• The Rebbe’s Notes on a Confidential Report

    Operation Entebbe#2 We continue with a second chapter on the Lubavitch connection to the miraculous Operation Entebbe of summer 5736 (1976) • Who sent the Rebbe a confidential report about the operation, and what were the security breaches the Rebbe pointed out? • By Beis Moshiach Magazine • Full Article

    Shneur Zalman Berger, Beis Moshiach

    29 Sivan 5736. 12:35 Israeli time. An Air France jet, flight 139 from Ben Gurion airport to Paris, was hijacked shortly after a stopover in Athens. The hijackers were two Germans, members of the BaaderMeinhof gang, and two Arab terrorists. The hijackers announced the hijacking to the pilot and passengers and ordered the pilot to land the plane in Benghazi in Libya. From there, they flew the plane to Entebbe in Uganda. In Uganda, they were joined by another four Arab terrorists. The terrorists took orders from Wadie Haddad.

    The Israeli government began conducting talks with Ugandan dictator Idi Amin but he chose to cooperate with the terrorists. After some time, the hijackers began conducting a selection among the passengers, freeing some of them while retaining ninety-eight Israeli and Jewish passengers who were assembled in the passengers lounge in the old terminal in Entebbe airport.

    The hijackers announced their demands: the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the hostages. They threatened that if their demands were not met, they would kill the hostages. The demands included the release of fifty-three terrorists of whom forty were in Israeli prisons.

    The Israeli government began negotiations with the pressure and fear increasing from day to day. All knew that the hostages were located in a forsaken country ruled by a maniac.

    On Shabbos 12 Tammuz, exactly one week after the daring rescue on Shabbos 5 Tammuz, the Rebbe dedicated the farbrengen to speaking about the importance of the operation that rescued dozens of Jews and called to strengthen Mivtza Mezuza and Mivtza Chinuch while emphasizing that the rescue came about through “the mouths of babes.”

    What did the Rebbe mean by that? What connection was there between youngsters and the daring rescue operation?

    ***

    Tefillos were recited by Jews everywhere. The Eidah HaChareidis held an Atzeres Tefilla along with a partial-day fast for Thursday of parshas Chukas, 3 Tammuz. The gathering took place in the large yard of the Talmud Torah Meah Shearim in the Meah Shearim neighborhood. Over 10,000 children convened with thousands more men and women in neighboring streets. Surprisingly, the 12 Pesukim were recited, verse by verse, by the one leading the services.

    Rabbi Avrohom Boruch Pevzner, then shliach to Eretz Yisrael and mashpia who took over as the Lubavitch rav of Paris after his father passed away, told about the meetings that took place behind the scenes that led to the recitation of the 12 Pesukim:

    The shluchim to Eretz Yisrael endeared themselves to a number of important rabbanim in Yerushalayim including Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Weiss, the Gaavad (chief justice of the rabbinical court) of the Eidah HaChareidis, and we decided to try to work through him to have the 12 Pesukim recited at the big gathering.

    The morning of the gathering, two of us shluchim, Sholom Dovber Labkowski [today rosh kollel in Kfar Chabad] and I went to R’ Weiss’ house. We said, since the purpose of the tefilla gathering was rescue and protection of the hostages and the Torah says there is something special about the utterances of children [as it says in Tehillim], “m’pi olelim v’yonkim yisadta oz, l’hashbis oyeiv u’misnakem” (out of the mouth of babes and sucklings You have established strength [because of Your adversaries], in order to put an end to enemy and avenger), it was appropriate that the 12 Pesukim and maamarei Chazal that the Rebbe established [about a month and a half earlier] be said for just this purpose.

    We gave him a paper with the 12 Pesukim and he examined it. He knew us well and was greatly mekarev us since we were shluchim of the Rebbe. This time too, he welcomed us very graciously even though we had come without an appointment and although that morning he was very busy.

    He asked about the 12 Pesukim, did they have particular protective properties or would any Torah and tefilla said by “babes and sucklings” have this segula, except that the Rebbe chose these verses because of the content of emuna, chinuch etc. and if so, there was no significance to reciting these particular verses for salvation?

    We said yes, these verses were a segula for this. Although we had not heard this explicitly, the very fact that the Rebbe chose these verses itself gave them this power in greater measure.

