From the knock of the roof to the knock on the door  – the sights and sounds of Israel’s war  with Gaza

By Jonathan Feldstein

Knock, knock. Who’s there?” is a great way to start a timeless children’s joke, but in Israel today it has another meaning.

It’s well known and abundantly documented that for many years, one thing Israel’s military does when targeting and taking out a terrorist, there’s a policy of what’s called “a knock on the roof” where a non-lethal bomb is dropped on the roof of a building in which there is terrorist target. It may be the residence of a terrorist leader’s apartment building or the headquarters of a terrorist military or communications network. More often than not, these terrorist targets are deliberately located in apartment buildings in highly populated areas, embedded purposely within the civilian population. This is in keeping with terrorist policy to use their own civilians as human shields.

The purpose of the ‘knock on the roof’ is to warn residents to evacuate a building before a terrorist is targeted.  A positive of this policy is that it saves the lives of civilians, while the negative is that it gives terrorists an opportunity to escape. In some instances, targeting of the terrorist is so precise that it looks as if the Israeli military were highly trained surgeons, hitting the exact wall of the exact room on the exact floor in the exact apartment in which the terrorist leader is sleeping, mindful of the engineering of the rest of the building. This prevents it from collapsing entirely, and taking out the terrorist target with a level of precision unknown in modern warfare.  

The surgical analogy is also appropriate because it saves lives of others nearby, or even in the same building, while eliminating the terrorist threat.

Out of Harm’s Way. Israeli army planes drop leaflets over Gaza City on Friday October 13 asking residents to flee to the south of the Strip to avoid the conflict. (Mohammed Talatene/picture alliance via Getty Image)

A similar policy to the knock on the roof is the dropping of leaflets, or making wide broadcasts in Arabic telling those who are not combatants to leave a particular area.  That’s happened widely as Israel prepared to enter Gaza with combat troops and tanks, targeting the terrorists, and to try rescue the 240+ hostages.  Unfortunately, not only does this also provide opportunity for terrorists to escape, especially when specific times and routes are published during which people can get out of the areas facing the toughest battles, the terrorists target these areas and people trying to flee.  It has been abundantly documented that Hamas terrorists have been blocking the evacuation routes, threatening civilians at gun point so that they may not leave, and targeting these with mortar fire to prevent average Gazans from fleeing.   

Head South. Heeding the advance warning of Israel, Gazans leave the north after the Israeli army issued an evacuation warning in northern Gaza and Gaza City. (Hatem Moussa/AP)

Remember this when you see propaganda reports from the Hamas controlled “Gazan health ministry” about how many people have been killed.  Can you trust their numbers?  How do we know that among the actual dead and wounded they are all civilians when their terrorists wear no uniforms and hide among the actual civilians? When you see suffering of women and children, ask how many tried to flee, only to be turned back by Hamas to face certain carnage and suffering.

In Isael today, “knock” has another lethal meaning. In times of heightened conflict and war, when soldiers are actively engaged in fighting terrorists, a “knock” in Isael is something to be fearful of. There’s a whole military unit whose responsibility it is to inform families of soldiers who have been killed in combat of the death of their loved one. It’s known that the army shows up and knocks on the door.  Unlike Israel’s “knock on the roof” to save lives, this is a knock of dread.  It’s also the consequence of sending ground forces into highly populated areas to engage the terrorists face to face, precluding an actual carpet bombing, and therefore saving lives of more Gazan Palestinian Arabs, while putting our soldiers lives at risk. That’s also something to remember as the death toll of Israeli soldiers increases. Israel could simply bomb Gaza without any regard for the lives of their civilians.  Instead it sends ground troops in to engage the terrorists with precision, trying to prevent civilian casualties, yet at risk to themselves.

Fighting for our Home. Family and friends attend the funeral of IDF soldier Maj. Tal Cohen at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem on October 10, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

This week, I dropped off something at a neighbor’s house.  Naturally, instinctively, I knocked on the door.  As I heard her ask “Who is it?” I realized suddenly I should not have knocked but rang the doorbell.  Why?  Her son is in a combat unit, in Gaza now. Any knock on the door can create fear. 

Last week, I hosted conversation as an episode of the “Inspiration from Zion” podcast.  It was a with young Israeli women whose husbands have been called up into reserves and have been away from home, and their families, for most of the month.  There were several recurring themes about how these women have been holding up the home front while their husbands are on the front line.  But one of them, perhaps the scariest, is the fear of getting the knock on the door. It’s something they understand that their children do not, and makes keeping their kids safe and protected while coping with their own stresses all the more challenging.

On a personal note, recently my combat unit soldier son-in-law was promoted to Major.  His commanding officer called my daughter to share the news.  When my daughter saw who was calling her face went white and her blood pressure dropped. She didn’t know about the promotion, so a call from the commanding officer in the midst of a war, rightly, made her frightened.  It was good they could speak about that too.  However, my son-in-law’s commanding officer said, perhaps to be comforting or perhaps to deflect this reality with humor, “Don’t worry, if something happened, you’d get a knock on the door, not a phone call.”

“Knock, knock,” has different meanings in Israel at war. One knock is to save lives of Gazan Palestinian Arabs. The other knock is when an Israeli soldier lost his or her life. 

You can join the Genesis 123 Foundation Israel Emergency Campaign to provide humanitarian relief, support for soldiers, their spouses and children, desperately needed civilian security, and more, through this link HERE and send your own prayers and words of encouragement as well.

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