A Nation of Lions Led by Donkeys

An article by Zulat President, Zehava Galon, originally published in Hebrew in “Haaretz”, 12/10/23.


“We are a nation of lions,” former prime minister Naftali Bennett said in an interview from Soroka Hospital on Sunday (8 October). He spoke about Roy Levy and Ofir Libstein who fell in combat and about the long lines of Israelis waiting to donate blood. I heard him speak, and I was deeply moved. There are no words to describe the magnitude of the horror: youngsters butchered at a music party, families slaughtered in their homes, women, children, and elderly persons abducted. These are not only heinous war crimes, but barbaric and inhuman behavior for which there is no justification. And all the time, what kept going through my head was the phrase used to describe the British Army after World War I: “Lions led by donkeys.”

Civilians were forced to turn into lions because the state did not have their back when they most needed it. At noon on Saturday (7 October), reservists were called upon to report to train and bus stations, but no one bothered to provide them transportation. Civilians drove them to the south in their private cars, risking their own lives. Civilians are now donating food, sanitary napkins, and even ceramic body armor because for some reason these are not available either. Excuse me, didn’t we all give at the office? The defense budget was 110.2 billion shekels in 2022 and expected to grow to 125.1 billion shekels in 2024. What did you buy with that money? Mars bars?

The conspiracy theory spread by Bibists has it that there is no way Hamas could have breached the fence without “help from the inside.” It spread so fast through pro-Bibi channels that it is hard to believe they did not get it from the stinky head of the fish, straight from the very top, as Israeli citizens in Sderot and kibbutzim sat huddling in bomb shelters, without water or electricity, pleading for help online. Hate channels on WhatsApp, Telegram, and the sickening Channel 14 have already started spreading lies about Arabs setting fields on fire. It is an orchestrated campaign of hatred entirely designed to shirk responsibility, to put the blame on someone else, just not on Mr. Defense and Mr. Economy, the man who “turned Israel into an empire.”

This conspiracy theory had better be killed right now. The fiasco we experienced on 7 October and the fiascos we are seeing every day since are not only about the breached border fence. We could only wish that was our problem! What we saw this week was an army unable to transport soldiers a few dozen kilometers to save besieged civilians, an army awash in Tik Tok channels and information centers but unable to provide basic equipment to the enlisted reservists, an army that knows how to chase after children in Hebron and destroy shacks in the Jordan Valley but cannot run an emergency depot, deploy troops to the front, or set up a war room to deal with the missing persons. Facebook and Twitter are full of pictures of joyful youngsters who have not been heard from for days, as their anguished parents wait for an authoritative source to contact them. Totally mind-boggling!

Politicians prattle on about occupying Gaza, which is all we can do not to cry out in frustration. Which army will occupy Gaza? What are you talking about? Zero reality check! Let’s start with the army first recapturing Sderot and then continue from there. Others suggest crushing Gaza. Finance Minister Smotrich proposes to fight in Gaza as if there were no hostages there. Little children, old people, men, women are nothing and mean nothing to him. He had more empathy for the pogromists in Hawarah.

This terrible moment calls for a sober look at reality. We have been fed more than enough illusions and nonsense, and the price is simply unbearable. At this point we know about at least 1,300 Israelis who were killed in a single day, a number that is likely to climb by the time this article is published. The Yom Kippur War, which lasted 19 days, saw 2,689 Israelis killed. Gaza is not Egypt, nor a regional superpower, yet it inflicted upon us the most humiliating defeat in our history. Muhammad Dayf revealed more organizational skills and resourcefulness than an army budgeted with billions and a prime minister who markets himself as one of the 18 smartest people in the world. This is the truth, and we must not run away from it.

On 9 October, Prof. Israel Weissman-Manor from Soroka Hospital wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter) that more than 600 wounded persons had been evacuated to the hospital in the two days prior. “The number of government ministers who came to visit the wounded and support the families looking for loved ones: Zero, not the prime minister, not the defense minister, not the internal security minister, and not even the health minister. In the past, they would have jumped at such a photo op.”

This is no oversight. They didn’t show up because they are afraid of negative pictures, of videos that might harm them. They are running their political careers, not the country. This is what they have always done and this is what they will continue to do.

