You know, in some ways, I’m a pretty blessed girl. Parts of my life are pretty cool. I get to meet some amazing people, I really do. And some of them I get to interview, and some of them I just am fortunate enough to be able to sit in on a lecture. This column is about one of those times. I got to sit in on a lecture with a fascinating gentleman. You’re looking for more information than “fascinating”? Ok, how about details, he’s Israeli, he’s been in a few battles. More? He can speak Hebrew, read and write it. More? Ok, I admit that last bit was humor. He was part of the Shaldag שלדג or Kingfisher unit. In fact, at one time he commanded it. Shaldag is like Sayeret Matkal, think Yonatan Netanyahu. It’s a special forces unit of the IAF. A Kingfisher is a bird that flies up high, swoops down suddenly and snatches it’s prey and ascends back into the skies before you know what happened. Now you understand Shaldag. More? He’s a retired Brigadier General. Yeah, I get to meet very way cool people. He’s also a happily married father of three girls, two of whom are officers in the IDF now. More? His name is Gal Hirsch. He also has a B.A in Mid-Eastern Studies from Bar-Ilan University. I’m working on my B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies as well, sadly not in Israel. Gal also is the founder and chairman of Defensive Shield Holdings, which consults on security and defense, and is chairman of the Israeli Leadership Institute. Quite the pedigree isn’t it? And he had quite the lecture, and message for us.
Gal’s family were some of the first to settle in Arad when it was a new town in the Negev. It’s near my beloved Beer Sheva. On his 13th birthday with the other boys he climbed Masada before dawn for his Bar Mitzvah, they put on Tefillin for the first time, prayed and vowed שנית מצדה לא תיפול
Shaneet Masada lo tipol, Masada shall not fall again. This is the same vowed the armored division used to make when they were sworn in on Masada, after climbing up it. My thought? Yes, I’d like to have the chance to do that, climb it, but the view from the cable car was amazing. I’m just saying. After that portion, the boys all hike down and go their homes and there is a lovely large meal, family and presents. It’s a big family event. Normally. Gal’s wasn’t, when he got back everything was chaos. His uncle, Amnon Hager had been killed. Fifty-four paratroopers and the pilot had been killed when their helicopter went down. The next day Gal changed from planning to enter a science program to picking up the baton that had fallen from his Uncle’s hand. He went to the recruiting station in Beer Sheva.
Gal has been fighting since he was 18, a lot of it around the borders of Israel, and all of it under fire. He said you can plan whatever you want, but someone else is planning for you. Serving in the IDF is not a career, it’s a mission. Eventually Gal chose to go to officer training. This requires an additional commitment to serve in the IDF. There on the walls of the school in different places was the phrase “אחריי” Achriee, or “Follow me and do likewise” which is what Gideon told his troops. This is also why you see a fairly high casualty rate among Israeli officers, they LEAD into battle. In addition to seeing the sign “Achriee” he also saw a beautiful woman named Donna, who later became his wife, and the mother of his 3 beautiful daughters. Donna was in the IDF as well. So, folks, if you need, I’ll see if I can get you some IDF recruitment forms. Sounds like it worked better than match.com.
In the mid 80s Hizbollah was a political party, now Hizbollah is the Iranian army after going through a few morphs. Gal fought in the first intifada which was the pieceful falestinians* having their armed riots for “peace”. They knew that Israel would not use machine guns on civilians.
