Yehuda himself had his share of doubts. There had even been moments of fear. Not fear of dying. His battle scars proved that he didn’t fear death. His fears came from not understanding what was happening to his country. His mind couldn’t comprehend the great religious upheaval. He simply couldn’t fathom the fervent practice of a law and tradition he had never bothered to learn.
Yehuda glanced down at the one man who remained seated in the war room – the eighty-two year old Chief Rabbi. Neither the Chief of Staff of the army, nor the Minister of Defense would make a decision without his assent. Unlike the uniformed men in the room, the Rabbi wore a long black coat, black hat, and tefillin. An old, fraying Psalm book lay clutched in his hands. He never bothered to look up at the screen. He didn’t have to, he said. Everything had already been written. Yehuda had waged a fierce battle against the Rabbi’s inclusion amongst the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Military decisions and strategy demanded real combat experience, he argued. But the country’s new ruler couldn’t be convinced. “Torah scholars increase peace in the world,” he maintained.
Judah aimed the remote control at the large screen. The image changed to the star-war map of nuclear launchers in outer space. A storm of atomic warheads were arcing through the heavens from American and Russian space stations. Yehuda looked down at the white-bearded Rabbi.
“I think it’s about time we did something, sir.”
“Call Jerusalem,” the old Rabbi whispered.
Yehuda glanced at the digital clock on the screen. The countdown clicked down to five minutes and twenty seconds until the first missiles would reach Israel’s borders. With a steady, battle-tried hand, he picked up the red telephone on the table. Even now, after two years, it was difficult for Yehuda to accept that his country had a King.
“Hallel,” was all the quiet voice answered.
All eyes in the war room were focused on Yehuda as he hung up the phone.
“Operation Hallel,” he repeated.
There was a spontaneous cheer in the room, a burst of applause and confident embraces. Amidst all the tumult, the Chief Rabbi continued on with his prayers.
Yehuda shuddered. For the first time in his entire army career, his palms began to moisten. In the past, his brilliant strategies had crippled enemy forces. His pilots had paralyzed Syrian missiles and Russian-built tanks. His special units had executed stunning assassinations in Iran, Tunis, and Iraq. He himself had piloted bombers and rescue missions since the earliest days of the State. He had parachuted behind enemy lines to lead attacks on terrorists bases in missions that were never reported. But Operation Hallel was something much different. Operation Hallel was madness.
“This is national suicide!” he screamed at the Rabbi. “Those aren’t Scud missiles headed our way – they’re nuclear bombs!”
“You have a job to do,” the Rabbi calmly answered.
“Whoever heard of a military plan dependent on prayer?”
Yehuda glanced around in hope of enlisting support. All of the eyes and beards in the room were staring at him. He drew back his shoulders, and once again aimed the remote control at the screen. The scene switched to a view of the Temple Mount. Yehuda paused. Everyone held their breath.
“What are you waiting for?!” somebody yelled.
Suddenly, the paratrooper commander and onetime kibbutznik who had moved his family to Hebron, jumped Yehuda from behind and grabbed the remote control from his hand.
“If he won’t do it, I will,” he said and pushed on a button.
Up on the screen, a gigantic explosion rocked the ancient Mount. The golden dome of the Moslem shrine was blown to smithereens. Arabs took off in a run. A cloud of gold dust spread over the Kotel.
The war room resounded with cheering. It was the same cry of victory that Yehuda had shouted when the Old City had been captured a generation before. Across the room, Israel’s highest ranking general raised a shofar to his lips and gave a piercing blast. “They’re all madmen,” Yehuda thought. His friends who had abandoned the country had been right after all. The government of Israel had been captured by crazies.