Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Paratrooper critically wounded in Gaza recovers
2nd Lt. Aharon Karov was called up for service in Gaza the morning after his wedding and critically wounded in combat. Today he said saluted the doctors who three weeks ago gave him scant hours to live – and left the hospital
Meital Yasur Beit-Or
Published: 02.03.09, 22:52 / Israel News
Three weeks after they gave him mere hours to live, the paratrooper officer critically wounded in Operation Cast Lead saluted his doctors farewell – and left the hospital.
Platoon commander 2nd Lt. Aharon Karov, 22, was ordered to cut his leave short and report for duty in Gaza the morning after his wedding to Tzvia, 19. She was by his side on Tuesday as he said goodbye to the doctors who saved his life at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva. The young officer will continue his rehabilitation at the Shiba Medical Center in Tel HaShomer.
"Physically he can do just about everything, but he is still very weak and hasn't regained his strength yet," his father, Rabbi Ze'ev Karov said. "He can walk and move all his limbs, although movement is limited in his left arm, which has 300 pieces of shrapnel imbedded in it."
"This morning he put on his tefillin (phylacteries) by himself, I wanted to let him but he wouldn't let me. He has to communicate for now with his hands and his eyes, because his oral cavity was injured.
"He has amazing, tremendous will power," Rabbi Karov added. "Several times he asked me, through sign language, if his legs were okay. He tried to get up but couldn't, and I explained to him that his muscles were lax. But he is so motivated, and he's aware of his condition.
Aharon's doctors also agree his rapid recovery is nothing short of miraculous. Trauma Unit chief at Beilinson, Professor Pierre Zinger: "When he was brought in everyone was pessimistic and thought his hours were numbered. The injuries were very bad, but in the end there was no injury to the brain."
Another doctor who came to say goodbye was Dr. Steve Jackson, the neurosurgeon who operated on Karov immediately after his injury. "Things were extremely bad, I told the family he serious head trauma. They all cried, his wife too, and I told her: 'God willing, I'll yet circumcise your son,' and then she smiled."
Jackson, a major in the Golani Brigade, saluted Karov as they said goodbye.
Karov's family agreed to allow cameras to capture his emotional departure from the hospital "to strengthen the Israeli people," his father said. "We want to show them that there is no despairing. That everything can happen, on the personal level and the national one."
Another soldier who was seriously wounded in the operation, Golani infantry soldier Cpl. Ben Shpitzer, was also transferred to the rehabilitation institute on Tuesday. He and Karov were ward neighbors while at Beilinson, and plan to share a room during their recovery process.
By Joshua Eastman
Eleven days ago today, Israel terminated an operation after having reached a state of cease-fire with a cowardly and murderous foe. We pulled out of Gaza. I pulled out of Gaza.
We were first called up on a Shabbat, right at the end of ten months of regular training and an extra two months of specialized training with the whole brigade in the Golan Heights. We were told that Israel was preparing for a possible conflict with Gaza. We were allowed to stay in phone contact at the beginning, and we listened for news from our families, always better informed than the army. We heard the bombs falling near the Strip, and readied our gear. And we waited. And waited. Every day another rumor came in.
“We’re going today”
“We’re going today”
We waited a week.
We were sent the following Shabbat.
The first time we came back out, after twenty four hours, our unit was under the impression that all the other units would be coming out as well. A little R & R, and then back in. But only our soldiers arrived at the base. The others were in till the very end.
The next two weeks we were deployed over and over again into neighborhoods whose names are ingrained as if from childhood memory, and we were told to ready ourselves for the final operational steps the army was preparing.
Thank God, for us, those steps never came. After fighting through less densely packed urban neighborhoods and villages, as an army, we never had to enter the tightly packed urban nightmares of the inner cities.
“The world is already trying to fault Israel, telling everyone that civilians died, and Israelis murdered. But I was there. I saw the twelve year olds with missiles and RPGs strapped to their backs. We watched in anger as our bombs, so as not to fall on large civilian centers, fell on our own troops.”
A cease-fire was signed, and we pulled out with hatches open on our vehicles, waving flags and flashing the peace symbol even though no one was there to photograph it. After all, we were one of hundreds of squads returning. There was no way to record every tank and APC that came home. But it was cathartic, and made it official.
I saw many things. I heard things. While I was in Gaza.
I saw soldiers who were virulently anti-religious don tzitit under their bullet-proof armor. As one soldier said, “Why do I put it on now, if I never wore it before? When do you ask your father for help? When you need it.”