    R’ Weiss immediately called the court secretary, the late R’ Breitstein, and together they invited Rabbi Moshe Weber to come over. He arrived and went into R’ Weiss’ room and we waited in an outer room. After they spoke, R’ Breitstein said the matter had been arranged.

    At the Atzeres Tefilla, after reciting Tehillim and Selichos, the shliach tzibbur said the 12 Peskukim along with everyone.

    ***

    As the government negotiated to free the hostages, the IDF was planning a daring rescue operation based on intelligence information they had about the airport in Entebbe. At first, PM Yitzchak Rabin refused to approve the military operation, but when the IDF presented him with a detailed plan he held a vote and a majority voted in favor.

    After the plan received government approval, four Hercules aircraft of the IAF took off from Sharm-el-Sheikh and flew to Entebbe. They managed to arrive exactly as planned and even landed the planes easily, even though the light at the airport suddenly shut as they were landing. A series of mishaps brought them to the attention of the Ugandan soldiers who opened fire at the  commandos who did not stop running toward the terminal.

    Upon arriving at the building, they identified the terrorists and shot them. The passengers were quickly taken to the Hercules planes which flew to Kenya where they refueled and continued to Israel.

    The IDF’s surprise and speed were so great that by the end of the operation, when the Defense Minister said to call Idi Amin to thank him for his help to the hostages (obviously tongue-in-cheek), Idi Amin had no idea about the operation. He reminded Israel that “tomorrow is the deadline for the terrorists’ ultimatum.”

    The drama of the hijacking and Operation Entebbe left the world stunned. About 100 hostages who were held thousands of miles from Israel were extricated and returned home.

    Chassidim then remembered that in the middle of mincha on Shabbos, something out of the ordinary had occurred. The Rebbe had taken a Tehillim and began quickly saying chapters of Tehillim.

    They say that after the operation, a secret emissary came to the Rebbe with a secret report with details of the operation. The Rebbe read it and responded to it in writing on the report itself (due to the secretive nature of the document):

    … Of course – I began reading the report and once I started, I read it till the end at once (despite other matters that were on the schedule) – as to the impression it made he will certainly realize himself when he reads it, although I suspect it will be with greater dispassion than me…

    Those who were involved in the early discussions about the military operation, whether it was worthwhile to go ahead with it despite all the dangers or to fully invest in the approach of negotiations, knows that leading those in favor of the operation were then Defense Minister Shimon Peres and Chief of Staff Motte Gur while Rabin favored negotiations.

    The Rebbe expressed surprise that nobody had raised the possibility that after Israel would agree to all the demands the hijackers would not keep their word and return all the hostages.

    It is shocking that in all of the discussions cited in detail in the report – no one mentioned the possibility that the negotiations etc. all the way to a final agreement, is no guarantee that the other side would in the end fulfill at least the main condition that all of the hostages be returned alive!

    This is despite experience of several thousand years of talks and signed agreements etc. of the Jewish people and the nations of the world!

    The operation was executed by the Sayeret Matkal unit with the help of the Air Force, paratroopers and Golani. Afterward, the Rebbe sent a telegram response to a later report in which he suggested forming a secret unit similar to that which executed this rescue operation. The idea seems to be that when they would need to do something like this again, there would be a secret unit ready. The Rebbe followed this up by saying perhaps the proposal itself should also be done in secret.

    On Shabbos 12 Tammuz 5736, the first Shabbos after the operation, the Rebbe spoke at length about the miracles that occurred. He spoke about a minister in the Israeli government who registered gentiles as Jews and had recently taken the position of releasing terrorists in exchange for hostages:

    He was the only one who said they need to give up all the terrorists imprisoned in Eretz Yisrael and he did so in a guise of holiness, saying that according to Shulchan Aruch you must give up the terrorists because it’s a matter of pikuach nefesh and therefore, it is forbidden to stand by idly in the face of danger to life…

    48 hours before the event, there was a meeting and he was the only one who said they need to give up the terrorists, the same one who said they need to register goyim as Jews, the opposite of Torah, said to give up the terrorists and he said it while sitting and wearing a kippa … Why did he become an authority about what ought to be done according to Shulchan Aruch? A psak din is asked of a rav, not him, just as with conversion one needs to ask rabbanim and they pasken that it must be halachic conversion …

    Then the Rebbe said that the entire thing was a great miracle which he would speak about it the next day (at the 13 Tammuz farbrengen) but, in any case, one ought to think why Hashem did this. Why did Jews need to be in danger and fear for an entire week and require a big miracle? Therefore, said the Rebbe, one needed to know that in such an instance, the leaders needed to urge Jews to put on tefillin, put up a mezuza and then the verse, “Hashem will protect your going out and coming in from now and forevermore” would be fulfilled.

