Feature: Safe or Free


In Israel, with the Arab Middle East exploding around us, with gov’ts from Egypt to Syria gleefully slaughtering their own citizens, with poison gas & G-d knows whatever horrific chemical weapons, the harbinger of a new war is ever present.

By Irwin Blank


Years ago someone defined the Cold War between the USA and the USSR as MAD-Mutually Assured Destruction. That both sides, having more than enough nuclear weapons to destroy each other several times over, an open armed conflict involving both nations, would end up with no victors, only losers. That to engage in a direct clash of arms between these two super powers could only end in the total eradication of not only both nations, but exterminate life on Earth as we know it.

DefCon 3

Therefore, being the political enemies that these two nations were, they fought proxy wars against each other that oftentimes, led to the very brink of nuclear destruction.

Whether it was the Berlin Crisis of 1948, the Suez War of 1956, or the American involvement in Vietnam in the 1960s mid mid 1970s, the first ultimate use of the “Red Phone” between the US and the Soviet Union was in the waning days of the Six Day War when Israeli forces were on the road to Damascus and the nuclear alert of October, 1973.

The USSR threatened to send seven airborne divisions to fight against Israel as the IDF crossed the Purple Line, advancing within artillery range of the Syrian capital. The American Sec’y of State, Henry Kissinger, through President Nixon, brought the US forces to DefCon 3 (Defense Condition Three) -the highest state of nuclear alert ever ordered by an American president-all these led to a possible and unthinkable atomic war which would have extinguished human civilization.

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The theory was that both of these nations lived in “day to day danger, but general security,” meaning that a mistake in judgement at any moment, a flareup of proxy allies, could erupt into an imminent, destructive response by weapons of mass destruction. “General security” meant that no one walked in the streets of their respective cities expecting nuclear bursts over their heads day to day.

In Israel, especially now with the Arab Middle East exploding around us, governments from Egypt to Syria are gleefully slaughtering their own citizens. At times, with poison gas and G-d knows whatever horrific chemical weapons, an imperialistic, hegemony hungry new “Persian Empire” is looming on the horizon, in a death race to produce the very same weapons whose terrible uses were kept in check by the super powers during their Cold War.

Israeli soldiers evacuate a mock victim during a drill simulating a chemical attack May, 2013.

Israeli soldiers evacuate a mock victim during a drill simulating a chemical attack May, 2013. – Photo: REUTERS

The possibility of American airstrikes on Syrian targets could embroil Israel in a massive war on its northern front with Iran’s proxy Hezbollah and on her southern border with another savage terrorist organization, champing at the bit to launch its thousands of rockets against Israeli cities, the harbinger of a new war is ever present.

The theater of operations, as it were, has moved from the traditional European battlefields which spawned two world wars, to the cradle of the civilization that gave birth to the very principles upon which that Europe is based.

Today, the most dangerous places on Earth are no longer New York City, Washington, Moscow and Kiev, but Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Damascus and Teheran. Up to this moment in time, nuclear weaponry has not made itself known in this region, but more lethal weapons, whose aim is to destroy lives as its primary goal, weapons of an insidious and vicious nature, the air is rife for a conflagration of Biblical proportions.

The people of Israel have, in their country’s short history, known four major wars and several periods of national combat as well as a century of Arab terrorism. Even though Israel has militarily achieved victory, it has never, in realpolitik, won permanent peace. Yes, there are peace treaties signed with both Egypt and Jordan, however, the ephemeral nature of Arab leadership of being literally, murdered and dragged through the street at the end of a rope tied to the back bumper of whatever vehicle was convenient, is nowhere as solid as the peace made by the Allies and the Axis powers at the end of World War Two.

The State of Israel has never known a 24 hour period in her history that has been without the harbinger Arab terror and the threat of full scale war- as though the sword of an Arab Damocles is forever hanging by a thin rope over our heads.

Iron Dome, Hetz, Patriot (Photo: Reuters, Defense Ministry)

On alert for Israel’s defense, the Iron Dome, Hetz (Arrow), Patriot – Photo: Reuters, Defense Ministry

The only course open to us has been, and continues to be, unerring vigilance and  totall-preparedness for belligerent activities by the enemies that surround us. Not merely in the geographic sense of aligned border territories, but surrounded by a sea of enemies whether they be within range of aircraft or ballistic missiles.

I am not a military tactician, nor have I had the honor and privilege of wearing the uniform of the Israel Defense Forces, so my theories about warfare are just that, based on a lifetime of study and research, as someone would say, “an armchair general,” although personally, I would have preferred a naval career, so maybe “armchair admiral,” would be more apropos.

As an Israeli by choice, I believe that I can comment on a question that is always brought up to me by friends and family, especially, my 85 year old mother, who always calls me, at whatever hour, regardless of the time difference, whenever she watches the news and hears of another threat to our tiny Jewish country. Like the dentist played by the late  English actor, Sir Laurence Olivier, in the film, “Marathon Man,” when he questions his hostage patient, played by Dustin Hoffman before he drills a hole into a healthy tooth, “Is it safe?”

How many of us, with family abroad, hear that question or something of that nature, whenever the unleashing of the dogs of war are barking at the gates? “Are you alright? Is it safe.?”

Lately, with even the viciously anti-Israel network, CNN (Certainly Not the News) covering the lines of our fellow countrymen lining up for gas masks, the telephone and email exchanges between myself and dearly beloved family and friends back in the USA, have been chewing up the fiber optic cables and satellite networks between us-it is a difficult question to answer myself with the stock answers that we all convey. So, please read the following illustration that I am quoting from Herman Wouk’s book, “The Will to Live On, ” a conversation between the author and the late David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, that took place in the mid 1950s-Mr Wouk and his family had just finished a visit with Ben Gurion at his home on the Kibbutz of Sde Boker in the Negev Desert—

        –  “When we were leaving he came out with his straight Zionist line, no more hints. “You must return here to live, ” he said. “This is the only place for Jews like you. Here you will be free.”
        –  “Free? I ventured to reply,’Free?’ With enemy armies ringing you, with their leaders publicly threatening to wipe out  ‘the Zionist entity.’ with your roads impassable after sundown—free?”
        –  “I did not say safe,” the old man retorted, “I said free!”

We prefer to be free, freedom is not purchased by safety, nor guaranteed by security of arms, it is verified by our will to survive as a nation, as a people, as Jews, in our ancient homeland. Shabbat Shalom from Ma’aleh Adumim in liberated Israeli Yehudah, guarding the eastern approaches to Jerusalem, the eternal, united and indivisible capital of the Jewish people.



About the Author:

Irwin Blank

Irwin Blank – Facebook photo

Irwin Blank made aliyah in 2008 with his wife, Iris and lives in the community of Ma’aleh Adumim in the Judean Desert. Abroad, was active in the Zionist Organization of America and B’nai Zion. Lectured on Middle East affairs in temples and Evangelical churches in the USA and a former speaker and debater for the University Services Dept of the American Zionist Youth Foundation. Holds a BA in political science from Herbert H. Lehman College of the City University of New York.