I saw heroes. Boys just out of high-school, young men who should have been playing sports or starting families or going to college, loading weapons and placing armor on their fragile frames, securing helmets, and checking gear.
They suppressed the fear that lurked at the edges of their minds, and as a unit swept across the fence and planted unwavering lines of boots in the soil of Gaza. I watched them fight like grown men against evil.
The first night we went in, we were unable to wear bullet-proof armor in my unit, and had to settle for flak vests (we couldn’t wear armor when we first went in because, due to the weight we were carrying, it would have hampered our movements, creating a safety hazard). My young commander, who had an easy load to carry that wouldn’t interfere with his vest, still left without bulletproof armor. “If my men don’t, I don’t”. I told him the next day, I would have followed him through the entire Arab world if need be, my respect for him was so great. I saw my brave wife, Chana, who came down to volunteer, just to be close to me, braving rockets and missiles, and watched her help soldiers by handing out desperately needed winter gear and food. I watched Chabadniks who came to us every day and inspired the soldiers with song and mitzvot. I saw heroes praying for our safety, and feeding us, and caring for us.
I saw pain. Just today, I ran into yet another friend from another unit, who tells me, when asked how he is, “I am fine from the neck down.” Sixteen of his friends were injured in a blast on the first night. He lost many more before the end. He is still sweet, still charming, but his laugh is more weary, and his eyes are sadder. Another friend in a different unit lost two-thirds of his whole platoon when a bomb destroyed their house. He says he walked in, and he saw limbs moving or laying still, and bodies unattached to them, hurting, dead. He still hasn’t pulled back completely. A former commander of mine died, and a friend lost his arm and use of his legs, and is still in a coma.
I saw lies. The world is already trying to fault Israel, telling everyone that civilians died, and Israelis murdered. But I was there. My feet were on the ground and I saw the truth. I saw that warnings were given, I saw the enemy that fought us. I saw the twelve year olds with missiles and RPGs strapped to their backs. I saw that it was with sadness and great anger Israeli troops recognized the need to fire on people who crossed the red line, the danger zone which meant they saw us, and knew where we were. Old people mined with bombs, children armed with detonators, tunnels that opened in the ground to swallow our soldiers. I watched my commanders passing out all of our food to the children who were taken prisoner. I received the commands “closed to fire on the right” if our intelligence had reported civilians in the area. I watched us, more often then not, taking cover when supposed civilian positions fired on us from “the right”. Yet the world thinks it can bend the truth. We were not allowed to fire on schools. We were told not to loot. We watched in anger as our bombs, so as not to fall on large civilian centers, fell on our own troops, so that we could tell the world we were attempting to scare the enemy while limiting civilian losses.
Yet they won’t say that in the press.
You are the reason we returned. You are the reason I am alive.
I saw cowardice. We listened with concern when Hamas threatened to use snipers and bombs on us, to fight us every step of the way with their fifteen thousand man army, and we watched videos of full brigades parading, waving their weapons and threatening Israel. But as we invaded, they fled.
They would attack in small groups, hit us with missiles and sniper fire, and then flee. The ‘warriors’ of Hamas were brave when their rockets fell unanswered on the schools of children and the homes of elderly, but they did not stand when the enemy called them up to answer for their crimes.
I saw miracles. Rockets that blazed past our houses, bullets that scarred the outside of windows we were watching from. A unit near ours that was walking in to Gaza had RPGs pass straight between their ranks without hitting a single soldier. Mines that didn’t explode, mortar rounds that landed next to friends that didn’t explode. RPGs that blazed into the earthen barrier directly in front of our APC, detonating before penetration.
The night walk through a neighborhood that wasn’t on the map, that was full of snipers and mines according to reports, that we walked through unawares, by accident, without harm or incident. And that was just what we knew.
I felt fear. Every time I entered, every time I squeezed the trigger, every time a missile landed nearby, I was struck with fear. It is a deep fear, hard to explain. Your body shivers as if you are frozen to the core. You find yourself staring at the ground, trying to adjust to the ringing in your ears. You freeze, and unless someone slaps you, or you manage to shake yourself, your eyes stay downcast, and you lay numb on the earth, waiting without realizing. Eventually, your training pulls you out and forces you to stay alert, your gun snaps up, and adrenaline masks the fear and hurt. You roll on seemingly fearless, with adrenaline telling you that you are invincible.
