Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Entebbe Rescue and Today's Mission to Rescue Gilad

Today is July 4th. July 4, 2006 is the 230th anniversary of The Declaration of Independence - July 4, 1776. Today is also the 30th anniversary of the rescue of over 100 hostages (almost all Jewish) at Uganda's Entebbe airport. The Jerusalem Post has an excellent article in honor of the 30th anniversary of the successful Entebbe rescue.

I write this article, not only to point out the clear miracles that HaShem Performed in Entebbe, but to point out similarities between the events, both physically and time-wise.

It is clear that both the Entebbe event and the current hostage situation with Gilad Shalit both occur at the same time of the year - end of June, beginning of July. When one looks at the Jewish calendar there is an interesting relationship between the Jewish dates, specifically the Torah portion (parsha) of the week. Every once in a while, the Jews in the Diaspora fall behind the Jews in Eretz Yisrael for the Torah reading by a week. In order to catch up, the Jews in outside of Israel read a double-portion. In our time of year, the holiday of Shavuos fell on Friday in Israel and Friday/Saturday outside of Israel. In Israel, the parsha of Naso was read, while that portion was read the following Shabbos in the Diaspora.


Both hostage situations mirror each other (to a large extent) on their respective places on the timeline of the Jewish calendar.

יום ראשון, כ"ט סיון, התשל"ו: Sunday, June 27, 1976 - 29 Sivan 5736: Four terrorists hijack an Air France plane bound for Paris from Tel-Aviv, en-route from Athens. Just after noon, the terrorists took control of the plane and forced it to fly to Africa, finally landing in Entebbe, Uganda (home of dictator Idi Amin).

יום ראשון, כ"ט סיון, התשס"ו: Sunday, June 25, 2006 - 29 Sivan 5766: In the early morning, 8 terrorists tunnel their way into the Kerem Shalom army post, killing two soldiers, wounding others, and taking Corporal Gilad Shalit (ben Aviva) hostage.

It is interesting to note that in both situations France is involved - The plane that was hijacked was an Air France plane and the hostage situation now involves Gilad Shalit (ben Aviva), a citizen of France.

According to an article in the Jerusalem Post, the mission to rescue the hostages in Entebbe was viewed as taken from the television show "Mission Impossible: "Later, soldiers would joke that the plan sounded like a script from Mission Impossible: The Israelis would land without arousing suspicion, pretend to be Ugandan guards traveling in an entourage of Land Rovers behind President Idi Amin in his famous black Mercedes, and overtake the terrorists with the element of surprise, despite hundreds of enemy soldiers in every direction." According to one troop, the raid surpassed even what the fictional character James Bond had to go through.

The Palestinian terrorists threatened to blow up the airport with the hostages if their demand for the freeing of 53 Palestinian terrorists was not met - the deadline was given as July 1 at 14:00 and then pushed to July 4th at 14:00. Israel stated agreement to negotiate with the terrorists bought them more time to prepare their planned raid on Entebbe - Idi Amin ordered the three day extension of the deadline after hearing that Israel wanted to negotiate.

Currently, the Palestinians demand that Israel free all those who are women and under 18 from Israel's prisons in exchange for the release of Gilad. More recently, they also demanded an additional 1,000 terrorists freed in exchange for Gilad, requesting that Israel by the 6 am deadline on July the 4th. Israel says that they will not negotiate with terrorists and have publicly refused to talk with them, rather threatening the terrorists with strong military action if they do not release Gilad. If they dare harm Gilad, "the sky will fall on them" through, among other things, Israeli military action.

The hostages were rescued at about 1 a.m. on July 4th, 59 hours after the terrorists' original deadline expired, 13 hours before their final deadline expired. As of now, the deadline of 6 a.m. (Israel time) expired over 26 hours ago (tomorrow afternoon Israel time would be comparable).


On Wednesday, the 9th of Tammuz of 5766, as part of the Daf Yomi cycle, we learn the gemara on Yoma 28; On the same date in 5736 (also Wednesday, the ninth of Tammuz) the daf of the day was Pesachim 58. Amazingly, there is a strong relationship between the two gemaras. Both of these pages in the gemara discuss the same topic to the extent that each gemara cross-references each other (i.e. each page notes the other gemara). Both gemaras discuss that when Pesach begins on Shabbos, the Tamid offering for Erev Shabbos (also Erev Pesach) is brought a few hours earlier than normal - 6.5 (halachic) hours into the day, whereas on typical days, the Tamid is brought 9.5 (halachic) hours into the days. RaSh"I notes that the Tamid brought in the afternoon must be brought when the shade is beginning to spread out.

The tefillos (prayers) today are structured after the Tamid offering. Shacharis (the morning prayer) follows the morning offering of the Tamid. Mincha can either be said 6.5 hours into the day, based on the earliest time the Tamid was ever allowed to be brought - this is called "Mincha Gedola", or 9.5 (halachic) hours into the days - "Mincha Ketana".

As we know, there is not such thing as "coincidence" in Judaism. In the Book of Amos (ch. 4) we read that just as a bird is only trapped if it was caught in a snare, a lion roars if it caught prey, so too does everything happen as a result of HaShem's Bidding - no coincidences. The same gemara being learnt on the same date and a very similar hostage situation unfolding between Israel and the Palestinians as what happened in Entebbe is not a coincidence.

We should all take the hint - Prayer is central to success. What is especially interesting is that the tefillah of Mincha is known to be the most powerful in terms of being answered - Eliyahu the prophet and our forefather Isaac were answered after reciting the prayer of Mincha. HaShem Answered Eliyahu's prayer by miraculously accepting his offering, providing a public display to the Israelites that it is HaShem Who should be served, not the god ba'al. Yitzchak was answered also right after praying Mincha by being greeted with his soon-to-be bride, Rivka.

It is incumbent upon us to pray to HaShem, in Mincha and throughout the day, to help bring about the safe release of Gilad ben Aviva from the hands of his captors. Remember, every Jewish tefillah counts.


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