    At the farbrengen the next day, the Rebbe spoke about the event with most of the farbrengen focused on the great miracle that occurred to Jews who were held as hostages and the conclusions regarding what is required of us in our avoda now:

    In this operation, we saw the advantage of quality over quantity. With a few soldiers and relatively few weapons compared to the other side, they managed to free them. Here, it was clearly seen that there is a Baal HaBayis in charge here and He is the one who gave them the idea of doing this rescue operation.

    The lesson to learn from this is: along with giving thanks, a “yasher koach” to the soldiers who endangered themselves in order to save Jews – anyone who saves a soul is like one who sustains an entire world, and all the more so when it is many souls, the blessing of good should come upon them and many times over; one needs to see the inner intent of this event. Just as they powered the soul over the body in this event (through it being revealed within them that they had an extremely lofty power to rescue Jews and therefore they were chosen, and especially when it was revealed through them that there is a Baal HaBayis in charge and no calculation is made when it comes to saving a Jewish life) may this be a good start to the powering of the soul over the body in a way of “ascending in holiness.”

    The Rebbe also spoke about the four Jews who were killed and how the hostages were terrified for an entire week. At the end, the Rebbe spoke about lessons to be learned:

    All matters concerning security need to be strengthened to ensure that something like this does not happen again, as they actually did after the event. Similarly, there needs to be a strengthening of spiritual security, that Jewish conduct be expressed not in the heart, by going to shul on Yom Kippur, but in daily life.

    Among the mitzvos, there are certain mitzvos which are a segula for security. One of them is the mitzva of mezuza on which S-D-Y is written, the acronym for “Shomer Delasos Yisrael” (The Guardian of the Doors of Israel) about which it says, “May Hashem protect your going out and coming in from now and forevermore.” Therefore there has to be greater effort now in Mivtza Mezuza, to ensure that in every room (obligated in mezuza) of a Jewish home there is a kosher mezuza affixed according to halacha.

    … It would be proper to check the mezuzos of those who were rescued to see what condition they are in, not to catch them in an error, G-d forbid, but to make certain from now on. When the results of the checking will be publicized it will help the matter for many many Jews…

    Prior to the rescue operation, the Rebbe said that although there was “from the mouths of babes and sucklings you have established strength,” there also needed to be “to put an end to enemy and avenger” by the Israeli army. Although the victory in war is achieved by soldiers, the commanders get the medals. The soldiers are the babes and sucklings and it is through them that the enemy and avenger is put to an end.

    During that farbrengen, the Rebbe explained in detail how each of the 12 Pesukim could be explained to young children and how every pasuk in itself is a segula for protection for the Jewish people. The Rebbe again encouraged the learning of the 12 Pesukim by heart.

    In addition to mezuza and 12 Pesukim, the Rebbe added a hora’ah:

    Practically speaking, “action is the main thing,” it would be proper that as part of Mivtza Chinuch, especially that which is connected with children, the children should be educated in Mivtza Tzedaka. Even though the child did not yet reach the time when he is obligated in mitzvos according to Torah and he may not even have reached the [age of the] mitzva of chinuch according to Torah, still, it is most proper to start accustoming him to tzedaka.

    To make this easier for him, what’s needed is something that is “lo lishma” (as Rambam writes in his commentary on Mishnayos). Therefore, it would be fitting for every child to have his own pushka with his name on it, not to mention the possibility of his writing it, and then, when he puts tzedaka into it now and then (even better – every weekday) the pushka fills up and he can call the collector (the person who collects the tzedaka) and say he has here a pushka of his own, and here is where he himself put in a coin every day or two coins.