I have felt weakness. I have felt my supposedly mighty muscles shudder, felt my devastatingly powerful weapon shake in my hands, felt my heart hammer against my armor, felt my soul and mind search for some way to avoid pain and the nightmares that were becoming real.
I felt strength. I would have been lost, but for the words of my Rebbe. “Ein od Milvado” There is no one but Him. The mere utterance strengthened limbs, and a surge of faith and hope carried me through the invasion, through the detonations and whistling of ricocheting rounds and falling bombs. For I knew, for once KNEW and understood absolutely that I was in the hands of the greatest general on earth. A veteran of every war and every conflict, the ultimate warrior and defender of His people. I remember the joy that swept through the lines when they said the head commander was entering the field, because of his experience and strategies, everyone felt safer. It reminded me that an even greater Commander had been there all along. I understood the words of Tehilim 147, “Not in the strength of the horse does He desire, and not in the legs of man does He favor. God favors those who fear Him, those who hope for His kindness.” My strength had failed me, yet when I begged God to allow me to be a conduit for His strength, to be His shield and a sword for His people, I was able to stand and fight. Those nights, my body was there, but God fought on that field.
I am not free of sin, and was by no means worthy of the miracles that befell me. That God aided me; that my entire battalion walked out, against all odds, while every other unit suffered losses, without serious casualty or mental scarring, was a miracle beyond any. That I was able to feel His strength replace mine, a gift for which I was undeserving.
My strength lay in the thousands of people who prayed for me, who prayed for the wellbeing of the army, who cried for the return of the fragile and precious Jewish youth who fought like lions where men twice their age would have fled. You are the reason we returned. You are the reason I am alive.
You, the people who pray and cry and feel you are not the front lines, are truly the army of Hashem. The IDF, as people should see, is merely the physical arm of what your prayers accomplish. You are the ones in the battle. We are the holding action, delaying the physical evil while you battle to clear the path for Moshiach. Never again will I feel a yeshiva student who learns all day is not brave for not being with us on this field.
Because I watched the words and letters that he learned and prayed march ahead of us, thousands deep, and millions strong, absorbing the bullets and metal meant for me. I thank you, humbly, warriors of my heart and faith. You let me come home to my wife.
During this war, we received a tremendous outpouring of love and support; letters, donations, food, and clothing. In specific, because I know them, although without diminishing the greatness of all the people I don’t know, I want to thank my mother and her tireless blogging efforts, my family for their support and letters, my wife for being brave beyond any woman or man I have ever known.
I want to thank Congregation Tiferes Yisroel for remembering an old neighborhood kid, and multiplying that to help all my brothers in uniform. I want to thank all of the community in Baltimore for the davening and love that we felt even in the heart of darkness.
I want to thank the little six-year old who wrote, “Dear IDF, I am proud of you.” I cried over that letter, my tears running through the pain and stress as we recovered from Gaza.
I want to thank the people who donated money for the vests that saved our lives, the people that gave us clothes to warm our bodies, candy to warm our hearts, and letters to warm our souls. You cannot know what one pair of socks, one chocolate bar, or one hastily written sentence can do to save the minds and hearts of your children from despair.
I am not as gifted with words as my mother, nor a hero as great as those who marched beside me or filled the air with prayer around me, but I hope from this letter, from my fumbling thoughts you can draw for yourself the love and hope I am trying to convey.
I have seen this people, my people, at its best and at its worst. I can see why Redemption will come soon. As a nation, we drew together. Disunity, differences in Kippot or sects fell away, and everyone reached out to help as best they could. No one said, “I have no part” or “This isn’t my war”.
May Hashem see the greatness of His holy, beautiful people, and allow me to sing that old song to my child, with absolute truth and great joy: “I promise, my little one, that this is the last war.”
Joshua Eastman made aliyah from Baltimore in 2005. He met his wife, Chana, on a trip back to Baltimore; and the two of them live in Givat Ze’ev. Joshua is currently a full-time soldier in the Golani Brigade of the Israel Defense Forces. When he can get near a computer, he blogs about his life in Israel at “Through Josh-Colored Glasses,”
Operation Cast Lead caused many people to reassess the viability of the sacrosanct "two-state solution." A growing number of observers have pointed out that Hamas's Iranian-sponsored jihadist regime in Gaza is proof that Israel has no way to ensure that land it transfers to the PLO-Fatah will remain under PLO-Fatah control.
