The horrific attack waged on southern Israel on October 7, 2023, represented a long time of meticulous planning and training. Hamas’ strategy included the execution of the attack at a time when the nation should have been resting and celebrating. Terrorists took Israel by surprise, not unlike the circumstances surrounding the Yom Kippur War, which marked its fiftieth anniversary on the same day. Here is a brief look at how what is now being called the Second War of Independence began.
On the night of October 6, 2023, people went to sleep with thoughts of celebrating the festive Joy of the Law holiday (Simchat Torah) the next day. It was the final day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). During this biblical festival, people build booths (sukkot) and eat or even sleep in them to recall Israel’s time in the wilderness (Leviticus 23:34–36). Families ate their Sabbath dinners in the rustic structures, which appear all over Israel on porches, front yards, and rooftops.
For secular Israeli families, this time means a quiet and peaceful outing to the beaches or national parks, which you can find across the Land of Israel. For the religious and traditional Jewish people, it would be a day celebrating the completion of the cycle of reading through the five books of Moses—the Torah.
Simchat Torah celebrates the Law of Moses and all it means to Jewish people. The scrolls of the Torah are covered in embossed linen and have ornate silver breastplates and coverings for the scroll handles. As the annual cycle of Scripture readings ends, the congregation leaders will joyfully lead a procession around the synagogue with the Torah scrolls followed by the children. It is a joyous time of the year for Jewish people and a wonderful day of rest.
The Terror Begins
This year, the joy (simcha) was shattered at 6:30 in the morning by the wailing of air raid sirens and the shrill cry of the early warning phone apps most Israelis keep on their smartphones. What the people of Israel did not realize was the rockets the terror organization Hamas launched from the Gaza Strip were merely a decoy. Hamas was waging a much more deadly and horrific attack on the civilian communities surrounding the Gaza Strip and several of the crucial military bases in the region.
Until the morning of Simchat Torah, Israel felt secure and protected by the Israeli Defense Forces. At 7:40 am, Hamas militants launched a surprise and unprecedented incursion into Israel, taking over several Israeli towns. The world would discover more than 1,400 Israelis—mostly civilians—were killed and 200 were taken hostage over the weekend.
Caught by Surprise
The Israeli military, government, and people were caught unaware as the forces of Hamas unleashed a deadly and diabolical assault. For Hamas, this was a carefully planned and coordinated attack intended to commit heinous and barbaric atrocities on the civilian population and the Israeli soldiers stationed near the Gaza border.
Hamas attacked twenty civilian settlements, two cities, and several major military bases simultaneously. Hundreds of young people gathered in an open field near Kibbutz Re’em for the Supernova Music Festival. The terrorists included this site in their most gruesome and despicable acts of violence. Hamas had been plotting this vicious attack for a long time—and managed to fly under the radar of Israeli military intelligence:
Miri Eisin, a former senior intelligence officer in the Israel Defense Forces, said the operation was the result of at least two years of planning, a period that included two conflicts between the IDF and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a smaller militant group in Gaza. At the time, Hamas was criticized for standing on the sidelines as Israeli strikes eliminated PIJ leaders.
Heroes at the Gate
Though the Israeli military was unprepared to thwart or repel the lethal attack of more than 1,500 Hamas operatives, there are stories of heroic efforts preventing further loss of life. One story in particular captured the hearts of many Israelis: the heroism of Inbar Lieberman. As one journalist records:
Hamas was no match for an intrepid 25-year-old Israeli woman—who saved an entire kibbutz from harm by leading a group of residents to kill more than two dozen advancing terrorists, including five she slaughtered herself. Inbar Lieberman, the security coordinator of Kibbutz Nir Am since December 2022, heard explosions early Saturday, when the terrorists launched their unprecedented attack on the Jewish state, according to Walla News.
Emerging from the gruesome aftermath are numerous stories of heroic efforts to save lives and hold off the Hamas attack. Unfortunately, this heroism was too little and too late. As of October 31, Hamas terrorists murdered 1,500 Israelis and took more than 230 hostages into Gaza, including babies, children, senior citizens, soldiers, and foreign nationals. The grim reports of Hamas’ brutality toward their victims, some of whom were children, included decapitation, rape, burning alive, and dragging people through the street.
Preparing For War
In the fallout of the horrid attack and the barbaric carnage Hamas unleashed, Israel has been painfully identifying the dead. Terror-stricken families can only wait as officials work to confirm the fate of those missing. Immediately after the carnage, the Israeli Defense Forces called up more reservists than they have since the Yom Kippur War in 1973. More than 350,000 reservists are now actively serving due to this emergency call-up order.
The people of Israel are still in shock at the failure of the military and government to see this Hamas assault coming. For Israel, it is like the American experience of 9/11. Both tragedies signaled a total intelligence failure.
However, at least some Israeli military and civilian officials are standing up to take responsibility:
Shin Bet security service chief Ronen Bar on Monday took responsibility for the failures that led to Hamas’ massacre on October 7. By doing so, Bar joins several prominent figures who have taken responsibility, including the IDF chief of staff, senior army commanders and the National Security Adviser.
Fighting and tension engulf all of Israel even before Israeli forces enter Gaza. In the North along the Lebanon border, lethal skirmishes are breaking out between Hezbollah and Israeli soldiers. By all appearances, the war will likely involve Israeli forces further engaging Hezbollah. There is no easy end to this current war, and countless civilians and combatants—both Israeli and Arab—will perish. All we can hope for is a miraculous intervention. The hope for Jewish and Arab people and all nations is to turn to the Messiah Yeshua, the only true Prince of Peace.
Please join us in prayer for the redemption of all creation through Jesus: “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17, emphasis added).
 Peter Beaumont and Bethan McKernan, “Death Toll Rises to More than 1,000 Surprise Attack on Israel”, The Guardian, 2023 October 8, 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/oct/08/israel-gaza-hamas-attack-netanyahu-warns-of-long-and-difficult-war.
 Nir Hassan and Eden Solomon, “At the Supernova Music Festival, ‘Terrorists Were Waiting for Us in Every Direction’”, Haaretz, October 12, 2023, https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-10-12/ty-article-magazine/.premium/at-the-supernova-music-festival-terrorists-were-waiting-for-us-in-every-direction/0000018b-2477-d680-af9b-26ff158c0000?lts=1697569165678.
 Shira Rubin, Sarah Dadouch, and Steve Hendrix, “How Hamas’s Carefully Planned Israel Attack Devolved into a Chaotic Rampage”, The Washington Post, October 16, 2023,
 Yaron Steinbuch, “Israeli Woman, 25, Hailed As a Hero for Killing Terrorists, Leading Team that Saved Kibbutz from Hamas, New York Post, October 10, 2023, https://nypost.com/2023/10/10/israeli-woman-25-hailed-as-hero-for-killing-terrorists-leading-security-team-at-kibbutz/#.
 Yaniv Kubovich, Shin Bet Chief: We Were Unable to Thwart the Attack, the Responsibility for This Falls on Me, Ha’Aretz, Oct 17, 2023 8:07 am IDT, https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-10-17/ty-article/.premium/shin-bet-chief-we-were-unable-to-thwart-the-attack-responsibility-for-this-falls-on-me/0000018b-39fd-d450-a3af-79fdc6ae0000.