Fight Like David: A Biblical Response to Terrorism

Though the world’s attention has shifted elsewhere, the horrific murder of Lucy, Maia and Rina Dee, hy”d, is never far from our minds in Efrat. On April 7, the second day of Passover, Arab terrorists brutally murdered Rina (15) and Maia (20) Dee, in a drive-by shooting in the Jordan Valley. Their mother, Leah Dee, died from her wounds three days later. 

This attack is only the latest horror perpetuation by Arab terrorists against innocent Israelis. Only a few weeks earlier, Hallel and Yagel Yaniv were murdered in cold blood in Huwara, just outside of their home in Har Bracha (The Mount of Blessing), followed by the murder of Or Eshkar in Tel Aviv and Elan Ganeles, an American from West Hartford, Connecticut, in the Jordan Valley. Only a few weeks before that, another terrorist took the lives of Alter Shlomo Laderman and Yaakov (5) and Asher (7) Paley by running them over at a Jerusalem bus stop. And only a few weeks before that was the horrific shooting of seven Jews after Friday night services at a synagogue in Neve Yaakov. 

Israelis respond to these unspeakable tragedies with overwhelming love for the victims and their families. In Efrat, gifts from other communities throughout Israel, sending love to the Dee family and the broader community, continue to pour in: chocolate from Neve Daniel, homemade bread from Modiin, potted plants from Be’er Sheva, and even gifts of flags and banners from Har Bracha, a community grappling with the brutal murder of two of its own children. Movingly, women in a secular community in the Jordan Valley, where the Dees were murdered, collectively decided that they would begin lighting Shabbat candles every Friday in memory of the Dees.

Countering devastation with comfort and hatred with love – we’ve seen this pattern repeat itself all too often. This is Israel’s true “cycle of violence”; evil Arab terrorists murder our children, and kindhearted Jews respond by showering the victims with love. But then shiva ends, and the government officials and celebrities who visited the bereaved family turn their attention elsewhere. The cycle complete, the rest of us go back to our carpools and commutes, praying to never experience this cycle again – but knowing in our hearts that it almost certainly will. 

Last week, at an event marking Israel’s Memorial Day, I wondered: how many more faces will be added to next year’s Memorial Day slideshow of victims? How many more daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, will be heartlessly murdered for the glory of Allah? Despairing of breaking this sickening cycle, all of us present took comfort in the crowd of people around us, knowing that we are all crying together, in unity. We must soldier on; what else can we do until redemption arrives?

Actually, there is much we can do, if only we had the will. For what I’ve written until now is not the whole truth. Yes, we are broken, and yes, our hearts are filled with love and pain for the Dees and all the other bereaved families. But we are also angry. No, it’s beyond anger; we are furious

We want the vile jihadists who murdered Lucy, Maia and Rina Dee to die – and quickly (as I write this article, the news just broke that Israeli soldiers shot and killed Hassan Katnani and Muad Masri, the Hamas terrorists who murdered the Dees. Thank God!). The people who aided and abetted the terrorists, who gave them support and shelter? We want them to feel the iron fist of the people of Israel. And the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who applauded this sick, evil murder and celebrated in the streets after the murder of our children? We yearn for the day when their joy turns to tears, when they will tremble before us and beg for mercy. And we pray that this day will come soon, that our generation will partner with God to “avenge the blood of His servants, wreak vengeance upon His foes, and make clean His people’s land” (Deuteronomy 32:43). As is written in the Jewish prayer book, “Our Father, our King, avenge before our eyes the spilt blood of Your servants.” 

I can already hear the alarmed protests from those who find this talk of revenge uncomfortable. As one rabbi wrote to me, “Are we no better than our enemies?  Either we are a bunch of animals who are no better than our tormentors or we are not.” It seems to be an article of faith among many that forceful action against our enemies – the kind of action that will make terrorists think twice before attacking us again – is somehow immoral. “Yes,” they’ll say, “the Israeli government must catch the terrorists and bring them to justice. But we must be measured in our response. We must be better than them!”

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, one America’s leading religious thinkers in the 20th century, directly addressed these concerns. “Pay no attention to the ‎saccharine ‎suggestions of known assimilationists who… think they are still living in Bialystok, Brest-Litovsk, and Minsk of the year ‎‎1905, ‎and openly declare that revenge is forbidden to the Jewish people in any place, at any time, ‎and ‎under all circumstances. “Vanity of vanities!” (Ecclesiastes 1:2) Revenge is forbidden when it ‎is ‎pointless, but if one is aroused thereby to self-defense, it is the most elementary right of man ‎to ‎take his revenge” (Soloveitchik, The Voice of My Beloved is Knocking).

