Gaza 1956


Earlier this year I shared a 2004 Jerusalem Post interview with Arnon Soffer, the architect of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip. It was a painfully sobering read, not least for his chilling predictions of Israel’s post-disengagement reality:

(When) 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day…

If we don’t kill, we will cease to exist. The only thing that concerns me is how to ensure that the boys and men who are going to have to do the killing will be able to return home to their families and be normal human beings.

I thought of this article today as I read another piece about Gaza: a famous 1956 eulogy given by Moshe Dayan for a young kibbutznik named Ro’i Rotenberg, who was killed by Gazan Arabs who had crossed over the border into Israel.

At the start of his eulogy, Dayan offered these astonishingly candid remarks:

Do not today besmirch the murderers with accusations. Who are we that we should bewail their mighty hatred of us?  For eight years they sit in refugee camps in Gaza, and opposite their gaze we appropriate for ourselves as our own portion the land and the villages in which they and their fathers dwelled.

Not from the Arabs in Gaza, but from ourselves shall we require the blood of Ro’i. How did we close our eyes so as not to see the goal of our generation in its full measure of cruelty?  Did we forget that this group of young men and women, which dwells in Nahal Oz, bear on their shoulders the heavy gates of Gaza, gates on the other side of which are crowded together with hundreds of thousands of eyes and hands that pray for our weakness, that it may come, so that they may rip us to shreds – have we forgotten this?

This we know: that in order that the hope to destroy us should die we have to be armed and ready, morning and night. We are a generation of settlement, and without a steel helmet and the barrel of a cannon we cannot plant a tree and build a house. Our children will not live if we do not build shelters, and without a barbed wire fence and a machine gun we cannot pave a road and channel water. The millions of Jews that were destroyed because they did not have a land look at us from the ashes of Israelite history and command us to take possession of and establish a land for our nation.

(Translation, Michael Shalom Kochin, 2009)

11 thoughts on “Gaza 1956

  1. Y. Ben-David

    So what’s the solution for Gaza? No conceivable agreed solution is going to relieve their situation there. The only hope for them is the “Right of Return”. Of course, there are those who say that part of the Sinai should be turned over to them to give them room for expansion, but Egypt would never agree to it, no matter how much they may claim to “love their Arab/Muslim brothers in Gaza”. And the Palestinians in Judea/Samaria also view them as aliens and were quite pleased when the “free passage route” between Gaza and the so-called West Bank was never implemented.
    So how are you going to solve their problem?

  2. Trayf

    Good question, Y. Ben David. I think its clear that whatever the inherent problems of population density, if the folks there are able to exercise their freedom to earn a living, free movement, etc. that would go a long way. And yes, some sort of just resolution of their refugee status as well. Anything would be better than status quo at this point, (well maybe not another Israeli invasion.)

  3. debbie schlossberg

    wow-stunning that he should have such a lucid, indeed eloquent (first paragraph) understanding of the conditions and such a twisted conclusion

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author


      So let me be a devil’s advocate:

      What do you find twisted about his conclusion? The essence of his statement seems to be “if we intend to maintain this Jewish nation we have just created, we will have to be prepared to defend it militarily from our enemies.”

      1. Mick Verran

        Forgive the intrusion, but I can see that really you understand the tragedy completely, so I assume you are just eliciting opinions?

        If I might muscle in to respond to your question to debbie, with no expectation of publication; in the first paragraph, Dayan acknowledges that what he called the nation created its enemies through its own acts of violence.

        In the second paragraph he turns his back on the victims of that violence, and casts them as the villains.

        In the third, he makes the leap and twist of self-justification that leaves us with no hope of peace. I know little of Dayan, so I cannot tell if he understood.

        Your blog is informative. For my education; in your opinion, is Israel “the nation” or a state? Are all Jews Israelis?

