Nothing Prepares You (Gabi Ashkenazi’s Words)

After that little fiasco with the phone call from the hospital last week, I’m more sensitive. I started to type the title and thought you all might think I was delivering bad news, but I thought those words were so interesting.

“Nothing prepares you for this great responsibility,” Gabi Ashkenazi, Israel’s just-retired Chief of Staff told Israel’s incoming Chief of Staff Benny Gantz. Interesting words and so incredibly true of much that we experience here in Israel.

I am sorry to see Gabi Ashkenazi leave his position. It is like taking a first step alone. It’s a scary world  without him. Israel fought the Second Lebanon War and made many mistakes. It was a travesty, a tremendous lack of planning, failed intelligence, and more. We may or may not have lost the war, but no one can claim we won it.

Gabi Ashkenazi came in and understood the mistakes. And he made them right. Israel faced another war in December, 2008. More than 120 rockets were fired in November of that year. Life had become a game of Russian roulette, where you never knew when or where the rocket would strike. Fifteen seconds was all the time you had to run to safety.

Gabi Ashkenazi accepted the challenge and lead Israel’s army competently and steadily to an unquestionable victory. Nothing prepares you for this responsibility and yet Gabi Ashkenazi met the challenge and led our sons into, through, and out of war.

I’m finding it hard to let him go, that’s the truth. The other truth is that I know only one thing about the incoming Chief of Staff and it bothers me. I know that I don’t know all the details; I know that there is more to the story. I know that what I wanted him to do is likely physically impossible.

Years ago, after Arab mobs surrounded Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, a unit of soldiers was pinned down. One soldier was wounded. Had he gotten medical aid, he likely would have survived. But the Tomb was surrounded; Israel waited to act. The soldier bled to death.

The commanding officer in charge of the decision to wait, was Benny Gantz. Was there another option? I don’t know. What I wanted him to do was put a tank in drive and smash through everything and everyone to save our soldier. Impossible, a friend tells me. The roads are too narrow.

I do not want the facts; I know only the emotions.

Gabi Ashkenazi did what needed to be done. He smashed through all barriers. No, that isn’t a confession because the war was fought with as much humanitarian care as was possible; the barriers I speak of more mental than physical.

I want to know that Benny Gantz will do the same. I want to know that he will understand that a true, working army must coordinate – as the army did not in Lebanon. I want him to know that the Army of Israel must be ready, as it was for Gaza. And I want him to know that sometimes you cannot hesitate, as he did with Joseph’s Tomb.

Nothing prepares you for the heavy responsibility. I can only hope that having handed Benny Gantz our security, our sons, our army – that he will not hesitate, that he will prepare himself for the days to come as he and his army protect our borders, our skies, our land.

May God bless Benny Gantz and grant him courage and strength, wisdom and fortitude and may God bless our beautiful land with peace.

3 Comments on Nothing Prepares You (Gabi Ashkenazi’s Words)

  1. Yes, it was a terrible tragedy and it might have been avoided. From what I understand, Gantz wanted to save the soldier but was hindered by his political superiors – once more Ehud Barak.

    Let us hope that the lives of our sons are safe in Gantz’ hands. (I have two boys in the army and my daughter will enlist next year), and the whole country, too.

  2. At the time of the rescue operation at Joseph’s Tomb in September 2000, Benny Gantz was the commander of the Judea & Samaria Division – he was not the commander in the field. Also, the decision to not send in a rescue operation was not his. That decision was taken by the man who was both Prime Minister and Defence Minister at that time: Ehud Barak.

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