Reviewed by JOSEPH LEVEN
The Weapons Wizards tells the story of how Israel rose from having no weapons production capacity at all at the time of its founding in 1948 to becoming one of the world’s great weapons producers in our day.
In 1948 the newly born state had to beg, borrow and deceive in order to obtain a few old weapons with which to defend itself from its many attackers. In 2012 Israel’s defense companies exported over $7.5 billion worth of weaponry to all parts of the world. This is an amazing success story, without which the State of Israel would have perished many times over.
The co-authors of The Weapons Wizards, Yaacov Katz and Amir Bohbot are both veteran reporters of Israel’s military and defense operations. Katz is now editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post and Bohbot is the military editor for the Walla news website. Reading the book, one sees that they are extremely well connected, with many quotes from Israel’s senior military leaders, both past and present.
The book is organized by topic, with chapters on drones, tanks, satellites, targeted killings and more.
The same theme is constantly repeated:
1. Israel is forever at war.
2. The need for improved ways of waging war is recognized.
3. Initiatives are taken, often from a non-hierarchical direction.
4. The military and the defense industries work hand-in-hand on the new technologies.
5. The new technologies are quickly tested and refined on the battleground.
6. Israel jumps one step further ahead of its enemies.
Take, for instance, the chapter titled “Rocket Science”. It tells the story of the rockets rained down on southern Israel by Hamas from the Gaza Strip early in the first decade of this century.
In 2001 four Kassam rockets were fired at Israel. By 2003 the number was 155; by early 2014 over 12,000 of these rockets had been fired. Occasionally they killed or injured Israeli civilians. More frequently they damaged property. Their main use though was to sow terror in the Israeli population that lived within their range. Adults and children alike lived in a constant state of apprehension, waiting for the sirens to sound telling them that a Kassam was going to hit in mere seconds.
Katz and Bohbut then tell us the story of how Israel’s now-famous Iron Dome anti-short-range missile defense system came into being. Initially the development of an anti-missile defense against short-range rockets was opposed by the defense establishment. Such a system did not exist anywhere else in the world.
The idea did not die though, as Brigadier-General Danny Gold, head of the R&D Department within the Defense Ministry, was able to allocate seed money for research in 2004. A proposal from state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems came forward in 2005 and was OK’d by Gold – even without approval of his superiors. Not only did he OK the development of Iron Dome, but also its full scale production.
How could Gold do this? Where would the money come from? Gold put up $6M from his research budget and asked Rafael to match this. He also contacted a private venture capitalist and asked him to put aside $50M to be used on the project if required.
Work began in earnest, and through several ups and downs, money was gradually secured both from the Israeli government and from the American military aid budget. By 2011, Iron Dome was operational and shooting down rockets launched from Gaza. During the two wars with Hamas in 2012 and 2014 Iron Dome shot down between 85 and 90% of the missiles fired at Israeli cities, a stunning success rate.
Katz and Bohbut are unabashed boosters of Israel’s military, its defense industries and the Israeli way of doing things. The authors love the way that the IDF works, its lack of formal structure and democratic nature. They frequently relate how important initiatives originated at the grassroots level, something that would not have been possible in the armed forces of other countries.
To quote Shimon Peres. ‘To retain Israel’s qualitative edge, we need to invest in soldiers’ brains, not just their muscles.’ And to quote Shaul Mofaz, former IDF Chief of General Staff, ‘[The Weapons Wizards is] an essential read for anyone trying to understand Israel and its military.’
How Israel retains its military edge
The Weapon Wizards
How Israel Became a High-Tech
Yaakov Katz and Amir Bohbot
St. Martin’s Press, New York, N.Y., 2017,
(The Weapon Wizards is available from the Winnipeg Public Library)
Hamas murdered their friend. Now, they help Israeli soldiers to keep his memory alive
By VIRGINIA ALLEN (The Daily Signal) David Newman sent a text to a friend the morning of Saturday, Oct. 7. Something terrible had happened. Word quickly spread among Newman’s group of friends, who had known each other since high school.
Newman, 25, had traveled the night before to the music festival in southern Israel, close to the border with the Gaza Strip. It was supposed to be a fun weekend with his girlfriend “celebrating life,” something Newman, who served with the Israel Defense Forces, was good at and loved to do, friend Gidon Hazony recalls.
When Hazony learned that Newman, his longtime friend, was in danger, he and another friend decided they were “going to go down and try and save him.” Trained as a medic and armed with a handgun and bulletproof vest, Hazony started driving south from Jerusalem.
Hazony and his friend ended up joining with other medical personnel and “treated probably around 50 soldiers and civilians in total that day,” Hazony recalls, but they kept trying to make it south to rescue Newman.
But the two “never made it down to the party, and that’s probably for the best,” Hazony says, “because that area was completely taken over by terrorists. And if we had gone down there, I think we would’ve been killed.”
Hazony later learned that Hamas terrorists had murdered Newman on Oct. 7, but not before Newman had saved nearly 300 lives, including the life of his girlfriend.
When the terrorists began their attack on the music festival, many attendees began running to their cars. But Newman and his girlfriend encountered a police officer who warned them to run the opposite direction because the terrorists were near the vehicles, says David Gani, another friend of Newman’s.
Newman “ran in the opposite direction with his girlfriend and whoever else he could kind of corral with him,” Gani explains during an interview on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”
“They saw two industrial garbage cans, big containers, and so David told everyone, ‘Hide, hide in those containers,’” Gani says. “And so what he did over the course of the next few hours is, he would take people and … he was this big guy, and he would just chuck them in that container. And then he would go in, wait, wait till the coast is clear, and then he’d go back out, find more people, put them in there.”