While he couldn’t talk about many of the missions he went on, he did tell us about one. There was an enemy installation someplace. The enemy would come out attack Israel and retreat back to their compound. After this had gone on for a bit, Gal decided they needed to get into the compound. He said the game changes when you wake up in the morning and the floor of your living room is covered with IEDs and you have no clue how they got there in the night. I bet that’s right, actually, I know that’s right, more on that later. But there were some pretty good mottoes contained in the story. This mission had many things go wrong, from a late start because they were waiting for approval to technical problems. At one point an ambush was waiting, a team member was injured and they had to figure out an alternative way to cross a road swarming with the enemy and invent a way to cover their tracks. Then they got to climb the cliff. Through all this Gal has to continually reassess the situation. Abort or continue? Finally he is getting messages from headquarters, it was a brilliant plan, but don’t you think you should abort now? It’s not the same situation. It’s morning now. Gal persisted and was emphatic, he would continue. Then headquarters made it an order, abort. And just then, as luck would have it, there was another technical problem and none of their headsets worked! None of them heard the order to abort the mission. WOW, who would have imagined such a thing? Gal did have to come up with some alternative ways to get the team extracted, but he had already figured that out. So once the mission was completed he was able to get the communication equipment to work and called in orders for what he needed to get the team extracted safely. The mission was a success. When they got back to base the General Chief of Staff wished to have a word with Gal. Apparently the General had several, at a great volume. Gal thought his time in the IDF was about to end, so he had some words in response, also at a increased volume. And about then the people who had been monitoring the compound began to see some of the teams handiwork playing out. They came and got the General who left to watch the fireworks, grab a cup of Cofix and some popcorn. Ok, I made up the last two. But Cofix coffee is always a good idea in my book. The debriefing was two weeks later and he was told many times, you were wrong, but this turned out well.
Many times in this story Gal talked about “values determine results”, meaning if it is your values to persevere and work hard, your results will be good, it’s about your work ethic. And “the mission must be accomplished”. But what happens when values collide? “The mission must be accomplished” collides with “discipline”. The military discipline that an army must have to function as a unit runs headlong into the mission must be accomplished and values determine results? That’s a tough one isn’t it? The unit ended up getting a citation for their work, and they didn’t can Gal.
Instead, they sent him to Judea and Samaria to prepare for war in the aftermath of the Oslo accords. Gal talked about how many times and how many different ways Israel has tried to make peace. And how many times the Arabs have promised to give up terrorism and attacking civilians in return for _______. And some how, no matter how much or how often they give, peace never comes. Attacks on civilians and the military continues.
In 1998 it turns out Gal was quite good at trying to get things in order in Judea and Samaria. So good the Arabs absolutely hated him and he was a high priority target for them. The finally got him in an ambush as he drove under a bridge. They rolled a boulder on his car. He sustained multi-system trauma. Broken teeth, arm almost ripped off, face partly crushed, lungs filling with blood, teeth knocked out, pelvic damage and part of his nerves were torn away from his spine, he was pretty close to if not, paralyzed. The arabs were exceedingly proud of themselves for having gotten Gal. It was on the arabic news stations and in the papers. But Gal lived. The doctors asked him what his goals were for his therapy and rehab. He told them he wanted to be able to “shoot, hug, and write” meaning write orders. He wanted to go back into command. He wanted to be in charge of the Binyamin brigade which is in the area of Judea and Samaria. He wanted the arabs to know, they failed. He was sent to Paris for a while for some procedures. After he had been back from Paris for a while, he begin to have movement in a finger. The index finger of his right hand. He called his commander and said “I’m healthy now. I want to be the brigade commander” This, I’m sure, was met with a rather stunned reaction. He was still in the hospital in rehab. But, you see, it was his trigger finger that had moved. To Gal? He was ready for duty. So at 74% disabled he became the brigade commander of the Binyamin brigade. He is still 59% disabled today. He said “When you have a mission, you can work through the pain”. Another good creed to remember.
So now you have some background on Gal. Now I’ll tell you some of the things I learned that I think are worth sharing.
Gal is the man behind Operation Defensive Shield, March 29 – April 21, 2002. It was in response to the many, many terrorist attacks coming from the arabs in Judea and Samaria. In particular the Pesach massacre on March 27th in which 30 people were killed. A pieceful falestinian detonated himself in a hotel in Netanya during a 250 person Seder. Twenty-two were killed outright, eight died later and one hundred and fifty were injured. The arabic world was a tizzy in joy. But for Ariel Sharon it was the last straw. This was a very large scale operation. Despite the fact the Air force could have settled hash in a few minutes, the IDF chose to send in infantry to spare civilians who were told to flee.
