Col. Ofer Winter, commanding officer of the IDF’s Givati brigade, penned a letter at the opening of Operation Protective Edge, inspiring his charges to recognize the unique historic and spiritual opportunity that they had in standing poised to lead the ground operation in Gaza. The letter, replete with references to G-d and biblical overtones that frame the Gazan enemy as the “Azati” (lit. Gazan, but used in the bible to refer to the archenemy Philistines), touched off a firestorm of debate about the role of religion and religious leadership in military, government, and public spheres in modern Israel.
With the ground campaign now underway, we present the letter in translation:
11 Tammuz 5774
July 9, 2014
Dear Commanders and Soldiers,
A great privilege has been bestowed upon us to command and serve in the Givati brigade at this time. History has chosen us to spearhead the fighting against the terrorist enemy “of Gaza” who curses, defies and speaks blasphemy against the G-d of the armies of Israel. We have prepared ourselves for this time and we accept this task upon ourselves with a sense of mission and with utter modesty, fully ready to endanger ourselves and give our lives to protect our families, our nation and our homeland.
We will work together with determination, strength, initiative and thought and we will strive to engage the enemy. We will do everything we can to succeed in our mission to destroy the enemy and remove the threat to the nation of Israel. In our battalion, “we don’t return without executing the mission”. We will act and do everything to return our boys safely, while using all of the means that we have at our disposal and with all of the strength necessary.
I rely on you, each and every one of you, to operate in this spirit, the spirit of the Israeli fighter who boldly walks in front of the camp, “the spirit which is Givati”. I raise my eyes to the heavens and read with you, “Shma Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad.” Hashem, G-d of Israel, please let us be successful in our way, our way towards fighting for Your nation, Israel, against an enemy who curses Your name. On behalf of the soldiers of the IDF and, specifically, the soldiers and commanders in the battalion, go! And through us shall the verse be fulfilled, “For Hashem your G-d walks with you to fight for you with your enemies, to protect you!” and let us say Amen.
“Together, and only together, we will succeed.”
Ofer Winter, Colonel
Commanding officer of the Givati Brigade