Miracles in the War of Independence – Part Three by Rabbi Chaim Jachter



In our two previous issues, we began our analysis of God’s subtle hand in Israel’s victory in its War of Independence. We showed examples of our enemies’ foolish mistakes which led to Jewish victory against all odds. We will continue our discussion in this issue, beginning by analyzing the military miracle of 1948.

A Spiritual Perspective on the Military Miracles of 1948

Although each detail of the military engagements of May and June 1948 can be explained independently, the big picture that emerges from the collection of details is inexplicable. How is it that the outnumbered and outgunned Israelis prevailed on five fronts, received weapons whose delivery was ordered by the arch-villain Joseph Stalin just at the right time, and benefitted from numerous and stunning Arab mistakes? The reasonable explanation is that God was manipulating the situation.

An analogy to the game of dice is helpful. If someone visits a casino and rolls the dice and lands a double sixes twenty times in a row, there are two possible approaches: it was a coincidence or he was cheating. A rational individual concludes that the casino guest was cheating and manipulating the dice, since no one enjoys so much random fortune. Similarly, it is unreasonable to believe that the survival of the Jewish State from February 1948 through June 1948 was a result of mere coincidence and good fortune for the Jewish People only a few years after experiencing the greatest catastrophe in their entire history.

Just as we attribute all of the unlikely steps in the Yosef narrative of Sefer BeReishit to God’s subtle involvement, so too we attribute the inexplicable miracles in the War of Independence to the manipulation of the Almighty. Tehillim 124 most poignantly captures Hashem’s involvement in the 1948 war:

“A Song of Ascents; of David. 'If it had not been the Lord who was for us,' let Israel now say; 'If it had not been the Lord who was for us, when men rose up against us, then they had swallowed us up alive, when their wrath was kindled against us; then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul; Then the proud waters had gone over our soul.' Blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we are escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

A thinking person should conclude that “Mei’eit Hashem Hayta Zot, Hi Niflat BeEineinu” “this is Hashem’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes (Tehillim 118: 23).

The Purpose of the Miracles of 1947-1948

Now that we have outlined the miracles God bestowed upon His people during the War of Independence, we must ask why Hashem specifically chose this time to perform these miracles for our nation.

An analogy to the time of the Navi Chaggai is instructive. Chaggai prophesied in the year 520 B.C.E[1], a very difficult time for our nation. The Persian emperor Cyrus in 539 B.C.E. had permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, but opposition from the local non-Jewish residents quickly halted its construction beyond simply erecting a Mizbei’ach. Relatively few Jews took advantage of Cyrus’ offer, and those who returned struggled with a poor economy while remaining under Persian rule.

After an absence of prophecy since 570 B.C.E.[2], Chaggai emerged to offer a simple but encouraging message from Hashem – “Ani Itechem”, “I am with you” (Chaggai 1:13). The Jewish People were in desperate need of hearing this message sixty-six years after the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash with its accompanying suffering and exile. The much anticipated glorious return to Israel was deeply disappointing. Many Jews might have erroneously concluded that Hashem had abandoned us. Along came Chaggai with a message of Hashem to counter such a terrible thought. Chaggai taught that negative thought should be abandoned since Hashem’s commitment to the Jewish People is eternal. Chaggai’s message was supported and authenticated by the fulfillment of his prophecy with the completion of the building of the Second Beit HaMikdash in 516 B.C.E. against all odds[3].

The years immediately following World War Two were a particularly dismal time for the Jewish People. One third of the Jewish people  were brutally tortured and murdered by the Nazis and their many accomplices, and hundreds of thousands of Jews languished in displaced persons camps with no country willing to admit them. The doors of Palestine were almost completely sealed by its British rulers to Jewish immigration.

Many Jews at the time erroneously concluded or were at least concerned that God had abandoned His people. Missionaries actively reached out to Jews arguing that the Holocaust and its aftermath proved that God no longer regarded the Jews as his special people. Many Jews sadly fell prey to this toxic outreach.

It could be argued[4] that Hashem made the political and military miracles of 1947-1948 to clarify to the Jewish People, similar to Chaggai’s message, that “Ani Itechem,” “I am still very much with you.”

Conclusion – Our Goal

Now that we have outlined at length the basis for the recognition of Hashem’s involvement in the political and military establishment of the State of Israel, it is fair to ask what has been our goal in doing so. My goal, I wish to emphasize, is not to promote Religious Zionism, though I am a passionate Religious Zionist along the lines of the teachings of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik.

My goal is to point to evidence that Hashem remains involved in the world. My goal is to mimic our ancestors at Keri’at Yam Suf[5] who pointed with their fingers to the presence of God. I follow in the footsteps of Shlomo HaMelech in Shir HaShirim (2:9) who declared, referring to Hashem, “Hinei Zeh Omeid Achar Kotleinu Mashgi’ach Min HaChalonot Meitzitz BaCharakim,” “Behold, He stands behind our wall, He looks in through the windows, He peers through the lattice.”

