OpinionIsrael at War

Witnessing Israelis’ will to fight on until complete victory

Despite the difficult challenges the Jewish people currently face, we will win.

A community emergency squad trains with IDF soldiers, simulating a terrorist infiltration scenario, in northern Israel, Jan. 18, 2024. Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90.
A community emergency squad trains with IDF soldiers, simulating a terrorist infiltration scenario, in northern Israel, Jan. 18, 2024. Photo by Michael Giladi/Flash90.
Kobi Erez
Kobi Erez
Kobi Erez is executive director of the Zionist  Organization of America.

Sitting on an El Al plane waiting to take off, I realized that, for the first time on my many flights to Israel, I was happy to see not even one empty seat on the plane. Even though Israel is considered a war zone—in fact, because of it—the Jewish people are more motivated to travel to our beloved land than ever before.

I traveled to Israel to volunteer in patrol units around Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to visit several of the Jewish communities the Zionist Organization of America-Michigan has provided with protective gear and equipment. After the Oct. 7 massacre, volunteer community patrol units were established or expanded as Israelis realized the pressing need to defend their neighborhoods from attacks. 

While visiting some of the communities ZOA has supported, I was humbled by the sheer number of volunteers who took it upon themselves to protect their neighborhoods, even late into the night. I watched some of these incredible citizens finish their patrol shift at 6:00 am and head straight to work.

I had the honor, as sad as it was, to visit a shiva in the city of Efrat for a fallen IDF hero who was killed while fighting in Gaza. Efrat is over the “green line” and typically considered a religious community; yet it brought me strength to see Israelis from all walks of life, secular and religious, right and left, come pay their respects to our fallen soldier and comfort the bereaved family.

The message I heard over and over during my travels—from community members, soldiers and families in mourning—was a plea to continue, despite our differences, to find unity and keep going until complete victory over Hamas.

Many have asked me what a real victory would look like. Killing Hamas terrorists is a good start. From a strategic perspective, though, killing terrorists is like mowing your lawn. The grass always grows back. Terrorists are easily replaced in Gaza because Palestinian children are taught to hate Jews, love martyrdom and worship Hamas leaders.

The way to truly win this war is by conquering Gaza, installing an army base in the territory and resettling the Jewish communities in Gush Katif—the settlements that were forcibly evacuated in the 2005 Gaza disengagement. This will achieve two goals:

  1. Deterring Israel’s enemies by showing that they will lose land if they attack. If Hamas had known it would lose land to Israel because of the Oct. 7 massacre, it would not have attacked.
  2. Increasing Israel’s long-term security through a permanent presence on the ground in Gaza. This model has proven successful in Judea and Samaria. A large number of Palestinians there aspire to repeat the Oct. 7 attack but are unable to do so because of the presence of Jewish communities that geographically divide Palestinian villages. Moreover, this model gives the IDF the power to enter hostile Palestinian towns and arrest and kill terrorists as needed.

I am inspired by the people of Israel and by Jews and friends around the world who are standing up against evil. Despite the difficult challenges the Jewish people currently face, with the help of God and the spirit of all those who represent good in this world, we will win.

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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