Allahu Akhbar or Shma Yisrael?

Rochel Sylvetsky,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Rochel Sylvetsky
Rochel Sylvetsky is Senior Consultant to Arutz Sheva's English site and serves as op-ed and Judaism editor. She is a former Chairperson of Emunah Israel (1991-96), CEO/Director of Kfar Hanoar Hadati Youth Village, member of the Emek Zevulun Regional Council and the Religious Education Council of Israel's Education Ministry. She has degrees in Mathematics and Jewish Education.

This past summer, IDF General Winter was criticized by the left for using "Shma Yisrael" in the Order of the Day to his troops as they went into battle in Gaza. Last week, pious Jews, stabbed and shot while praying, said those same eternal words, the cry of Jewish martyrs and Jewish soldiers ever since they were first proclaimed by the sons of Jacob.

The Hamas terrorists, the Har Nof terrorists, Hamas and Fatah, PFLP and the latest organizations of Islamic Jew-haters all shout "Allahu Akhbar" - Allah is great - as they aim their weapons at our people..

The words below, slightly abridged and paraphrased, were written over fifteen years ago, yet one has only to put "Har Nof massacre" instead of the italicized phrase"the stabbing of a Jew in Jerusalem" and change the desc‎ription in the second paragraph to what occurred there, to think they were written today:

"Nowhere was it more clearly seen. The real meaning of the struggle in the Holy Land was never more blatantly revealed than in the stabbing of a Jew in Jerusalem, recently. And now is it important for us to understand this reality, for if we do not we will not have the slightest idea of what the struggle in Israel is all about and, far worse, how to win it.

"Yehuda Avahami, a young man who prays daily at the Western Wall, was walking last week through the so-called Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. Just inside Sha'ar Shchem (Damascus Gate) he was attacked by an Arab who stabbed him in the back.

"And here is the crux of the story: As the Arab stabbed the Jew, the Arab shouted in triumph, 'Allahu Akbar!' (Allah is great). The Jew, attacked and feeling that he was in danger of death, shouted, 'Shma Yisrael!'

"And herein lies the real meaning of the struggle.

"It has become the slogan, the war call, the triumphant  shout of every Muslim terror attack on Jews. Allahu Akbar! The Arab who  drove the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem bus over the cliff, shouted it.  The Arab who attacked my nephew-soldier on the streets of Jerusalem, shouted it. It is the theme of the struggle of the Muslim Arabs against the Jewish state. And it is the theme of attack, of power, of defeating the Jewish enemy, of defeating the G-d of the Jews, of triumph for Islam. Allahu Akbar! is the voice of the terrorist attacking the Jewish victim.

"And the victim? He cries out, Shma Yisrael...

"Shma Yisrael becomes once again the symbol of the victim, of the Jew attacked, of the dying Jew. The great concept of Shma Yisrael, which was also meant to be the triumphant and powerful and resounding cry of the Jewish victory and the Omnipotence of the G-d of the Jews, becomes a thin, small, quiet voice in the desert. The voice of Kiddush Hashem, Jewish sanctification, becomes one of Jewish sacrifice and death, [as it was in the Diaspora]..

"And that is Hillul Hashem, desecration of the Name, and that worst of Jewish crimes dare not be allowed to continue lest His awesome wrath rage against us.

"Shma Yisrael! Hear O Israel! This is the way the mashuach milchama, the priest who was ordained as the one who led the Jews into battle, would begin his speech to the Jewish army, prepared to go into battle:

"'Shma Yisrael!  Hear O Israel! You are coming near this day to the battle against your enemies. Let your heart not be faint; do not be afraid, do not panic, and do not be broken before them. For the L-rd, your G-d, is the One who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.' (Deuteronomy 20:3-4)

"Shma Yisrael is not just the plaintive cry of a Jewish victim, but the clarion call of the mashuach milchama, the appointed  Priest of War. It is not a numbing prayer of martyrdom but a certain, assured call of triumph.  Not the voice of the victim but the roar of the conqueror.  It is the affirmation of the real meaning of Shma Yisrael: 'Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G-d, the L-rd is One' - the only One, the all-powerful One, the all-conquering One, the One who is over all gods, including Allah.