Yes, we must be better than the Arab terrorists. We must be better at ferociously defending our children than they are, for the murder of one innocent Israeli is one murder too many. We must value the lives of our people more than they value their own. And we must be better than our enemies at uprooting and destroying the evil that infests our homeland. 

Tragically, the Israeli government has forgotten fundamental teachings of the Bible, and innocent families are paying the price. By responding weakly to terror, we send our enemies an unacceptable message: that we are willing to tolerate a certain level of terror and that we will juggle the value of Israeli lives with other political and military considerations.

There was a time when Israel’s leaders understood the danger of an overly moderate response to terror. In 1959, Moshe Dayan said “it was not in our power to secure every water pipe from explosion and every tree from being uprooted. It was not in our power to prevent the murder of workers in the orchards and families in their sleep. But it was in our power to set a high price for our blood, a price higher than what the Arab population, the Arab army, and the Arab governments were willing to pay” (Micah Bar, Red Lines in the Israeli Deterrence Strategy, Ma’arachot, 1990, p. 92).

In other words, merely catching the terrorists and bringing them to “justice” does not prevent future attacks. Over and over again, the IDF eliminates the individual terrorists who commit these atrocities, but future terrorists are not deterred. Arab terrorists consciously choose to sacrifice their own lives to murder Jews for the rewards that await them in heaven and the financial benefit their families will receive because of their sacrifice. Through the Palestinian Authority’s infamous Pay for Slay program, the PA makes monthly payments to the family members of terrorists who die while murdering Jews. The Israel Defense and Security Forum reports that it is five times more profitable to be a convicted Arab terrorist than a teacher – and the incentive to murder Jews is only growing. This past February, the European Union increased its funding to the PA by €296m, blood money that will go directly to terrorists and their families.

How can Israel stop Arab terror and protect its people? By learning from the example of King David, who avenged the murder of his family and brought peace to Israel.

When David became a fugitive from the jealous King Saul, he brought his parents and brothers to the king of Moab, to protect them from the wrath of Saul (I Samuel 22). Tragically, the sages explain that David should not have trusted the Moabites, his distant relations. “The king of Moab killed [David’s family], and nobody escaped except for one brother of David…” (Numbers Rabba 14:1). 

David’s mother, father and brothers, mercilessly murdered in cold blood. How did David respond? Was he measured in his response? Did he carefully distinguish between the great majority of “innocent” Moabites and the few bad actors who had murdered his family?

Not exactly. “And he smote Moab, and measured them with a line, making them lie down on the ground; he measured out two lengths of cord for those who were to be put to death, and one length for those to be spared. And the Moabites became servants to David, bringing tribute” (II Samuel 8:2). In one short verse, we matter of factly learn that David humiliated and slaughtered two thirds of the Moabite army, ensuring the Moabites would never again perpetrate terror against the people of Israel. David made the price of terror untenable – and so the terror ceased.

Did God approve of David’s harsh retribution against the Moabites? Not only did God approve of David’s actions, He ensured David’s victory: “And God saved David wherever he went. And David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and charity for all his people” (II Samuel 8:14-15). 

Every morning, traditional Jews recite Psalm 149, remembering that God desires the destruction of evil. In David’s words: “Let the faithful exult… with high praises of God in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, to execute vengeance upon the nations and punishments upon the peoples… to execute the doom decreed against them. This is the glory of all His faithful. Hallelujah!” (Psalms 149:6-7,9). 

For 3,000 years, the people of Israel have prayed like David, whispering the beautiful words of Psalms through the darkest days of our exile. It is high time we learn to fight like him as well. 

David was not passive. David did not sit back and wait for God to act, for an earthquake to swallow up his enemies. David did not wait for a future messianic era, when God would miraculously destroy Israel’s enemies. David understood that the people of Israel must partner with God in carrying out His will, that we must be the sharp edge of God’s sword.

David did not fight the terrorists that plagued his people with half measures, nor was he afraid to punish the “innocent civilians” who supported the terrorists who murdered his family. “I have pursued my enemies, and overtaken them; neither did I turn back till they were utterly consumed” (Psalms 18:38). 