It is my fervent hope that this extended discussion inspires and sensitizes readers to notice and identify Hashem’s involvement in the world.

Postscript – The Miracle of the Raid on Entebbe

Rav Eli Mansour mentioned in a public lecture that he showed his children a film of the 1976 Israeli hostage rescue at Entebbe, Uganda to reinforce their Emunah. One who watches a good documentary about the Entebbe rescue can and should notice that so much could have gone wrong and yet the mission succeeded.

Here are some of the extraordinary events:

1.       Liftoff of the rescue planes was extremely difficult. The weight of the cargo and fuel and the intense desert heat (the planes took off from Sharm el-Sheikh) made it nearly impossible.

2.       The overloaded planes had to fly extremely low to avoid detection. This made the flight of the rescue planes extremely dangerous. In one documentary, one of the pilots recalled that if he moved the plane just three millimeters improperly, the plane would have crashed into the sea.

3.       Refueling the planes was an exceptional challenge. The Kenyan government at the last moment surprisingly permitted the rescue planes to land and refuel in its capital city Nairobi. Otherwise, the Israeli planes would have had to remain significantly longer in Uganda to refuel the planes.

4.       Landing the planes was an extraordinary challenge due to the extra weight of the planes and the need to avoid detection. The first rescue plane landed just after the last commercial flight landed at the Entebbe airport and the landing lights were left on. The soldiers then placed dim lights on the runway to allow the other planes to land.

5.       The rescuers had to overcome the terrorists and the Ugandan soldiers who supported them, while at the same time had to avoid harming the hostages they were trying to rescue.

6.       The hostages were housed in a building which was constructed by Israelis, which allowed the Israel Defense Forces access to the plans for the building and master its rooms and passageways even before landing in Uganda.

7.       Israelis had trained Ugandan soldiers and thereby learned their character. This provided the IDF with the knowledge of how to handle the Ugandan soldiers.

8.       The Mercedes car (intended to appear like the car used by Ugandan president Idi Amin) used to transport the soldiers from the planes to the terminal was in poor condition. The car easily could have failed to start.

9.       The IDF commandos succeeded in destroying the Ugandan Air Force fighter planes located at the airport. Had these planes engaged the extremely overloaded Israeli rescue planes they would have enjoyed an overwhelming military advantage.

10.    The terrorists were positioned in a manner which made it relatively easy for the Israeli commandos to quickly eliminate them.

11.    The terrorists and their Ugandan supporters committed many serious errors. They should not have held the hostages in the airport, a mistake which facilitated the hostages’ quick rescue.

12.    The hostages they released provided vital intelligence information to the Israeli commandos.

13.    The Ugandans permitted the airport to continue civilian operations during the hostage siege, which facilitated an Israeli secret agent to hover over the airport and take pictures of the area while posing as a pilot whose plane was experiencing engine trouble. This error also facilitated the Israeli rescue planes landing immediately after a landing of a commercial flight, with the airport lights remaining on.

14.    The Israelis were in the airport for nearly an hour. In that time the Ugandans should have mobilized their Air Force planes located at the airport (before the Israelis blew them up) to destroy the Israeli planes on the ground waiting to take the soldiers and hostages home.

15.    Almost all of the hostages were held in one area making their rescue easier.

Each of these fifteen points may be explained as coincidence or good fortune. However, the aggregate of so many miracles clearly points to the involvement of Hashem. The Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote cogently about Entebbe (translation from http://www.chabad.org/therebbe/letters/default_cdo/aid/397865/jewish/The-Miracle-of-Entebbe.htm):

“Here my thoughts turn to the recent miraculous rescue of the hostages from Uganda. One cannot fail to note the extraordinary aspects at both ends of the hijacking. On the one hand, the ease with which the four terrorists hijacked the airbus in Athens, and on the other hand, the extraordinary success of the rescue operation. In other words, both the initial tragedy and eventual deliverance clearly point to the Hand of G-d. And while every Jew is grateful to, and admires the Mesirat Nefesh of the brave rescuers, we must not lose sight for a moment of the warning and lesson at the bottom of it all -- not just in regard to the danger of hijacking in the ordinary sense, but even more importantly, in regard to the ‘spiritual hijacking’ of so many of our young generation by alien and freak cultures which, unfortunately, capture so many of our innocent boys and girls in Eretz Yisrael as in the Diaspora.

[1] According to the approach presented in the Da’at Mikra commentary to Tanach.

[2] See Yechezkeil 29:17 with the Da’at Mikra commentary.

[3] The Jews built without consent of the Persian government in anticipation of being granted permission when the project was underway. The Persian emperor Darius not only then permitted the reconstruction, but he even financed the effort.

[4] Rav Soloveitchik articulates a similar approach in his essay “Kol Dodi Dofeik” (the third and fourth “knocks” of the beloved).

[5] As presented in Rashi (Shemot 15:2 s.v. Zeh Keili).

Sarah’s Miraculous Childbirth at Age 90 by Rabbi Chaim Jachter

Miracles of the War of Independence – Part Two by Rabbi Chaim Jachter