Israeli society has belatedly recognized Maj. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brik as a “prophet of wrath” for his warnings about our impending disaster which remained tragically unheeded. Today his words light up social networks, the very media who just weeks ago scorned his doomsday predictions line up for a chance to interview him, and the country’s decision-makers consult him about Israel’s next steps.
Since the war’s onset, Jewish Educational Media (JEM) has been releasing archival videos of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, speaking about the Land and People of Israel. In these public addresses, the Rebbe prescribes with impeccable clarity the practical steps Israel must take to ensure the safety and security of its millions of residents, while warning of the grave danger inherent in certain widespread misconceptions.
In addition to his public teachings, the Rebbe’s door was famously open to Israel's leaders, who would journey to his modest office in the heart of Brooklyn (known as “770”) seeking his loving, visionary, and practical advice for weighty matters of state.
The Rebbe was apprised in real time of Israel's most sensitive and classified discussions, while being intimately aware of the rhythm and “minor minutiae” of Israeli life. Responding to his distinguished guests’ urgencies, the Rebbe would gently lead them through compelling reassessments of their challenges — helping them to reframe many issues, and to emerge with a refreshingly new and grounded perspective, and empowered with highly logical and practical action plans.
Yet, despite guiding Israel successfully through many of its challenges in education, security, economy, industry, arms procurement, and countless other weighty matters; and even though many individual pieces of his strategic security advice were implemented by Israeli leaders in both wartime and in peace; the Rebbe remained perpetually pained and even frightened for Israel’s safety and wellbeing, because of a leadership mindset and behaviors that he assessed directly invite more terrorism and bloodshed.
During the War of Attrition, while the Nixon administration was investing considerable effort into negotiating a ceasefire between Israel and Egypt, the Rebbe warned of the dangers acceding to a ceasefire, tactically, operationally, and strategically. It would reinforce the new perception of Israel as weak and malleable, further erode its deterrent power, and invite a new war.
Egypt’s primary interest in a cease-fire is to safely gain an advantageous position for its next war against Israel, the Rebbe asserted. “Even before the ink dries on the agreement Egypt will violate the ceasefire terms,” the Rebbe warned. “Who knows how many lives will be lost in the next war because of this?”
Indeed, on the very day the cease-fire went into effect, the Egyptians began brazenly violating its terms by installing advanced surface-to-air missile batteries near the Suez Canal, and never looking back until it became the biggest anti-aircraft installation in the world. Upon launching the Yom Kippur War, the Egyptians activated these systems to take out numerous Israeli aircraft and neutralize Israel’s air force from providing air cover to Israel’s canal strongholds, which resulted in extraordinary Israeli casualties.
In the summer of 1973, while Israeli leaders bragged that the Suez Canal was quieter than the French Riviera, the Rebbe urgently requested that children from all over Israel gather at the Western Wall for critical prayers to “silence the enemy and avenger” (Psalms, 8:3), and he quietly but firmly convinced retired and retiring IDF generals with ‘67 war experience under their belt to urgently re-enter the IDF because their experience will be “necessary” “in the upcoming war.”
As to Golda and Dayan’s fear of upending world opinion by striking preemptively, or even by mobilizing the reserves, the Rebbe was beside himself as he cried out that instead of implementing our millennia-old moral imperative to preempt those who come to kill us, the cowardice of a few forced many thousands to join the tragic ranks of Israeli widows and orphans.
When after a miraculous comeback from its numerous self-inflicted wounds in the Yom Kippur War Israel was on the outskirts of Damascus, the Rebbe pleaded with Dayan to occupy the capital city, even for a short time.
He explained that the bold symbolism alone would foster immense respect on the Arab street, which could be immediately and easily leveraged into a real peace and cessation of bloodshed on both sides, for many decades to follow. The Rebbe’s repeated attempts to convince Dayan fell on deaf ears; he was simply too weak and afraid. The Rebbe painfully forewarned that this was “a grave mistake."
In the 1982 Lebanon War, the Rebbe, however, called on Israel to “finish what they started.” With tragic pain in his voice, he argued: What was the point in initiating the war, and sacrificing so many victims, only to arrive at the moment of truth and settle for intermediate results?
Not only does this render a future round of fighting inevitable, but it’ll be under much worse conditions for Israel and at the additional cost of bloodshed on both sides!
After imposing a siege on Beirut and with the IDF finally on the brink of destroying Arafat’s murderous gang, Begin once again succumbed to outside pressure and allowed the terrorists to be “exiled” to Tunis. Decrying the danger this weakness invites, the Rebbe said that everyone understands that this is a face-saving ruse and that they’d soon return much reinforced to terrorize the Israeli populace. So this simply defers inevitable battles with them to a later date but at a significantly greater disadvantage. (Yet another decision that has since cost us many thousands of casualties.)
“The Rebbe had a clear vision,” said former Mossad head Efraim Halevy, “and he never abandoned it for a moment, even when no one was willing to listen.”
Once when there appeared to be no chance that our leaders would heed his warnings about the impending danger, the Rebbe shared why he seemed to never give up alerting and exhorting: “Firstly, when it hurts, we cry out! Even if we know that screaming won't ease the pain [but it's visceral]. Also,” the Rebbe continued, “one never gives up. Perhaps it will eventually cause Israel to finally reorder its priorities to prioritize the safety and wellbeing of its residents, Jews, and non-Jews, as uppermost and foremost.”
Summing up his time with the Rebbe, Yom Kippur War hero and Medal of Valor recipient Moshe Levy said, “He didn't speak like a rabbi; he spoke like a general.”
Will we, after experiencing such a heavy loss of life on October 7, listen this time?
- Moni Ender is the spokesperson of Chabad Youth Association.