Now, there are some things Israel does very poorly. One is “apartheid”. They are pathetic at apartheid. They have muslims in the Knesset, they have muslims in the military, in positions of command no less, they have muslims in the police force, they have muslims working in the emergency medical services. Israeli muslims can vote, shop, work, whatever. They do not have a firm grasp on how to do apartheid. Another word they can not seem to grasp the meaning of is “siege”. They really do quite poorly with siege. They need to refer back to Masada and the Roman 10th legion to understand how to do “siege”. Because when the tanks surrounded Mukata’a, Arafat’s palace and command post in Ramallah to keep him from leading an insurgency they supplied everything he needed, including electricity. I’m sure if you’ve seen the pictures of Arafat and his people huddled around a candle, that will be a shock, but Israel actually supplied them with necessities. They don’t get “siege”.
So let’s talk a bit about the arabs. In Bethlehem, somewhere between 100-180 pieceful* falestinians holed up in the Church of the Nativity. Much like how they now use the Al-Aqsa mollusk (yeah, I know) to hide weapons and attack the police out of their holy site. You know, I’ve yet to see any of the other worlds religions use their holy sites as a military compound and then howl to cnn when the military attacks it, and the people in it. But the arabs do it on a regular basis. Not only their own holy sites, but those of other religions. They also took more than 40 priests, nuns, and church personnel as well as around 200 other Palestinians hostage.
There were also raids in other falestinian villages as the IDF gained control of Judea and Samaria. This resulted in a large drop in terrorist activities.
Israeli Intelligence & Terrorism Information Center, were an initial drop of 46 percent in the number of suicide bombings – from 22 in February and March to 12 in April and May – and a 70 percent drop in executed attacks between the first half of 2002 and the second half (43 January–June, 13 July–December).
While 2003 had a total of 25 executed suicide bombings in comparison to 56 in 2002, the main difference was the number of attacks which did not come to realization (184) either due to Israeli interception or problems in the execution. 2003 also saw a 35 percent drop in the number of fatalities from 220 deaths in 2002 to 142 deaths resulting from suicide bombings.
Predictably, the UN howled. And the FA (Falestinian Authority) had cnn on speed dial. They would send kids out in front of tanks and cnn, being sloppy journalists, and I’m using that term very loosely here, would snap photos of the “compelling” conflict. Did they do any investigation? Not so much.
Remember me saying we would come back to IEDs in the living room? Well, that’s how terrorism works. You’re going about your normal little life when a bomb goes off, or someone runs you down with a car and jumps out with a knife. How long before people are afraid to go out? So, wake up and find IEDs in the living room? Changes your notions about your plans. The next point, is while the UN howled about the poor falestinian civilians, the poor civilians don’t concern the pieceful falestinian terrorists. They use them as shields, or tell them they can’t leave a building knowing Israel will not attack it if there are civilians there. This point seems to escape the UN, well, and john kerry. The IDF targets terrorists. The terrorists target civilians. Big difference wouldn’t you say?
Which brings me to another point Gal made. Not only does Israel not do “apartheid” or “siege” well, they really don’t do well at public relations. The first two were my opinions, but Gal admitted, Israel is not good at PR. The FA on the other hand, has a willing lapdog media. And somehow, somewhere roles have switched. In the beginning everyone realized that tiny Israel was fighting to regain her home. She was attacked by the arab nations from the beginning. Now, it’s still tiny Israel fighting many arab nations to survive, but because they don’t lay down and die as many expect, they are now portrayed as a thuggish Goliath. Gal said that was something that they could use our help with. When we see misstatements in the media, address them. Send a letter to the editor, address it on Facebook, Twitter, whatever, but do not let it go unchallenged. Judea and Samaria are not occupied “territories” they are the land of Judea and Samaria in the land of Israel, and there are Jews living in Jewish villages there, just like there are Jews living in villages all over Israel. And when it comes to Gaza, it is not “occupied” by Israel, there are no Jews in Gaza. In fact, Gal calls it “Hamas-a-stan”. It’s not controlled by anything other than Hamas, or as I call it, Hamass. This little tidbit seems to escape many mainstream journalists.
