Israel’s 9/11: Deadly Attacks on Israel’s Vulnerable Borders
“This is Israel’s 9/11.” That simple declaration has become a repeated theme since October 7, 2023. And yes, 9/11 is a fair comparison, as news from the Middle East continues to provide details of the massive early-morning attack Hamas terrorists launched that Sabbath morning. Their targets included numerous towns, villages, and kibbutzim in the south of Israel. The vicious invaders murdered, raped, kidnapped, beheaded, and tortured innumerable Israelis.
A shockwave of horror and grief, not unlike what Americans experienced on September 11, 2001, similarly reverberates today across Israel. It also continues to shake the world’s Jewish communities, along with those of us in the U.S., who have deep connections with friends and loved ones in the Jewish State.
Since this latest unexpected onslaught of Hamas terrorism, it has been almost impossible to keep up with Middle East news reports, featuring horrifying images and videos that are flooding cyberspace. These are circulated not only in professional journalists’ reports, but also in heart-rending and angry social media posts.
For me, the notes and updates I’m receiving in my personal inbox are particularly poignant and disturbing. I lived in Israel from 2006 until 2017, and many of my closest friends are there. And every one of them has reason to be enraged and grieved as well as terrified.
I also visited Israel again just this past August, and my trip included wonderful and uplifting conversations with several close Israeli friends. Bringing all the present horrors even closer to home for me, memories of those happy, face-to-face chats with good friends have now been transformed into distressing emails. I’m hearing about beloved sons, daughters, grandchildren, and reserve military officers being immediately activated for duty in the Israeli Defense forces and all the danger that entails.
The day after the initial Hamas attack, one friend wrote that her son, who is in the IDF reserves
"…was called up yesterday and joined his unit this morning…. Obviously, everyone is on edge. What happened yesterday (and still going on) is still incomprehensible. Will scar the country for a very long time….”
“My son and many of his friends have been called up. In addition, Hezbollah is probing our northern border. And the reservists are all being called up to the North…”
Another good friend and a mother of many children tells me:
“My 3 grandchildren in the army are safe so far. One of them, who was on the Syrian border was sent to the south (Gaza); another who is based near the Gaza border has managed to stay secure and has not been sent into a battle because he’s a new recruit; my granddaughter was here on leave and learned that her base on the Gaza border was infiltrated but all the soldiers there managed to barricade themselves in the bomb shelter until reinforcements came and they were able to safely resurface. But one of the girls she trained with was killed.”
All of this has taken place while photos and videos of ravaged villages, towns, kibbutzim, and cities in southern Israel circulated in news sources and social media. Each report is more shocking than the one before, including images of bloodstained doorways; bodies scattered along highways; accounts of indescribable sexual abuses and abductions of girls and women; kidnapped babies and toddlers torn away from their mothers, locked in cages and carried away. And as if that weren’t enough, Hamas was also responsible for a mass slaughter at a music festival, leaving more than 260 dead and countless others wounded.
For many hours, while all this was taking place, there seemed to be silence and inaction from Israel’s IDF defenders. This continued until a fierce counterattack was finally launched against Gaza and Hamas. But by then, whatever hope was rekindled by Israel’s military response has continued to be overshadowed by feelings of uncertainty and dread — and for good reason.
Meanwhile, there has been worrisome news from another war-torn Israeli region.
During my August visit, friends took me to view the stretch of land that runs along Lebanon border. The proximity between the two hostile states is stunning. And for months Hezbollah — another Iran-backed terror organization — had been threatening to move invasion forces across that northern border. Everyone told me it was only a matter of time.
And on October 9, while Israel launched its response to Hamas terrorism in the south, Iran-funded Hezbollah struck Israel in the north. The Wall Street Journal reported:
“Iranian security officials helped plan Hamas’s Saturday surprise attack on Israel and gave the green light for the assault at a meeting in Beirut last Monday, according to senior members of Hamas and Hezbollah, another Iran-backed militant group. Officers of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had worked with Hamas since August to devise the air, land and sea incursions — the most significant breach of Israel’s borders since the 1973 Yom Kippur War — those people said.”
Predictably, Iran denies its involvement.
Meanwhile, on October 9, U.S. President Joe Biden offered words of concern about the monumental struggle Israel is facing. He said:
“In this moment of heartbreak, the American people stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israelis. We remember the pain of being attacked by terrorists at home, and Americans across the country stand united against these evil acts that have once more claimed innocent American lives. It is an outrage. And we will continue to show the world that the American people are unwavering in our resolve to oppose terrorism in all forms.”
We can only hope that President Biden will stand behind his statements. Meanwhile, let’s continue to wholeheartedly pray for the millions of Israelis who have come face to face with their country’s 9/11.
Today, all across Israel, men, women, and children are broken-hearted, wounded, living in fear for their lives. Millions of Jews around the world are pleading with heaven to hear their cries for help. As concerned American Christians, it’s essential for us to keep deeply-rooted faith in our hearts as we pray alongside them, always remembering God’s promises to his people.
Lela Gilbert is Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom at Family Research Council and Fellow at Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom. She lived in Israel for over ten years, and is the author of "Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner."