Standing up for national unity and national survival

A lot has changed in Israel since Oct. 7, but a lot has also stayed the same.

What has changed is exemplified in the actions of the Kalmanzon brothers, members of the religious community of Otniel in the South Hebron Hills, on Oct. 7.

On Oct. 7, Elhanan Kalmanzon, a reserve major in the Commando Brigade and a Mossad officer, realized almost immediately that Israel was being invaded. He organized the security team in Otniel and messaged his brother Menachem.

“I’m packing up and going south. The nation of Israel needs us. Our brothers need us.”

Menachem joined Elchanan, and with their brother-in-law Itiel Zohar Horovitz, they drove down south, ending up at the gate of Kibbutz Be’eri.

Be’eri was one of Hamas’s primary targets for slaughter. Ninety-seven members of the small farming community were butchered that day. Greeting them at the entry gate were terrified residents.

“My sister is inside.”

“My brother is inside.”

“Please save them.”

The Kalmanzon brothers and Horovitz found an abandoned armored personnel carrier, and entered the kibbutz. For 14 and a half hours they went from house to house, rescuing families through the windows of their safe rooms, filling their vehicle, driving to safety, and returning to the farming community-turned-killing-field, over and over again.

On their final trip into Be’eri, after having saved more than a quarter of the residents, Elhanan was killed as he entered another home.

A delegation of members of Be’eri came to Otniel to pay a condolence call to the Kalmanzon family during their shivah. In the course of their meeting, Menachem praised the heroism and the hardened courage of the residents of Be’eri.

“There were 70-year-old women there. We’d offer them a hand to help them down [from the window].”

Swatting his hand in the air, as if pushing a fly away, Menachem continued, “This 70-year-old woman said, ‘No thank you.’ She’s a tough woman, a woman of labor. We laughed together and, ‘If they told you to go to the cow shed and do the morning milking in half an hour, you’d be off.’”

Progressivism, post-Zionism

Be’eri and the surrounding kibbutzim were founded by hardcore Labor Zionists. They believed that the Jewish people would liberate themselves from two thousand years of exile and powerlessness, build their state and secure their freedom into the future through hard work, hard fighting and collective farming. They aspired to build a Jewish socialist state.

Over the years, as they became prosperous, their socialism dissipated. Zionism, it seemed, had finished its job. Socialism was superseded by progressivism, Zionism by post-Zionism.

Like the residents of neighboring kibbutzim, Be’eri’s members believed in coexistence with the Palestinians. They thought the biggest threat to that coexistence was people like the Kalmanzon brothers, who are religious and live in Judea or Samaria. They believed in the founding myth of the so-called peace process with the PLO—that there were “extremists” on both sides. The supposedly “moderate” PLO ruling Fatah faction had its “extremists” in Hamas. The “moderate” Israeli elite, of which the kibbutzim outside Gaza were very much a part, had its “extremist” religious Zionists, otherwise known as “settlers.” To reach peace, the “moderates” on both sides had to defeat their “extremists.”

Oct. 7 shattered that illusion. Hamas didn’t slaughter the people of Be’eri and surrounding communities on its own. It was joined by Fatah terrorists and thousands of “civilians.” These Palestinian “moderates” were full participants in the atrocities committed that day.

On the other hand, the people who arrived at the scene to save them, unbidden, were the Kalmanzon brothers from Otniel who were supposed to be their enemies. Since the ground operation began in Gaza, 45% of the soldiers killed in action have come from the religious Zionist community whose members comprise only 10% of the overall population.

Read more.


Caroline Glick

Center for Security Policy Senior Fellow.



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EDITORS NOTE: This Center for Security Policy column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

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