This reassessment has also provoked a discussion of the PLO-Fatah's own failures since it formed the Palestinian Authority in 1994. Despite the billions of dollars it received from Israel and the West, its Western trained armed forces numbering more than 75,000 and the bottomless reserve of international political support it enjoys, the PLO-Fatah regime did not build a state, but a kleptocratic thugocracy where the rule of law was replaced by the rule of the jackboot. Instead of teaching its people to embrace peace, freedom and democracy, the PLO-Fatah-led PA indoctrinated them to wage jihad against Israel in a never-ending war.
These reassessments have led three leading conservative thinkers - former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton, Middle East Forum president Daniel Pipes, and Efraim Inbar, director of Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat (BESA)
Center for Strategic Studies - to all publish articles over the past month rejecting the two-state solution.
Bolton, Pipes and Inbar not only agree that the two-state paradigm has failed, they also agree on what must be done now to "solve" the Palestinian conflict. In their view the failed "two-state solution" should be replaced with what Bolton refers to as the "three-state solution." All three analysts begin their analyses with the assertion that Israel is uninterested in controlling Gaza, Judea and Samaria. Since the Palestinians have shown they cannot be trusted with sovereignty, the three argue that the best thing to do is to return the situation to what it was from 1949 to 1967: Egypt should reassert its control over Gaza and Jordan should reassert its control over Judea and Samaria.
Bolton, Pipes and Inbar acknowledge that Egypt and Jordan have both rejected the idea but argue that they should be pressured to reconsider. They explain that Egypt fears that Hamas - a sister organization of its own Muslim Brotherhood - will destabilize it. Jordan for its part has two reasons for refusing their plan. The Hashemite kingdom is a minority regime. A large majority of Jordanians are ethnic Palestinians. Adding another 1.2 million from Judea and Samaria could destabilize the kingdom. Then too, both the PLO and Hamas are themselves threats to the regime. The Hashemites still remember how with Syrian support, the PLO in 1970 attempted to overthrow them.
As for Hamas, its popularity has grown in Jordan in tandem with its empowerment in Gaza, Judea and Samaria. By integrating the west and east banks of the Jordan River, the chance that Hamas would challenge the regime increases dramatically. If we add to the mix Syrian subversion and sponsorship of Hamas, and al-Qaida penetration of Jordan through Iraq - particularly in the event of a US withdrawal - the danger that merging the west and east bank populations would manifest to the Hashemite regime becomes apparent.
IT IS OFTEN NOTED that Hamas's popularity among Palestinians owes in part to the corruption of the PLO-Fatah-controlled PA. It has also been noted that due to the PLO-Fatah-controlled PA's jihadist indoctrination of Palestinian
society, the population's transfer of political loyalty from PLO-Fatah to Hamas was ideologically seamless.
What has been little noted is the strategic significance of the nature of Hamas's relations with the PLO-Fatah from the establishment of the PA in 1994 until Hamas ousted it from Gaza in 2007. When the PA was established in
1994, then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin argued that the PLO-Fatah shared Israel's interest in fighting Hamas because Hamas constituted a threat to its authority.
What Rabin failed to recognize was that Hamas's threat to PLO-Fatah was and remains qualitatively different from the threat it poses to Israel. PLO-Fatah never had a problem with Hamas attacks against Israel, or with its annihilationist ideology as regards Israel. This ideology is shared by PLO-Fatah and is widely popular among the Palestinians. Consequently not only did the PLO-Fatah never prevent Hamas from attacking Israel, it collaborated with Hamas in attacking Israel and did so while disseminating Hamas's genocidal ideology throughout the PA. PLO-Fatah did crack down on Hamas when it felt that Hamas was threatening its grip on power, but in all other respects, it supported Hamas - and continues to do so.
THE SAME UNFORTUNATELY is the situation in both Egypt and Jordan. Hamas's Nazi-like Jew hatred is shared by the vast majority of Jordanians and Egyptians. Islamist calls for the extermination of the Jewish people and the
destruction of Israel dominate the mosques, seminaries, universities and media outlets in both countries. Popular opposition to the peace treaties that Egypt and Jordan signed with Israel stands consistently at more than 90
percent in both countries.
In spite of repeated Israeli demands for action, PLO-Fatah never ended its support for jihadist anti-Semitism. The PLO-Fatah never believed - as Israel hoped it would - that its best chance for remaining in power was by teaching
Palestinians to reject hatred, embrace freedom, democracy and the blessings that peace would afford them. So too, neither the Hashemites in Jordan nor President Hosni Mubarak's regime in Egypt have ever believed that the best
way to stabilize or strengthen their own regimes is by preaching openness and peace and rejecting jihadist anti-Semitism. To the contrary, in recent years, Egypt has become the center for jihadist anti-Semitism in the Arab
world and Jordan has one of the highest rates of Jew hatred in the world.