Newman’s actions that day, and the atrocities Hazony and so many others in Israel witnessed Oct. 7, led Hazony, Gani, and several friends to quit their jobs and set up a nonprofit called Soldiers Save Lives. The organization is working to collect tactical and humanitarian aid for the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF.
According to the group’s website, Soldiers Save Lives has supplied over 20 IDF units and civilian response teams “with protective and self-defense gear.”
Gani, board chairman, chief financial officer, and chief technology officer of Soldiers Save Lives, and Hazony, president of the organization, recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to raise support and awareness for their mission to provide IDF troops with needed supplies.
If you would like to find out more about Soldiers Save Lives or donate to them, go to https://www.soldierssavelives.org/
Reprinted with permission.
Our New Jewish Reality
By HENRY SREBRNIK Since Oct. 7, we Jews have been witnessing an ongoing political and psychological pogrom. True, there have been no deaths (so far), but we’ve seen the very real threat of mobs advocating violence and extensive property damage of Jewish-owned businesses, and all this with little forceful reaction from the authorities.
The very day after the carnage, Canadians awoke to the news that the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust had inspired sustained celebrations in its major cities. And they have continued ever since. I’d go so far as to say the Trudeau government has, objectively, been more interested in preventing harm to Gazans than caring about the atrocities against Israelis and their state.
For diaspora Jews, the attacks of Oct. 7 were not distant overseas events and in this country since then they have inspired anti-Semitism, pure and simple, which any Jew can recognize. Even though it happened in Israel, it brought back the centuries-old memories of defenseless Jews being slaughtered in a vicious pogrom by wild anti-Semites.
I think this has shocked, deeply, most Jews, even those completely “secular” and not all that interested in Judaism, Israel or “Zionism.” Jewish parents, especially, now fear for their children in schools and universities. The statements universities are making to Jewish students across the country could not be clearer: We will not protect you, they all but scream. You’re on your own.
But all this has happened before, as we know from Jewish history. Long before Alfred Dreyfus and Theodor Herzl, the 1881 pogroms in tsarist Russia led to an awakening of proto-Zionist activity there, with an emphasis on the land of Israel. There were soon new Jewish settlements in Palestine.
The average Jew in Canada now knows that his or her friend at a university, his co-worker in an office, and the people he or she socializes with, may in fact approve, or at least not disapprove, of what happened that day in Israel. Acquaintances or even close friends may care far more about Israel killing Palestinians in Gaza. Such people may even believe what we may call “Hamas pogrom denial,” already being spread. Many people have now gone so far in accepting the demonization of Israel and Jews that they see no penalty attached to public expressions of Jew-hatred. Indeed, many academics scream their hatred of Israel and Jews as loud as possible.
One example: On Nov. 10, Toronto officers responded to a call at an Indigo bookstore located in the downtown. It had been defaced with red paint splashed on its windows and the sidewalk, and posters plastered to its windows.
The eleven suspects later arrested claimed that Indigo founder Heather Reisman (who is Jewish) was “funding genocide” because of her financial support of the HESEG Foundation for Lone Soldiers, which provides scholarships to foreign nationals who study in Israel after serving in the Israeli armed forces. By this logic, then, most Jewish properties and organizations could be targeted, since the vast majority of Jews are solidly on Israel’s side.
Were these vandals right-wing thugs or people recently arrived from the Middle East? No, those charged were mostly white middle-class professionals. Among them are figures from academia, the legal community, and the public education sector. Four are academics connected to York University (one of them a former chair of the Sociology Department) and a fifth at the University of Toronto; two are elementary school teachers; another a paralegal at a law firm.
Were their students and colleagues dismayed by this behaviour? On the contrary. Some faculty members, staff and students at the university staged a rally in their support. These revelations have triggered discussions about the role and responsibilities of educators, given their influential positions in society.
You’ve heard the term “quiet quitting.” I think many Jews will withdraw from various clubs and organizations and we will begin to see, in a sense like in the 1930s, a reversal of assimilation, at least in the social sphere. (Of course none of this applies to Orthodox Jews, who already live this way.)
Women in various feminist organizations may form their own groups or join already existing Jewish women’s groups. There may be an increase in attendance in K-12 Jewish schools. In universities, “progressive” Jewish students will have to opt out of organizations whose members, including people they considered friends, have been marching to the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and similar eliminationist rhetoric, while waving Palestinian flags.
This will mostly affect Jews on the left, who may be supporters of organizations which have become carriers of anti-Semitism, though ostensibly dealing with “human rights,” “social justice,” and even “climate change.”
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg took part in a demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm on Oct. 22 in which she chanted “crush Zionism” along with hundreds of other anti-Israel protesters. Israel is now unthinkingly condemned as a genocidal apartheid settler-colonialist state, indeed, the single most malevolent country in the world and the root of all evil.
New York Times Columnist Bret Stephens expressed it well in his Nov. 7 article. “Knowing who our friends aren’t isn’t pleasant, particularly after so many Jews have sought to be personal friends and political allies to people and movements that, as we grieved, turned their backs on us. But it’s also clarifying.”
Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown.
Former Winnipegger Vivian Silver, at first thought to have been taken hostage, has now been confirmed dead
Former Winnipegger and well-known Israeli peace activist Vivian Silver has now been confirmed as having been killed during the massacre of Israelis and foreign nationals perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on October 7. Vivian, a resident of Kibbutz Be’eri was originally thought to be among the more than 1200 individuals who were taken hostage by Hamas.
To read the full story on the CBC website, go to https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/israel-gaza-vivian-silver-1.7027333