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Israel Names Its Attack on Gaza After Biblical War Story

Gaza Strike

What if they were Muslim? (H/T: Jack)

Israel Names Its New War After Biblical Story About God Terrorizing Egyptians

by John Cook, Gawker

If you speak Hebrew, the Israeli Defense Forces would like you to refer to the wave of assassination strikes it commenced in Gaza today as “Pillar of Cloud,” a Biblical reference to the form God adopted in order to protect the Children of Israel and strike terror into the heart of Egyptians. If you speak English, it would prefer you to use the less fanatical “Pillar of Defense.”

Israel’s Hebrew-language newspapers are all calling the new operation “Pillar of Cloud” (or so Gawker’s resident Hebrew speaker and Israeli native, Neetzan Zimmerman, tells me.) And that’s how the name of the operation first propagated in the America press. Here is the IDF’s official Hebrew Twitter feed, in answer to a question about the operation’s name, answering “Pillar of Cloud” about 90 minutes ago (thanks again to Neetzan for the translation):


Here’s what “Pillar of Cloud” means: According to the Bible, during the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, God took the form of a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night, in order to light their way and to frighten the Egyptian army.

Exodus 14:19-20:

Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel.

Exodus 14:24

During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion.

Exodus 13:21-22

By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.

Numbers 14:14

And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, Lord, are with these people and that you, Lord, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

So that’s what a Pillar of Cloud is: A worldly instantiation of an all-powerful, vengeful God seeking to demonstrate the primacy of his chosen people, to guide them in their affairs, and to confound their enemies. And that’s what the people who conceived and executed this wave of strikes against Hamas officials and Gazan civilians chose to call them. If anyone was worried about the increasing religious and ethnic fanaticism of the Israeli leadership, they should still be worried. Did Israel launch this attack because there was no other rational route to maintain its security? Or was it pursuing a broader agenda rooted in ancient mysticism?

English-speakers don’t really have to confront that question: According to the IDF’s English language blog, the operation is simply called “Pillar of Defense.” Much better.

The Israeli consulate did not respond to a phone message.

Update: An IDF spokesman emailed to say that “Operation Pillar of Defense” was not intended as a “direct, word-for-word” translation of “Pillar of Cloud.”

The name is not a direct, word-for-word translation. Like most translations, it is an attempt to convey the spirit of the name, rather than a simple Google Translate.

Regardless of the religious implications, the bible plays an important cultural role in Israel. I think that every example of Bible quotes you cited has defensive connotations, rather than “vengeful.”

Just my two cents.


I’ll See Your Jihad, and Raise You One Crusade

The Drone and the Cross

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  • Jill Farley

    To Abdul-Rahman

    Judges 1: 17-20 Go back and read, not just pull out scriptures. Judah was
    a person as I read, but you are writing it as God couldn’t help them. Go back and
    read it. You’ll get it.

  • Ilisha


    Evil powers in the spiritual realm? Sounds like someone’s been playing too much Mortal Kombat.

    Your photo proves nothing. Typical loon “evidence.”

    Just so you know, my reply was more for the benefit of other visitors, who might want to know exactly why we posted this article.

  • PeaceLover


    I suppose these ‘holy warriors’

    have also nothing to do with Jihad !?

    If you are talking about Ahmadinejad and Bush, I believe both were/are heavily influenced by evil powers in the spiritual realm.

  • Ilisha

    @PeaceLover [sic]

    Who came up with the concept of Jihad, wasnt it the ‘god of the quran’ ?

    As Sam Seed has already pointed out, “jihad” is not synonymous with “holy war.” In any case, what if Syria launched a military campaign against Israel, and dubbed it, “Operation Infinite Jihad”?

    I suspect the loons would fully exploit the opportunity to indict Islam. Similarly, how would the looniverse respond if Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said something like this, after launching military campaigns against the US and Israel:

    “‘I am driven with a mission from Allah’. Allah would tell me, ‘Mahmoud, go and fight these terrorists in America’. And I did. And then Allah would tell me ‘Mahmoud, go and end the tyranny in Israel’. And I did.”

    Again, it seems likely the loons would frame those military operations as a form of violent jihad, and insist they were glaring indictments of Islam. In fact, I’ve adapted a quote from former US “born again” Christian President George Bush, who said:

    “‘I am driven with a mission from God’. God would tell me, ‘George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan’. And I did. And then God would tell me ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq’. And I did.”

    The point of this post is not to suggest the name of the Israeli military campaign indicts Judaism. It doesn’t, nor does my example above indict Christianity. The point is to examine the difference in the commentary and coverage of non-Muslims vs. Muslims engaged in similar behavior, and thereby, to highlight double standards.

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  • dude

    @Crow “Land thieves know land theives”

    I like this quote, basically cause no people (including Arabs) ever got anywhere in this world without stealing a little land. So I guess this is how we all know each other?

    @Matt When one side wipes out the other, then there will be peace. Until that time, no peace.

    This one is even better cause for most of human history this and total subjugation was the definition of “peace”. Here’s to hoping someday we can change that. In the meantime, since neither Israelis nor Palestinians are willing to live as second class citizens in the others country (and no one in the mideast has been able to make multi-confessional states work) we are stuck with this bloody status quo…

    Also @Steve and @M. Birani, Anti-semitic much?

  • Sam Seed

    @Peace Lover

    The problem with people like you is you don’t have enough knowledge about the most basic tenets of Islam, if you did you would know that Jihad means to struggle and not Holy War as you imply.

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