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Shavuot is one of the most important holidays of the Jewish calendar, commemorating when the Jews received the Torah from Mt. Sinai, forging us into a sovereign nation run by a series of laws, each one informed by profoundly penetrating ethics. These values, at their core, enhance the sanctity of human life.

It is therefore not surprising that when Shavuot was commemorated in Israel, this Wednesday, Hezbollah launched more than 215 missies, rockets and drones onto northern Israel. This has been going on since October 8th, making it impossible for at least 60,000 residents of the north to return to their homes in relative safety and security. This latest barrage was the result of the Israeli elimination of Hezbollah’s second in command in Lebanon, Taleb Sami Abdullah. Hezbollah, like Hamas, reveres the cult of death, while Jews and Christians cherish life. As Hassan Nasrallah, perfidiously exclaimed, “We are going to win, because they love life, and we love death.”

Since October 8th, Hezbollah, the Shia “party of God”, has linked forces with Hamas, participating in the Al Aqsa Flood to completely obliterate the state of Israel, which they believe to be a  growing cancer on holy Islamic soil.

Hezbollah has maintained an impervious, firm grip on southern Lebanon. Although Lebanon is a mosaic of many religions, Shia, Sunni, Alawite, Eastern Orthodox, Druze, Copts, Shia Islam, Hezbollah and their Iranian puppet master holds dominance on the ground. Since its establishment in 1982, Hezbollah has imbedded itself into the cultural and educational life of Lebanon, focusing on seizing control of the Confessional parliamentary system, and upon a constant and steady indoctrination of the youth to sacrifice their lives for Shia Islam. The  Iranian funded, Hezbollah youth movement,  The Im Al Mahdi Scouts Movement, established in 1985, has brainwashed hundreds of thousands of Lebanese youth to die for  the sake of Allah and to murder as many Jews as possible, until the last Jew is eradicated from the earth. This totally turns on its head the Scout Movement’s dictum of “being active citizens, creating positive change in their communities and in the world, based on shared values.” The Imam Al Mahdi Scouts Movement  children as young as 8 years old, and by the age of 16, they are recruited into Hezbollah.

As Hezbollah swells in its ranks, the Lebanese Armed Forces, (LAF) which receives  approximately $157 million a year has been totally co-opted by Hezbollah. The Lebanese Amed Forces is a relatively weak, middle-sized army. As a result of the 15 year Lebanese Civil War, pitting Sunnis and Christians against Shias from 1975 to 1990, approximately 150,000 Lebanese were killed, ending with the signing of the Taif Accords, which said that all foreign armies have to leave Southern Lebanon. Israel, which felt it was necessary to go into to Southern Lebanon to have a zone of protection for its residents of the north, withdrew all forces on May 24, 2000. UN Security Council Resolution 1559, as well as UN Security Council Resolution 1701 were passed, affirming the Taif Accords, Lebanese sovereignty, and that the only military force remaining in control should be the  LAF.  However, the Iranian backed group, Hezbollah, has remained, imbedding itself within the frailer Lebanese Army, and through a complicated web of cultural and societal groups, within the hearts and minds of many of the Lebanese people. According to former Defense Minister Benny Gantz, “Hezbollah is now stronger than any Arab army”, containing within it a vast arsenal of 150,000 missiles, capable of hitting Israel’s major cities, including Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

In the most recent poll of the Lebanese people, 80 percent said they were in favor of Hamas’ October 7th  attacks on Israel, 75 percent said they did not want Lebanon to remain neutral, but only 32 per cent said they wanted Lebanon to actively participate in the war.

France and the US have put forth various diplomatic solutions. The French proposal calls for the gradual deployment of Hezbollah, 10 kilometers north of the de facto border between Israel and Lebanon, the Blue Line, with the LAF filling the void; while  the US proposal, calls for the “freezing in place” of the special units of Hezbollah, the Radwan forces, but also a gradual adherence to UN Security Council 1701, with the deployment of 10,000  to 12,000 LAF troops south of the Litani River, with an economic incentivization dividend thrown in by Wahington.

We know that these proposals are beyond risible to Hezbollah, who remains the commanding player in the field, full of theological passion to obliterate Israel, unwilling to give up their political and military dominance. They feel Israel has been severely weakened in the international community, and that now might be the opportune time to strike.

However, I am haunted by a photo of Israelis in a northern kibbutz taken this Shavuot, as they were being faced with rocket threats and sirens. The women and children all dressed in white, little girls with floral crowns in their hair, and young boys carrying baskets, all seemed oblivious to what had taken afoot in the skies above them, celebrating the holiday together.  And that is Israel’s  and the Jewish people’s unique secret:  Come what may, it is our love of life, and not of death, and our resilient, vibrant spirit that is the enduring secret to our survival.

Sarah N. Stern is Founder and President of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, EMET, a think tank and policy center in Washington, DC, specializing in the Middle East.

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Sarah Stern
Sarah Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

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