Are we aware of the three biggest threats to Israel’s security?

On Thursday evening, November 13, the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills hosted an important virtual program featuring Brigadier General Amir Aviv. Rabbi Stuart Verstandig, president of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, thanked Dr. Jeffrey Medetsky, member of the shul, for introducing him to Jeff Goldfarb, who is an Advisory Board Member and United States administrator for American-based Friends of IDSF (Israel Defense Security Forum), and he thanked the two men for their work in bringing this program to our community.

Rabbi Verstandig introduced the speaker. He noted that Brigadier General Amir Aviv is founder of the Israel Defense Security Force, IDSF. He served in the Israel Defense Forces for 30 years in counterterrorism and national defense. He founded the IDSF in 2020 with other retired officers and Israeli police officers, with the goal of promoting a realistic vision of national security needs based on objective military principles. The organization has close relations with policymakers and ambassadors in Israel. They focus on research and education. They are also involved in government briefings.

General Aviv shared that he asked his battalion, which is made up of Israelis, how many of them had been to Yerushalayim and only 50 percent had ever been there; and of the 50 percent who had actually been there, only 50 percent of those soldiers had ever visited the Kosel. He shared that there is a problem that soldiers lack a deep connection to Judaism and Israel. He realized that we need to invest in the soldier’s Jewish identity. If a soldier doesn’t have spirit and doesn’t know what he is fighting for, this affects the soldier’s motivation and performance.

General Aviv took his whole battalion to Yerushalayim, and they visited the Kosel and the tunnel tours, the City of David, the Old City, the Knesset, and the Supreme Court. Then they went to the residence of the President of Israel and had a conversation with him. “It became a different battalion when they knew what they were fighting for.”

He acknowledged that this helped him to realize the importance of education. His organization educates high school students, and he organized a program for all the high schools in Israel.

General Aviv related how, when he was working with Prime Minister Sharon, when the Prime Minister withdrew the army from Gaza, and this was a terrible mistake. This allowed Hamas to take over. He related that we don’t want decisions made that endanger the security of Israel. “Israel is strong with a strong army and a strong economy. It has strong technology.” He pointed out that Israel is even exporting gas to Europe. It’s at the center of world trade.

He then detailed the main challenges for Israel and the Jewish people. “The new government is starting in a time of big challenges, and none are new. One big difference is that now the threats have built up for a long time, and so it is necessary to deal with these threats in the near future.”

The first threat is Iran, which has been building its capabilities for decades and has aspirations for nuclear weapons. This is a big threat for Israel. He said we can only stop it with military attack. The opposition in Iran has no leadership. Hezbollah has grown and has over 2,000 drones; this is hard to deal with. In addition, they position command forces near borders in high readiness. There is Hamas in the South, and there are Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. He noted that shots came from Yemen and Iraq when Israel was in Gaza. There is a buildup of forces that might make Iranians feel ready to wage war against Israel.

He said that Israel has to ask if we want to be surprised like in the Yom Kippur War or, rather, to take preemptive steps. Today, rockets and missiles can be fired with the quick push of a button. It is a different threat because of this, than it was 30 years ago. “The threat is real, and the buildup continues.”

A second challenge is within Israel itself. Arabs in Judea and Samaria, as well as Arabs in Israel are all coordinated. They are all fighting against Israel in the same way. There is a huge campaign to take over the land of Israel. They build fast and take over land. We see this in Judea and Samaria, and we see it with the Bedouins in the Negev and in the Galil. The Arabs take over open areas and use money from the Arab world to take over Jewish towns. Recently, in the Galil, they took over a whole Jewish town. “This is coordinated. This is a war.” Arabs throw Molotov cocktails on the road in Judea and Samaria and in other areas and cities. Bedouins are extorting and stealing and throwing stones on the road. They have weapons now, and it’s like the Wild West. A year ago, Arabs attacked Jews everywhere during Operation Gaza. “We are facing a huge threat.” Israel doesn’t have a comprehensive plan to deal with this threat. He blames this on a failure of the elites of Israel. Israelis want a solution. He hopes that the new government will treat this threat seriously. He pointed out, “Internal threats are always more dangerous than external threats.”

A third threat is anti-Semitism, which is a threat in the diaspora and even in Israel. The Arabs want to eliminate the Jewish state. They don’t believe in Israel’s right to exist, and they are not talking about a two-state solution. He said that many Jews are losing a connection to Judaism and to Israel. For thousands of years, Jews felt special; now they think they’re oppressors or occupiers. This is terrible and untrue. He said that the approach to anti-Semitism is wrong. We need to concentrate on the inner problem and deal with building Jewish pride and connection to our nation. “We should be very proud. We are special!”

General Aviv’s organization offers programs to bring inspiration and leadership to the Jewish world.

He concluded on a positive note. “I understand what we are facing. We can succeed and have a bright future. We need to build the right plans.”

The speech ended with a lively Q&A session.

The community is grateful to the people who brought this program and to the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills for hosting it. Hashem should watch over Eretz Yisrael and Jews everywhere.

By Susie Garber