The Haunting Knocks of War and the Different Fears They Bring

“Knock, knock. Who’s there?” is a great way to start a timeless children’s joke, but in Israel today, it has another meaning.

It’s well known and abundantly documented that for many years, one thing Israel’s military does when targeting and taking out a terrorist, there’s a policy of what’s called “a knock on the roof,” where a non-lethal bomb is dropped on the roof of a building in which there is terrorist target. It may be the residence of a terrorist leader’s apartment building or the headquarters of a terrorist military or communications network. More often than not, these people and targets are deliberately located in apartment buildings and highly populated areas, surrounded by other people who are not directly combatants, because of the terrorist policy to use their own civilians as human shields.

The purpose of the knock on the roof is to give people the opportunity to evacuate the building before it is targeted. The good part of that is that it saves the lives of civilians. The bad part is that it also gives terrorists an opportunity to escape. In some instances, targeting of the terrorist is so precise that it looks as if the Israeli military were highly trained surgeons, hitting the exact wall of the exact room on the exact floor in the exact apartment in which the terrorist leader is sleeping, mindful of the engineering of the rest of the building to prevent it from collapsing entirely, and taking out the terrorist target with a level of precision unknown in modern warfare.  

The surgical analogy is also appropriate because it saves the lives of others nearby or even in the same building while eliminating the terrorist threat.

A similar policy to the knock on the roof is the dropping of leaflets or making wide broadcasts in Arabic telling those who are not combatants to leave a particular area. That’s happened widely this month as Israel prepared to enter Gaza with combat troops and tanks, targeting the terrorists and rescuing the 240+ hostages. Unfortunately, not only does this also give the opportunity for terrorists to escape, especially when specific times and routes are published during which people can get out of the areas facing the toughest battles, but the terrorists target these areas and people trying to flee. It has been abundantly documented that Hamas terrorists have been blocking the evacuation routes, threatening civilians at gunpoint so that they may not leave, and targeting these with mortar fire to prevent average Gazans from fleeing.   

Remember this when you see propaganda reports from the Hamas-controlled “Gazan health ministry” about how many people have been killed. Can you trust their numbers? How do we know that among the actual dead and wounded, they are all civilians when their terrorists wear no uniforms and hide among the actual civilians? When you see the suffering of women and children, ask how many tried to flee, only to be turned back by Hamas to face certain carnage and suffering.

In Israel today, “knock” has another lethal meaning. In times of heightened conflict and war, when soldiers are actively engaged in fighting terrorists, a “knock” in Israel is something to be fearful of. There’s a whole military unit whose responsibility is to inform families of soldiers who have been killed in combat of the death of their loved one. It’s known that the army shows up and knocks on the door. Unlike Israel’s “knock on the roof” to save lives, this is a knock of dread. It’s also the consequence of sending ground forces into highly populated areas to engage the terrorists face to face, precluding an actual carpet bombing, and therefore saving the lives of more Gazan Palestinian Arabs while putting our soldiers’ lives at risk. That’s also something to remember as the death toll of Israeli soldiers increases. Israel could simply bomb Gaza without any regard for the lives of their civilians. But it sends ground troops in to engage the terrorists with precision, trying to prevent civilian casualties, yet at risk to themselves.

This week, I dropped off something at a neighbor’s house. Naturally, instinctively, I knocked on the door. As I heard her ask, “Who is it?” I realized suddenly I should not have knocked but rang the doorbell. Why? Her son is in a combat unit in Gaza now. Any knock on the door can create fear.  

Last week, I hosted a conversation as an episode of the “Inspiration from Zion” podcast. It was with young Israeli women whose husbands have been called up into reserves and have been away from home, and their families, for most of the month. There were several recurring themes about how these women have been holding up the home front while their husbands are on the front line. But one of them, perhaps the scariest, is the fear of getting a knock on the door. It’s something they understand that their children do not, and it makes keeping their kids safe and protected while coping with their own stresses all the more challenging.

On a personal note, recently, my combat unit soldier son-in-law was promoted to Major. His commanding officer called my daughter to share the news. But when my daughter saw who was calling, her face went white, and her blood pressure dropped. She didn’t know about the promotion, so a call from the commanding officer in the midst of a war, rightly, made her frightened. It was good they could speak about that too.  However, my son-in-law’s commanding officer said, perhaps to be comforting or perhaps to deflect this reality with humor, “Don’t worry, if something happened, you’d get a knock on the door, not a phone call.”

“Knock, knock” has different meanings in Israel at war. One knock is to save the lives of Gazan Palestinian Arabs. The other knock is when an Israeli soldier loses his or her life.  

You can join the Genesis 123 Foundation Israel Emergency Campaign to provide humanitarian relief, support for soldiers, their spouses and children, desperately needed civilian security, and more through this link HERE, and send your own prayers and words of encouragement as well.

Photo Courtesy: ©Getty Images/Alexi J. Rosenfeld / Stringer

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.

Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has been blessed by the calling to fellowship with Christian supporters of Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He writes regularly for a variety of prominent Christian and conservative websites and is the host of Inspiration from Zion, a popular webinar series and podcast. He can be reached at [email protected].

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.

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