All you Israelites, trust in the LORD—
he is their help and shield. — Psalm 115:9
The Israel Defense Forces is one of the greatest armies in the world. From daring rescue missions to winning ground battles against all odds, the IDF has surprised the world time and time again. But what is the source of Israel’s strength? Israel herself is still finding out.
Two of Israel’s greatest battles came in quick succession of each other, but played out very differently. In 1967, Israel fought the Six-Day War. In response to a threat from the Arab world, Israel’s military reacted swiftly and strongly. The whole war was won in less than a week!
Jews and Israel’s supporters everywhere felt both awe and pride. Perhaps a little too much pride. Israel’s slogan after the Six-Day War was “All the honor to the Israel Defense Forces.” Certainly, the IDF deserved credit. But not enough credit was given to God. Scripture tells us, “God is the one who goes with you to fight for you” (Deuteronomy 20:4). All of Israel’s battles are fought and won by Him.
The Yom Kippur War, fought in 1973, was a completely different experience for Israel. The war was unexpected; the army, unprepared. Syria attacked and outnumbered Israel. One particularly memorable battle was fought in a place now known as “The Valley of Tears,” due to the loss of life during the fierce battle that took place there.
The attack happened at night, and the Syrians had over 1,000 tanks, equipped with night-vision technology. Israel had less than 200 tanks, none of which had night-vision capability. Israel was outnumbered and unequipped. But guess who won? God performed great miracles, and while Israel sustained heavy casualties, she defeated her enemies.
Battles such as this one are the reason why Israel’s motto changed after the Yom Kippur War. It became “Israel trusts in God,” based on the verse in Psalm 115: “All you Israelites, trust in the LORD – He is their help and shield.” Everyone realized that God was behind the miracle. It was no accident that the war began on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. Almost every Jew spent that day engaged in prayer and fasting. Those are the “weapons” that helped win the war.
More than 3,000 years ago, a tiny David went out to fight a massive Goliath. He said: “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD” (1 Samuel 17:45). Then — against all odds — David went on to slay that mighty giant.
So it was and so it always will be: Israel’s source of strength and protection – and ours – is God.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President