By Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel
Rabbi Michael Leo Samuel
CHULA VISTA, California — There is hardly a day when we don’t read another story about a terrorist attack. For the most part, Radical Islam has demonstrated an almost uncanny ability to raise itself from the ashes of death. Whenever I read about the latest terrorist attack, I cannot help but think about Hercules’ battle with the Hydra. According to Greek myth, the Hydra was a nine-headed serpent. The middle head was immortal. As the creature ravaged the country of Argos, Hercules went out to destroy the creature. But no sooner did he cut off one of the Hydra’s heads, two more grew in its place. With the help of his nephew Iolaus, they managed to burn off the stumps of the other heads—all except for the middle head, which Hercules buried under a huge rock.
The Israeli battle against the forces of Radical Islam are no less daunting than the battles of Hercules, for unlike Hercules–who lived in the realm of myth–Israel fights the Hydra in real time.
Samuel Katz’s books on Radical Islam always make an exciting read. His latest book, The Ghost Warriors: Inside Israel’s Undercover War Against Suicide Terrorism, from the first page onward reads like a modern day spy thriller. Katz reminds us that the seventh of the eight Israeli wars was fought between October 1, 2000, and April 30, 2008. It was the longest protracted conflict in Israel’s brief and bloodstained history, and it was waged inside the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as inside most of Israel’s town and cities. The battlefields weren’t barren stretches of no-man’s-lands where two armies clashed. They were cafes and city buses, shopping malls, even children’s bed rooms . . .”
Katz reminds us that there was no master plan at work here. The sole purpose of the Intifada was to make Israel bleed . . .and it worked. However, what distinguishes Israel from all other Western countries of the “civilized” world (I use the term “civilized” much like Gandhi did when he defied Britain), is her ability to reinvent her strategies in dealing with this religious culture of death that threatens the world today.
This asymmetrical war demanded a new response. What did Israel do? Katz reveals that Israel assembled a Special Forces unit that functioned underground incognito called, Ya’mas– special undercover operations unit of the Israeli Border Police. This group is the Israeli equivalent to CTU—this organization would make Jack Bauer proud. Ya’mas draws from a variety of ethnicities. Most applicants that apply for this unit typically end up getting rejected. They function so effectively in getting rid of terrorists, bomb makers, suicide bombers—their effectiveness is legendary. They are affectionately called “Duvdevan” (Hebrew: דובדבן ; lit. cherry) because of their elite status.
During their operations, Duvdevan soldiers typically drive modified civilian vehicles and wear Arab civilian clothes as a disguise. Katz points out that some of the Israeli units would dress up like a beautiful woman—with clothes worthy of a Broadway play. Together, these soldiers go into the belly of the beast, giving the Palestinian leadership anxiety-attacks because they never knew who was going to attack them next! (Cf. pp. 16-19.) The unit can perform high-risk arrests, raids, targeted assassination, kidnappings and a range of other urban warfare operations.
The Ya’mas is a unit that never takes a day off; they operate in many places simultaneously, and they function autonomously independent of the normal Israeli army units.
I loved reading this book and if you want to see how a real counter terrorist unit functions, Samuel Katz’s Ghost Warriors is a must read! I rate it 5 stars.
Rabbi Samuel is spiritual leader of Temple Beth Shalom in Chula Vista. He may be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments intended for publication in the space below must be accompanied by the letter writer’s first and last name and by his/ her city and state of residence (city and country for those outside the U.S.)