Earlier this week Channel 12’s Gideon Oko interviewed MK Zvika Fogel of Otzma Yehudit. “Everything you have just described happened on your shift,” he told him. To which Fogel responded: “Okay, so it happened on my shift. What do you want me to do? To commit suicide?” Well, I don’t expect Fogel to commit suicide, but pay attention to what he said: “Okay, so it happened on my shift,” oops, sorry, we made a booboo. These people are out of touch with reality. They don’t understand, they will never understand, and nothing can be expected from them. They thought they could run a country with media messaging and Tik Tok videos. They drugged themselves and us with talk about power and strength, as all state systems were being stretched to the limit.

Our basic mistake was not lack of intelligence but overestimating our strength. We deployed three battalions to secure monthly Jewish prayers in the middle of Nablus and assigned soldiers to secure prayers in Hawarah and Mount Ebal and to protect outposts in the Jordan Valley and the Hebron mountain, as if the current situation would keep forever, as if no calamity would ever befall us. What will happen here if all hell breaks loose? What will happen if a second front opens up? That is not planned for, what will be will be.

The Knesset’s winter session will open on Monday (16 October), the same day Supreme Court President Esther Hayut is due to end her term in office. The crazies in government wasted a year on their disastrous regime revolution to weaken the independence of the judiciary. I don’t expect these people to resign, they don’t have the conscience to do that, but at the minimum they should immediately now announce the repeal of 225 laws passed in the name of their revolution and demand from them to start treating this country and its citizens seriously. Otherwise, there is no hope for us here.


Photo taken from the original article in Haaretz, credit: Eyal Toueg

Translation from Hebrew: Shoshana Michkin


Dr. Maha Sabbah Karkabi


Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Tel Aviv University (2015), a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Gender Studies, SOAS, University of London (2015-2016), a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Sociology at Tel Aviv University (2016-2017), and a postdoctoral fellowship Ph.D. at the Humphrey Institute for Social Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (2018-2020).
Dr. Maha Karbahi’s areas of interest focus on the connection between social change, family behavior, and gender inequality in societies in the process of change and specifically in Palestinian Arab society in Israel. Her research draws attention to the study of family life and employment, using a combined “ethnic lens” and “gender lens” and paying attention to the perspective of Palestinian Arab women, a group characterized by intersections between multiple marginal locations, which over the years has remained hidden from the research eye. Dr. Karkabi-Sabah’s research is published in professional journals and chapters in scientific books that are considered pioneers in family research, work, and gender equality.


Prof. Frances Raday

Professor Emeritus in the Lieberman Chair in Labor Law, in the Faculty of Law at the Hebrew University and serves as a full professor in the College of Management’s academic track, where she also serves as chair of the graduate program and as honorary president of the Concord Center for International Law Absorption. Radai was a member of a working group of the UN Human Rights Council on discrimination against women. In addition, she is a prominent and feminist human rights activist.


Dr. Rawia Aburabia 

Faculty member of Sapir Academic College’s School of Law, received her PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research deals with the interface between law, gender, minorities, and human rights. Has published in leading journals on the subject of the matrimonial laws pertaining to Muslim women in Israel. Her book Under the Law, Outside Justice: Polygamy, Gendered Citizenship, and Colonialism in Israeli Law is expected to be published as part of the Gender Series of Kibbutz Meuhad Publishing House.

Dr. Aburabia has extensive experience in international human rights and public law. She has worked as a jurist for the Association for Civil Right and has been invited as a specialist to address such international forums as the United Nations and the European Parliament on the subject of indigenous communities and minority rights. She has interned with Human Rights Watch in Washington DC, and has been a member of the executive board of Amnesty International. In 2018, she was selected by the magazine Globes as one of the 40 most promising young persons in Israel under the age of 40.



Ron Kessler

With over two decades of experience in the field of digital content, Ron has participated in numerous political and social campaigns. He helped run the digital activity of senior public officials, and worked in various NGOs. Ron is a fundamentally optimistic man, who believes that Israel can be changed and so can people. Lives in Tel Aviv.