      2. Ken

        But Rabbi,

        This was not the conclusion of his eulogy. Read it below. It is a warning that should be considered deeply by those who push Israel to make “peace” moves when it is Israel’s Ro’i’s who will be slain and not their own:

        “But on the other side of the boundary ditch a sea of hatred and longing for revenge rises to flood tide, looks for the day when tranquility shall confuse our steps, the day when we listen to the ambassadorial messengers of villainous hypocrisy that tell us to put down our weapons. To us the blood of Ro’i screams from his torn body. Even though we have sworn a thousand times that our blood will not be spilled in vain–yesterday we were again seduced; we listened and we believed.
        Our reckoning with ourselves we shall make today. Do not shrink back from seeing the enmity that follows along with and fills the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs who dwell around us watching for the moment when their hand can seek our blood. Let us not turn our gaze lest our hand weaken. This is the decree upon our generation. This is the alternative we live–to be ready and armed, strong and firm, or to let the sword fall from our clenched hand, cutting short our lives.
        Ro’i Rotenberg, the blond, snub-nosed youth, who left the city of Tel-Aviv to build his house in the gates of Gaza to be a wall for us. Ro’i, the light in his heart blinded his eyes–he did not see the glint of the knife. The siren song of peace deafened his ears, and he did not hear the sound of murder waiting in ambush. The gates of Gaza were too heavy for his shoulders, and they buried him.”

  4. Shai Gluskin

    Ken, thanks for including the rest of the piece. Brant, thanks for sharing this. Indeed, chilling.

    I think Dayan’s message indeed got through. Peace is an illusion. The consequences of our independence led to the suffering of the Palestinians who will forever seek revenge for that. It’s a zero sum game and the survival of the Jewish State is one that depends on the hyper-vigilance of Israelis which also means never being seduced by the suggestion of peace.

    I think that Israel policy has continually worked on that assumption: maybe Rabin and Oslo constituted a small respite. But in the inability of the Israel and the Palestinians to carry through on their commitments, the core assumptions of the zero-sum game kept on going.

    Where Dayan is completely out-of-date (not his fault :->) is in the underlying assumption that Israel’s fate is in its own hands. Self-determination seethes through his words. In the tiny and dangerous world we live in, self-determination on the global geo-political level, as well as on the environmental realm (e.g. global-warming) are quaint, outmoded ideas. And in a way, this reality opens a crack in the shield of hopelessness in which a little light might get through. Israel, in the end, may not have a choice about whether the Palestinians will get self-determination, also. This is why people, like myself, who still hold out hope for peace and a two-state solution are so keen on the U.S. putting pressure on Israel.

    The good part about Soffer that you don’t get from Netanyahu is that he is honest that he approaches the situation from Dayan’s perspective; he proclaims a zero-sum game but honestly acknowledges the Palestinian persepctive and doesn’t blame them for their complaint. Netanyahu, Barak, Livni, all-of-them, speak a double-speak which claims to desire peace and puts all the blame on the Palestinians for the impasse and the continuing violence.

  5. Shai Gluskin

    I urge folks to go to the Amazon site and buy Kochin’s book. In the meantime, you can read the relevant passage on Amazon, including Kochin’s interesting analysis. Click on “See inside this book.” There you use the search box for the book and put in “Dayan.” That will bring you to page 160. There is relevant material through p. 164. The forward arrow just gives you the ability to see one more page. The trick then is to click on “Next Result” above the grayed out forward arrow. That lets you see another two pages. You’ll have to do that again to get to the end of the passage.

    Yeah, Amazon, thanks.

  6. Mick Verran

    The thread reminds me of an incident in Britain in the mid 80’s. The IRA narrowly missed killing Thatcher and her cabinet in a bomb attack on a hotel. After the attack, the IRA sent Thatcher a message saying “This time you were lucky. You have to be lucky every time. We only have to be lucky once”.

    The people of Northern Ireland eventually grew tired of the violence and social corruption that grew from the conflict, demographic trends offered another route to reunification, & so Irish Republicans have chosen to pursue their goals by other means. I see no sign of fatigue setting in amongst the Palestinians, no effective concern about the price Israel is paying to maintain the status quo, and no drive for a genuine peace that would be acceptable to any Palestinians. I guess successive Israeli governments will just continue to hope to be lucky every time.

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