David was unconcerned with world opinion or with self righteous condemnations of other countries. He was not ashamed to seek revenge. “Oh God, smash their teeth in their mouth; shatter the fangs of lions, God… The righteous man will rejoice when he sees revenge; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked. Men will say, ‘There is, then, a reward for the righteous; there is, indeed, divine justice on earth.’” (Psalms 58:7,11-12).

David’s actions were harsh – but they were both moral and effective. By responding forcefully to those who murdered his family, David ushered in an unprecedented era of peace, enabling his son, Solomon, to build God’s Temple in Jerusalem. Most important of all, David gave us the playbook for redemption – if only we are willing to use it.

If the State of Israel fought like David, it would send a clear and unequivocal message to all terrorists: when you commit an act of terror, your family will be deported from this land and will suffer for your acts of evil. If the State of Israel fought like David, it would tell our enemies: after every act of terror, we will declare sovereignty over another town in Judea and Samaria, our biblical homeland. And if the State of Israel fought like David, it would use overwhelming force to punish terrorists and all those who protect them and give them shelter.

War is not pleasant; in this imperfect world, innocent people inevitably suffer. But a government’s responsibility, first and foremost, is to defend its own people. Between October 2001 and June 2003, the United States unintentionally killed about 3,500 Afghan civilians through aerial bombings during Operation Enduring Freedom. Civilian deaths are tragic, but the free world understood that after the murder of American citizens on 9/11, the United States had to do everything in its power to defend its people. Yes, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard than terrorists – but not to impossibly high standards that restrict our ability to defend our people.

I didn’t want to write this article; I don’t enjoy writing about terror, suffering and revenge. I want to write about the challenges and joys of moving to Israel, about the fascinating people I’ve met here and how living in the holy land has opened my eyes to God’s miracles and blessings. But Lucy, Maia and Rina were murdered – and nothing has changed.

“May it be good in Your eyes to bless Your people Israel at every time, in every hour, with Your peace” (Jewish liturgy). For thousands of years, the people of Israel have yearned for peace, and we will not stop praying for peace until redemption comes. But love alone will not stop the terrorists. The path to peace will not be strewn with roses, but through faith in God and the fortitude to make our enemies pay for their sins. Like David, we must not forget – and we dare not forgive. 

Rabbi Elie Mischel is the Marketing and Content Manager at Israel365.

About the author

Rabbi Elie Mischel is the Marketing and Content Manager at Israel365.

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11 Responses
  1. Patricia Owen

    Thlank you Rabbi Elie Mischel for stating the Biblical story in words that need to be said. May the ruling powers of Israel have ears to hear.

  2. Kathy

    Palestinians have legitimate grievances against Israel and Israelis. They have been ignored for generations. They are rightly angry. Does that make it ok to attack Israeli civilians? Of course not. But do you think Palestinian anger will just go away? Of course not. Israel has destroyed millions of lives, and Palestinians aren’t just going to forget – especially if Israel continues to break int’l law and commit war crimes in making its point. Deal with Israel’s sins, not just those of Palestinians.

    1. Luke

      Unfortunately, you’re believing the lies that Palestinian Arabs and the mainstream media have propagated for years. Israel has not destroyed millions of lies, violated international law and committed war crimes. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I could go on, but please take it from those who are here in Israel, on the front lines.

      Israel is against terrorists, not Palestinian Arabs. The Arabs who live here are treated much better by Israel than by the PA government.

      1. Kathy

        I don’t know what “lies” by Palestinian Arabs you’re referring to.

        I do know that Israel violates international law and commits war crimes on a daily basis. A few examples: the Apartheid Wall, the blockade of Gaza, and the actual apartheid situation from the river to the sea.

        “Take it from those who are here in Israel, on the front lines”??? That’s hilarious. My family lives in Gaza, the West Bank, Israel, and East Jerusalem.

        Explain to me why Christians should support bombings, racists, and apartheid. Because I don’t find any of that coming from Jesus.

        1. Luke

          Sorry, but you’ll have to back up your claims when you say Israel violates international law and commits war crimes. They don’t. That’s a fact. Cite one specific international law that Israel is in violation of.

          What do you have to say about the signs prohibiting Jews from entering certain areas of Judea and Samaria? Wouldn’t that be considered apartheid?

          Regarding the wall, it’s call a security fence, and when Israel built it, they stopped getting murdered by Arab terrorists. Big difference between that and an “apartheid wall”.

