OpinionIsrael at War

Israel’s heroes will ensure victory

They understand that absolute victory is the only thing that will bring peace.

Soldiers from the IDF's Seventh Brigade in Khan Yunis, the southern Gaza Strip, Feb. 25, 2024. Credit: IDF/X.
Soldiers from the IDF's Seventh Brigade in Khan Yunis, the southern Gaza Strip, Feb. 25, 2024. Credit: IDF/X.
Lauri B Regan
Lauri B. Regan
Lauri B. Regan is the vice chair of the executive board of the Endowment for Middle East Truth and the vice president and treasurer of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. She is a board member of Polaris National Security and the former chair of the American Zionist Movement’s Antisemitism, Anti-Zionism and Holocaust Denial Project.

In a recent column about the Middle East Forum’s fact-finding mission to Israel in which I participated, I discussed the uniform consensus among Israelis that they must completely and decisively win the war against Hamas for the sake of their future. I left Israel with a feeling of optimism that the Jewish state will not just be victorious but also emerge stronger due to the resilience of its citizens.

During our visit, we could not ignore that Israel is a country at war. Photos of the hostages are everywhere, the south is blanketed with soldiers and reservists, and helicopters and drones can be heard flying above.

While the smell of death has lifted from Kibbutz Kfar Aza, the extent of the savagery committed by Hamas on Oct. 7 was on full display: Burnt and bombed houses; bullet- and grenade-ridden rooms; houses with painted codes indicating that they had been cleared first of IEDs and other booby traps, then hidden terrorists and weapons, and finally the remains of the victims.

It is difficult to grasp the extent of Hamas’ barbarism. Such a level of violence is incomprehensible to a civilized person. Yet seeing the sites and hearing the stories—stories of tracking birds in hopes of locating a body part and sifting through the ashes of incinerated human remains in search of a tooth—serve as a reminder that, despite the evil surrounding her, Israel is a country of heroes.

There are heroes who survived the Nova music festival massacre and were in uniform a week later to help clean up houses, feed pet fish, find missing cats and dogs, and empty refrigerators and freezers of rotting food. All of them sought to bring life back to families who had lost everything. One person shared, “If we escaped in the middle of the night, we’re coming back in daylight as a picture of victory with flags and balloons.”

Indeed, Israeli flags blanketed the country from north to south, east to west, and at the kibbutzim and Re’im festival site where red poppies were in bloom and new trees were planted on Tu B’Shvat for each of the 364 beautiful souls who were murdered there. One charred home even had pink and white balloons with flowers adorning the sign that said, “Ofir Shoshani was brutally murdered in this house.” Yahrzeit candles were burning everywhere.

Israel’s heroes showed up in force on the morning of Oct. 7. In response to news of the invasion, reservists, off-duty police officers, community security forces, rapid response commanders and everyday citizens jumped in their cars and drove into danger.

We met with a reservist who left his family and spent six hours on what should have been a 30-minute drive while encountering Hamas’s drugged-up terrorists, disposing of as many as possible in order to get to the south to save lives.

Member of Knesset Almog Cohen shared his story of running out in his pajamas to defend his neighborhood. Believing that the tactical disadvantage he faced would lead to his death, he nonetheless decided that the way he wanted to die was while saving lives. 

We heard from a police officer in Sderot who survived multiple gunfights with the 60-80 terrorists who invaded the city. Hamas laid siege to Sderot’s famous police station. After a 24-hour battle, the IDF destroyed the building, killing the 26 terrorists inside. Sderot residents, only one-third of whom have returned to their homes, erected a large menorah on the former site of the building because “Where there is darkness, there must be light; they can try and crush us but we’re not going anywhere.”

The parents of a brave 21-year-old commander at the Erez Crossing military base emotionally but proudly shared the story of their son, who led his soldiers to safety while fighting Hamas terrorists. He chose to leave his men in a saferoom to save others and then fell in battle. His heroism saved lives at the expense of his own. His parents were remarkably brave in telling their son’s story and pleased to share that their 17-year-old son is excited to join the unit in which his older brother served with such distinction. Like so many with whom we met, these parents were focused on Israel’s future, sharing the common understanding that this war must be the last. 

One of the hostages told his father several months before the attack that if he were ever kidnapped, he did not want Palestinian terrorists released in exchange for him. His father, rifle slung over his shoulder, explained why he and about one-third of the families of hostages do not want Israel to release terrorists to save a family member. The epitome of altruism is their focus on Israel’s future. They know that every deal made with terrorists will promote more kidnapping and more wars. The father described “the spirit of our house” revolving around a selfless commitment to the future of the State of Israel and that the lives of its nine million citizens outweigh the life of one.

Up north, we visited the Alma Research Institute, founded by Sarit Zehavi, who bravely monitors the border with Lebanon and documents Hezbollah infiltrations and reconnaissance. She refuses to leave her home despite the constant missile barrages and imminent danger. 60,000 Israelis from the north remain displaced. 500 homes have been destroyed by Hezbollah missiles.

The Druze living in the north also refuse to leave. They welcomed us into their homes and shared stories of their personal losses to Palestinian terrorists and their hope for Israel’s victory. As so often during our stay, we heard that Israel must win this war. Former MK Shachiv Shnaan, whose son was murdered in a terror attack on the Temple Mount, shared that not only is Israel the best place in the world to be a Jew, but also to be a Druze.

All of these meetings exemplified the Israeli spirit and determination to win, to defeat Hamas, Hezbollah and all those who seek Israel and the Jewish people’s annihilation. They all recognize that only when Israel’s enemies are defeated will there be peace.

So what does victory look like? Destroying Hamas’ ability to repeat Oct. 7 is imperative. But one soldier shared that victory is not just finding and killing Yahya Sinwar. It is another music festival with dancing and singing, bringing the lush fields back, opening the schools for children to safely attend, bringing critical factories back online, fixing the fence, rebuilding the military’s defenses and bringing life back to people’s homes.

He concluded that the answer to Hamas and what is owed to those who lost their lives is proving that life was not destroyed and that Israel is stronger than ever. I have no doubt that Israel’s heroes will ensure victory.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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