Prayer: It's not exactly the kind of secret weapon that the human rights activists complain about. But it seems to be effective. Some quarters assert that the military outcome in Gaza represents a triumphal Holy War...for the Israelis.
Secular soldiers may roll their eyes, but two prominent religious leaders-- former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef of the Shas party-- both have declared that the biblical matriarch Rachel was sent to help Israeli ground troops during Operation Cast Lead. Battle tales of a gentle woman warning soldiers away from booby-trapped buildings and sniper nests have been circulating now that troops have been redeployed to this side of the border fence. Some say she shouts in Arabic, others that she whispers in Hebrew. Hallucination, apparition, holy spirit, night goggle optical illusion, whatever: the tale has been bandied about for a fortnight in synagogues, on radio, on buses and in bars. Are sleep-deprived soldiers confounding this with the otherworldly ladies in the animated Waltz with Bashir? (That's another lopsided battle from decades ago.)
Yedioth Ahronoth reports how Shas's spiritual leader described Rachel's apparition during the conflict. :
"The soldiers arrived at a house and wanted to go inside. There were three armed terrorists waiting for them there.
"And then a beautiful young woman appeared before them and warned: Don't enter the house, there are terrorists there, be careful.
- "Who are you?"
- "What do you care who I am," she said, and whispered – "Rachel."
The rabbi continued to describe how the soldiers indeed found the terrorists inside and killed them. The three were carrying guns, just like the woman said.
"Mother Rachel was called to the place, 'Go save your sons.' Ah, praised be His name! God redeems and rescues, and sends angels to save the people of Israel. How we should thank God," Rabbi Yosef concluded.
The rabbi also credited Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for funding Torah studies.
"Had it not been for that – we would not be alive," he said
As founder and spiritual leader of Shas, Rabbi Yosef is held in almost saintly regard by hundreds of thousands of Jews of Middle Eastern and North African origin.
Earlier this week, former Israeli Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu had confirmed this weird mystical rumor, saying, "The story is true. I sent her." Despite frail health, the ultra-Orthodox octogenarian had prayed repeatedly at Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem.
Who needs white phosphorus?
Addendum: There have been calls to fire Rabbi Avi Ronzki, a Brigadier General in the army, for his latest devotional pamphlet which was distributed to soldiers before they went to fight in Gaza. "Go Fight My FIght" was condemnend as hate literature by "Breaking the Silence", an activist group of former Israeli combatants.
In one section, Rabbi Aviner compares Palestinians to the Philistines, a people depicted in the Bible as a war-like menace and existential threat to Israel.
In another, the army rabbinate appears to be encouraging soldiers to disregard the international laws of war aimed at protecting civilians, according to Breaking the Silence, the group of Israeli ex-soldiers who disclosed its existence. The booklet cites the renowned medieval Jewish sage Maimonides as saying that "one must not be enticed by the folly of the Gentiles who have mercy for the cruel".