    Likewise, said the Rebbe, the next time they print booklets with the 12 Pesukim, room should be left to write “L’Hashem ha’aretz u’mlo’o” and place for the child to write who he convinced to learn the 12 Pesukim and the like.

    At the end of the farbrengen, the Rebbe said that Operation Entebbe was a warning sign and as such it would seem one should fast on erev Yom Kippur Kattan, i.e. erev Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av. However, since it is known that the way of the Alter Rebbe is not to fast, one should resolve before the Three Weeks to substitute the equivalent of the meals of Yom Kippur Kattan and give that to tzedaka.

    ***

    R’ Pevzner continued to recount, “That Sunday, the day after the big miracle, we went to R’ Weiss’ house to thank him for his help regarding the recitation of the Peskuim during the large Atzeres HaTefilla. R’ Weiss was very happy and in particularly uplifted spirits and he spoke with great wonder about the great miracle of the release of the hostages. He also mentioned the great satisfaction he had from the recital of the 12 Pesukim.

    “He asked us to relay his question about the 12 Pesukim, whether they were meant specifically for the protection of the Jewish people or as a general segula. Of course, that same day we relayed his question to the Rebbe’s secretary.

    “How excited we were when at the 13 Tammuz farbrengen the Rebbe explained at length how each of the 12 Pesukim and maamarei Chazal contains an inherent segula for protection, defense and rescue of every Jew. This was conveyed to R’ Weiss who was very appreciative.”

    As far as checking mezuzos, Chabad Chassidim went to the homes of the former hostages, encouraged the families and checked the mezuzos. At each home there was at least one problem. There were houses with pasul mezuzos and other homes with doorways without mezuzos altogether.

    The Rebbe spoke about the results of the checking in several sichos that were said in Av. The Rebbe stressed that not even one mezuza was found to be entirely kosher. Even the religious former hostages did not have perfectly kosher mezuzos which necessitates a greater awakening and effort in Mivtza Mezuza.

    After Operation Entebbe, Rabbi Yosef Hecht, rav of Eilat, went on a special mission to Australia along with his wife. Although they started the trip from America, the Rebbe told them to go by way of Eretz Yisrael and to visit the Chabad population centers and in each place to talk about being strengthened in the wake of the miracles.

    R’ Hecht:

    Before we arrived in Eretz Yisrael, Rabbi Chodakov called and told Rabbi Efraim Wolf (menahel of Tomchei Tmimim) to see to it that we were picked up from the airport and that we were accompanied throughout. R’ Wolf appointed Rabbi Zushe Wilyamowsky to be our escort and he happily went everywhere with us. He was enthusiastic and wherever we went he would fire up the crowd, “Here are shluchim of the Rebbe who came to say that which the Rebbe told them to say.”

    Rebbetzin Tila Hecht:

    This was after Operation Entebbe and in Eretz Yisrael especially and in the Jewish world in general there was tremendous spiritual inspiration. The Rebbe asked us to make a stir about Mivtza Mezuza and its power to protect. The instruction was to speak in four centers of Anash in Eretz Yisrael and we did so. My husband spoke to men and I addressed women.

    ***

    In addition to exchanging the equivalent of the meals on erev Rosh Chodesh, the Rebbe also said to increase Torah learning. The night of erev Rosh Chodesh, the Rebbe said a sicha about the importance of redeeming the fast and said to hold rallies for children in which they would learn and pray and this should be done with large crowds in a number of places. Likewise, he said to hold gatherings in holy places in Eretz Yisrael and at the Kosel. The Rebbe said this should be done on erev Tisha B’Av or on Tisha B’Av.

    The main rally was attended by thousands of children at the Kosel on Tisha B’Av. The emcee, Rabbi Tzvi Greenwald, davened with the children and recited the 12 Pesukim with them. The surprise gift that was given out to all of the participants was a pocket edition booklet of the 12 Pesukim.

    The next mitzva campaign was Mivtza Ahavas Yisrael which the Rebbe announced in Elul 5736. The summer of 5736 was a fascinating summer which began with an announcement of Shnas HaChinuch and the 12 Pesukim, followed by Operation Entebbe, which led to a great push for Mivtza Mezuza and the recitation of the 12 Pesukim, and ended with Mivtza Ahavas Yisrael. ■

    *

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