A Warrior Who Understood the Borders

There was nothing about General Doron Rubin’s brisk pace to give away his age. The man running along the hills — in his sandalim — was 70 years old, yet he looked like he owned the place, peering through his sunglasses and pointing at every hill with easy familiarity. “You see that valley?” he asked, pointing to a dot in the bucolic scenery that would immediately be imbued with tragic significance when he explained that dozens of soldiers had fallen in battle there.

Many years earlier, he had commanded battalions on this very spot. Four years ago, he went back again at the head of a battalion of chareidi journalists to show them the “other Israel” from a different perspective. “To show them the dangers, the victims, and everything this country has, other than politics,” as he put it.

If Rubin’s silken voice gave anyone the wrong impression, a peek at the entry under his name in the encyclopedia would soon put that right. He was a battle-decorated warrior who, with Hashem’s help, had many victories under his belt. “In practice,” he said to me during a brief break along our route, “I fought on all this country’s borders. I fought in the south during the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War. During the War of Attrition, I served in the valley, where I continued until Operation Peace for the Galilee, when I got to know the northern area very well.”

I listened to his tales of heroic battles, heard him talk about dozens of friends that “we lost” here and here and here, and I couldn’t help but ask: “Looking back, now that you know that a large portion of the territory where blood was spilled has been returned to the other side, don’t you feel disappointed? What did you fight for?”

He answered like a general, without hesitation: “From a military standpoint, fighting must serve a purpose. Looking back, I might be sorry, but I definitely think we achieved a goal in any case. The moment we captured an area, we brought the state a bargaining chip that we used to achieve security for the residents of this country. We all gave everything we had so that things would be better for Am Yisrael in its Land.”

Of all the achievements and victories he experienced in his life, he chose to present this one, both Jewish and precedent setting. “I had the merit,” he told me, “of establishing one of the most important traditions in the IDF: I was the first commander to swear in his unit at the Kosel Hamaaravi.”

It happened during the Six Day War in 1967, after an impressive victory over the enemy, by the Grace of Hashem. “The Kosel was not yet prepared. We saw it in its bleak state, small and full of rubble. And there, amidst the debris, we improvised a small stage. We brought the Chief Rabbi of the Central Command and swore in the soldiers.”

He, too, understood, in those days, that it was Hakadosh Baruch Hu Who was the victor and that they were merely his messengers. The Kosel Hamaaravi was just one expression of the IDF’s recognition of its Jewish identity and of the Guardian of Israel, Whose Eyes keep a constant watch over Eretz Yisrael.

“What is your position with regard to the two-state solution?” I asked him, and he replied, “As a military man, I prefer to avoid political questions. But I can encapsulate my own personal opinion into one sentence: We need a Jewish state and we dare not try the option of a bi-national state. Considering the Arab environment in which we find ourselves, this would be a threat to our existence. A Jewish state is a must.” He understood the boundaries.

The general passed away at the age of 73 last Shabbos. The Israeli media discussed his achievements and decorations and lauded his heroic battles.

This is General Doron Rubin’s doctrine, on one sandaled foot.