

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    6. Skeptic's point is well-taken--but the Arabs manage to spin even non-fatal casualties into fatal ones, and the world media doesn't challenge them with the facts.

      For example, in the terror attack in the Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood in Jerusalem in Oct. 2015, where two Arab cousins stabbed a 13-year-old coming out of a candy store, one of the Arabs was wounded by a driver who purposely hit the attacker as he was trying to get away. Abbas later claimed that he was killed, while the Israeli press could show that the Arab boy was very much alive in an Israeli hospital (and was later seen in court, fully recovered, with a wide grin on his face).

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  25. Dear Natan don't get angry to much, it's a very old trend but the web and the social medias are a perfect amplifier of it. Shlomo Hamelech summed it up in one verse:
    לא יחפוץ כסיל בתבונה כי אם בהתגלות לבו

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  26. It's crazy to me that anyone would say he should have killed him. I'm so sorry your family is having to deal with this sort of thing.

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  27. I don't know if anyone has really noticed, but the Har HaBayit has been pretty much empty of Muslims for the last few days. This may be the first time since the massive Muslim aggression that brought their conquest of Jerusalem in the 7th century CE that this has happened. Maybe this will have positive cosmic influence on us? Maybe we should hope this will continue?

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    Replies
    1. I think you're on the wrong blog for talking about "cosmic influences"

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Chicken Wars: The Shiur

This Monday in Woodmere....(and also on Tuesday, at Beth Aaron in Teaneck):