          1. Kathy

            The settlements violate international law – the whole world acknowledges that. All the land that settlers appropriate is illegal, and they do it every day.

            The separation wall violates international law – the International Criminal Court said so over 20 years ago. (Palestinians – not Arabs – cross the wall by the thousands every day, but Jews are not getting murdered by the thousands every day. The wall isn’t even FINISHED. And it steals Palestinian land.)

            Removing Palestinians from their homes and lands violates international law. Torture, collective punishment, the blockade of Gaza, the attacks on Gazans, Shireen Abu Akleh, and thousands of other killings…denying freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech only to Palestinians…I could go on.

            Those signs? The red signs? Are placed there by the Israeli government as part of Israeli law. And those “certain areas of Judea and Samaria” are the OCCUPIED WEST BANK. So if you think they’re apartheid signs, that’s on Israel, not Palestinians.

            If you think there is no apartheid, find one false statement in Amnesty International’s apartheid report. One.

          2. Luke

            Again, you haven’t cited one international law that Israel is in violation of. Only that the world considers Israel and the settlements to be in violation of international law.

            Besides that, your comment is simply full of lies – lies that Israel is occupying their own homeland, that they oppress the Palestinians, that the separation barrier is in fact an apartheid wall, Israel steals Palestinian land, tortures and oppresses them, etc., etc….. Please. Stop. Telling. Lies.

            Israel employs well over 100,000 Palestinians to work inside the Jewish “settlements”, and inside Israel proper, meaning that they cross that “wall” to work inside Israel every day. They work in Israeli factories, alongside Jews. They are making exponentially bigger wages working under Israel than they cold imagine making inside the Palestinian towns and villages. Palestinians even study side by side alongside Jews in the Ariel University.

            Besides that, Israel collects taxes for the PA, and provides them with water and electricity.

            If you can cite one international law that Israel is actually in violation of, I would be impressed. But you can’t.

  3. Neal Wohlmuth

    Biden’s inauguration occurred on January 20th, 2021, which was the 7th of Shvat. The 7th of Shvat was also February 1st, 1944. On that day, the IRGUN declared war on the British empire. It said in part:

    On February 1, 1944, the Irgun plastered posters on the walls of buildings all over the country, proclaiming a revolt against British rule. It stated, among other things: TO THE JEWISH PEOPLE DEWELLING IN ZION! We are in the last stage of the world war. We face an historic decision on our future destiny. Each and every nation is now conducting its national reckoning. What are its triumphs and what were its losses? What road must it take in order to achieve its goal and fulfil its mission? Who are its friends and who its enemies? Who is the true ally and who the traitor? And who is proceeding towards the decisive battle? Sons of Israel, Hebrew youth! The armistice proclaimed at the beginning of the war has been breached by the British. The rulers of the country have chosen to disregard loyalty, concessions and sacrifice; they continue to implement their aim: the eradication of sovereign Zionism… 57 We must draw the necessary conclusions without wavering. There can no longer be a truce between the Hebrew nation and youth and the British administration of Eretz Israel, which is betraying our brethren to Hitler. Our nation will fight this regime, fight to the end… (Quoted from ‘The Irgun, a short history, by Yehuda Lapidot Pages 56 and 57).

    Judaism DOES NOT believe in coincidences. So what is its meaning? A good question that every Jew should be thinking about.

  4. Ben Kennedy

    I to would like to add my name to the comment by Patricia Owen which appears above. And may God Bless you for having the courage to write outside the “flavor of the month” narrative. Since its founding many years ago, the Motto of the US Air Force Strategic Air Command was “Peace through superior fire power”. Christians have long believed that when Satan rebelled in Heaven, he took one third of the angles with him. They were all cast out and are identified since then as Satan and the demons. There is no evidence that God has ever planned to trade one good angel for one demon, as if in some grand chess game. All the Angels are safe from Satan and his demons. Satan and all the demons are not to escape God’s final solution for them. King David was not a perfect man, but he knew how to fight evil, and God called him a man after his own heart. God Bless Israel.

  5. There are over 3 million Christians praying for Israel every day. And Iam so thankful for young American men who are in Israel traveling to surrounding enemy countries showing the truth that is taking place. Israel must protect her people. Praying for protection, wisdom and discernment and plenty of ammunition to fight all the surrounding countries that are trying to kill every Israelite ALONE. But yet not alone as God hears the prayers of His people.