The situation on the ground in Jordan, Egypt, Gaza and Judea and Samaria make two things clear. First, a Jordanian reassertion of control over Judea and Samaria and an Egyptian reassertion of control over Gaza would likely increase the chances that the moderate regimes in both countries would be weakened and perhaps overthrown. Second, like Fatah-PLO, neither Egypt nor Jordan would have any interest in protecting Israel from Palestinian terrorists.
Bolton, Inbar and Pipes take for granted that Israel is uninterested in asserting or retaining control over Gaza, Judea, and Samaria. This is reasonable given the positions of recent governments on the issue. However, the question is not whether Israel is interested or uninterested in asserting control over the areas - and most Israelis are uninterested in
giving up control over Judea and Samaria in light of what happened after Israel withdrew its forces and civilians from Gaza.
THE SALIENT QUESTION is now that it is clear that the two-state solution has failed, what is the best option for managing the conflict? Not only would Israel be unable to trust that its security situation would improve if the areas were to revert to Jordanian and Egyptian control, Israel could trust that its security situation would rapidly deteriorate as the prospect of regional war increased. With a retrocession of Gaza, Judea and Samaria to Egyptian and Jordanian rule, Israel would find itself situated within indefensible borders, and facing the likely prospect that the Egyptian and
Jordanian regimes would be destabilized.
Today Israel has the ability to enter Gaza without concern that doing so would provoke war with Egypt. It has minimized the terror threat from Judea and Samaria by controlling the areas with the massive help of the strong
Israeli civilian presence in the areas which ensures control over the roads and the heights. IDF forces can operate freely within the areas without risking war with Jordan. The IDF controls the long border with Jordan and can prevent terrorist infiltration from the east.
If the current situation is preferable to the "three-state solution" and if the current situation itself is unsustainable, the question again arises, what should be done? What new policy paradigm should replace the failed two-state solution?
The best way to move forward is to reject the calls for a solution and concentrate instead on stabilization. With rockets and mortars launched from Gaza continuing to pummel the South despite Operation Cast Lead, and with
the international community's refusal to enforce UN Security Council resolutions barring Iran from exporting weapons, it is clear that Gaza will remain an Iranian-sponsored, Hamas-controlled area for as long as Hamas retains control over the international border with Egypt.
So Israel must reassert control over the border.
It is also clear that Hamas and its terrorist partners in Fatah and Islamic Jihad will continue to target the South for as long as they can.
So Israel needs to establish a security zone inside of Gaza wide enough to remove the South from rocket and mortar range.
From an economic perspective, it is clear that in the long run, Gaza's only prospect for development is an economic union of sorts with the largely depopulated northern Sinai. For years, Egypt has rejected calls for economic integration with Gaza. Cairo should be pressured to reassess its position as Israel stabilizes the security situation in Gaza itself.
AS FOR JUDEA and Samaria, Israel should continue its military control over the areas in order to ensure its national security. It should also apply its law to the areas of Judea and Samaria that are within the domestic consensus. These areas include the Etzion, Adumim, Adam, Ofra and Ariel settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley.
Israel should end its support for the PLO-Fatah-led PA, and support the empowerment of non-jihadist elements of Palestinian society to lead a new autonomous authority in the areas. These new leaders, who may be the traditional leaders of local clans, should be encouraged to either integrate within Israel or seek civil confederation with Jordan. Jordan could take a larger role in the civil affairs of the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, by for instance reinstating their Jordanian citizenship which it illegally revoked in 1988. At the same time, Israel should end its freeze on building
for Israeli communities in the areas.
It is obvious today that for the Palestinians to develop into a society that may be capable of statehood in the long term, they require a period of a generation or two to rebuild their society in a peaceful way. They will not do this in environments where terrorists are ideologically aligned with unpopular, repressive regimes.
The option of continued and enhanced Israeli control is unattractive to many. But it is the only option that will provide an environment conducive to such a long-term reorganization of Palestinian society that will also safeguard Israel's own security and national well-being.
While it is vital to recognize that the failed two-state solution must be abandoned, it is equally important that it not be replaced with another failed proposition. The best way to move forward is by adopting a stabilization policy that enables Israel to secure itself while providing an opportunity for Palestinians to integrate gradually and peacefully with
their Israeli, Egyptian and Jordanian neighbors.