At the same time as Operation Defensive Shield, Gal began to push for the wall, or defensive barrier. This of course has been met with howls by the “human rights” groups and the UN. Isn’t it interesting that many Israelis died from terrorist attacks coming from people within Judea and Samaria and the UN and human rights people emitted their collective yawn. They didn’t get upset about suicide bombings and knife, rock, boulder, Molotov cocktail against Israelis, nearly one thousand of them. A fence has been built around Gaza, and not a single suicide bomber has made it from Gaza into Israel. The rockets are another story. But the stats on the wall of Judea and Samaria are impressive.
Here’s why there is an actual wall in places where falestinian snipers used to attack.
During the 34 months from the beginning of the violence in September 2000 until the construction of the first continuous segment of the security fence at the end of July 2003, Samaria-based terrorists carried out 73 attacks in which 293 Israelis were killed and 1950 wounded. In the 11 months between the erection of the first segment at the beginning of August 2003 and the end of June 2004, only three attacks were successful, and all three occurred in the first half of 2003.
Since construction of the fence began, the number of attacks has declined by more than 90%. The number of Israelis murdered and wounded has decreased by more than 70% and 85%, respectively, after erection of the fence.
The value of the fence in saving lives is evident from the data: In 2002, the year before construction started, 457 Israelis were murdered; in 2009, 8 Israelis were killed.
The wall and fence have worked very well in Israel.
He also talked a little about the “Arab Spring”, six and a half years ago. He said it was such a nice sounding name, spring. But what it has been is horrible. The jihadists have always been in the middle east, but the dictators that had been in control had been able to contain them. After the arab spring, the bottle was shattered and all the evil little genies were set loose to visit havoc upon the middle east. The fundamentalist jihadis are running amuck and the middle east is not functioning the same. Sounds to me like some former politician was dangerously (to all of us) naïve and didn’t have a firm grasp on the situation, or how things work.
Some of this last bit was in response to questions asked by the audience at the end of the lecture. But there was one more interesting question that was put to Gal as he talked about the impact of the evil fundamentalist jihadis that have been set loose to run amuck in polite society. A lady (not me) ask Gal, “So what does the mean for us?” Now, remember Gal’s occupation now. Security and defense consultant. He said “You have to prepare”. I don’t think she understood what he meant. I think Gal thought she didn’t understand either. He elaborated. “You have to be ready. You have a Second Amendment in this country. That is something we don’t have. You need to arm yourselves and know how to use your gun to be able to defend yourselves and your family”. My jaw almost hit the floor. I can only sincerely hope that those in the audience believed him and took him seriously. When you consider what this man has seen, where he lives and what he has done with his life, and he tells you that you need to be prepared and to exercise your Second Amendment rights, I think it is well worth heeding.
After the lecture he was signing books, and of course I wanted one. I got my book and got in line. We chatted for a few moments before he signed my book. I gave him my card, and asked him if he knew there was a Jewish Second Amendment rights organization in America. He did not. I told him we are supportive of Israel, and that we have covered issues in Israel and the parallels to things happening in America. Mostly favorably. I think Elor Azariya might have slipped out. But he seemed impressed and how glad am I that I was wearing my Caribbean blue TZP sweater? He asked if he could keep the card, it has our web site on it, and I got my copy of the book signed, בעברית, in Hebrew. Yeah, I’m happy. I’ve only got to read a couple pages in the book, but it’s very readable and interesting. The original copy was done in Hebrew of course, and was called War Story, Love Story. We of course, will understand that. Because we don’t fight because we love to fight, we fight because of love. Love for our country and our families. It fits.
If you want a copy of the book you can find it here. Defensive Shield
*Pieceful. No, I do not mean peaceful. The falestinians love stabbing and cutting up people. Pieceful is the correct, if made-up word.
*Falestinian, Falestinian Authority. There is no “P” in arabic. Isn’t it interesting that their “ancestral homeland” is a word they can’t pronounce. Probably because it wasn’t called Palestine until Hadrian named it that after the disappeared Philistines as a poke at the Jews and to remove their connection from the land.
As Pesach is coming up, and in honor of Gal, here’s your little movie.