"Shma Yisrael is the voice of the Jewish Warrior-Priest to the Jewish warriors, not to the Jewish victims. It is the affirmation of the power and Omnipotence of the Jewish G-d and the assurance that faith in Him guarantees victory.

"In the words of the Talmud (Sotah 42a): 'Why does the message begin with the words Shma Yisrael, in particular? Rabbi Yochanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon Bar- Yochai: the All Mighty said to Israel: even though you only observed the mitzvah of Shma Yisrael in the morning and in the evening, you will not be given over to your enemies.'

"You think that is an easy thing, Jew? Think again.

"Shma Yisrael is the symbol, the utterance of real faith.  Real faith.  Not the plastic faith of theory in which the Jew finds a hundred reasons to back away from confrontation with the enemy at the moment of reality.

"Faith means believing the cry of the mashuach milchama whose Shma Yisrael is an integral part of, 'Let your heart not be faint... do not be afraid!'  And in the words of the Sifri (Shoftim 192): 'They come with the victory of flesh and blood, and you come with the victory of the All Mighty'. And the Talmud, Sotah (ibid.), expands on this: 'The Philistines came with the victory of Goliath; what was his end? In the end he fell with the sword and they fell with him, and you are not that way.  For the L-rd, your Gd, is the One who goes with you, to fight for you...'

"'The Shma Yisrael  that was meant to be the slogan of Jewish power and Omnipotence of our G-d, turned into the affirmation of a victim's faith in Hashem when we had no power of our own.  We took that cry of power and turned it into weakness in our own land. 

"'Kol ha'Shem ba'koach! The voice of the L-rd is powerful!' (Psalms 29:4). And if that is true, so must  the voice of His people be powerful.  'Who is the King of glory? The L-rd, strong and mighty, the L-rd, mighty in battle' (ibid., 24:8). And if that is true, then we must crown Him king in battle by our being strong and mighty in battle.

"The reason that the terrorist shouts Allahu Akbar is because we allow him to think so. On that glorious day in 1967 when Jewish troops, the Tzivot Hashem, the host and ranks of the All Mighty, swept into the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, there were no shouts of Allahu Akbar. There was only fearful realization in the eyes and hearts of the enemy who saw, and felt and knew - "Shma Yisrael, Hashem Echad!"

"It was the Jewish retreat and fear of the world, of the nations, that reinstilled in the heart of the Muslims the belief that Allahu Akbar.  It was the  terrible lack of faith in the words of the priest of battle, 'Do not be afraid.... for the L-rd is the One who goes with you, to fight for you,'  that brought on us this terrible resurgence in faith and strength and arrogance of the Islamists. In direct proportion to Jewish lack of faith and fearful prostration before the world did the Islamic terrorists grow in certainty and confidence in Allah.What a terrible indictment of the Jewish people! As if we were still in Pinsk or Casablanca.

"And so a terrorist proudly attacks a Jew and cries, Allahu Akbar, and the Jew cries out: Shma Yisrael as a dying affirmation of his faith.

"But we have to adopt the cry of power."


Power does not only mean bloodshed. It also means reacting powerfully with actions, the kind that lead to deterrence. This can be destroying terrorist homes, preventing monies from being transferred to their families and to the PA, revoking citizenship for terrorist families and those who aid them, expelling terrorists and their families and all the other suggestions found in Israeli opinion columns, but much less in news articles. 

One lacuna seems to crop up again and again as hired Arab workers use their job locations to reconnoitre and plan their attacks on Jews going about their lives - Yehuda Glick and the Har Nof worshipers, for example. Why should it not be mandatory to check a database with the identities of all those involved in terror attacks, and if they have any sort of terrorist connection, forbid their employment? Forever? Why was it accepted practice - and rightly so - for the Education Ministry to insist, when I was CEO of a youth village with a dormitory, on a check for police records of every prospective employee to be sure he had not committed any form of molestation in the past, to be sure of not hiring anyone who had? At the very least, doing this would mean that taking part in terrorist acts affects the attacker's family's earning power - and make it harder to plan the attacks from their place of employment.

Who wrote the words paraphrased above? They are from "Beyond Words", Vol. 6, written by Rabbi Meir Kahane, Hy"d, a much maligned and tragic figure, who seems now to have been eerily prescient. Thanks to Moshe Saperstein and Levi Chazen for sending the excerpt to me.