Funeral orations have a special place in the history of great speechwriting. Battlefield eulogies have an advantage within the genre because of the drama inherent in the story, so it’s no surprise that Pericles’s funeral address for the casualties of the Peloponnesian War is often invoked, despite being two millennia old.

Eight years after the founding of the modern state of Israel, its revered military figure Moshe Dayan gave what is still his country’s most famous battlefield eulogy—one of its most famous speeches of any kind, in fact—that over the decades has attained in Israel the mythic status of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. And it is a speech that a great many Israelis are rereading or rewatching these days, because it warned the courageous Jewish pioneers on the Gaza border that their living dream could only be sustained by an ice cold realism. It was delivered in Nahal Oz, the same Nahal Oz that was infiltrated by Hamas murderers on Oct. 7. And its occasion was a murderous infiltration from Gaza 67 years ago. Dayan’s speech could have been written after Oct. 7 but was in fact written to prevent an event like Oct. 7 from happening.

Roi Rotberg was 13 during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948 when he volunteered as a messenger for the soldiers fighting for the Jewish homeland. He was 21 when he was killed by Arab gunmen from Gaza. As Nahal Oz’s security officer, he rode out to the fields regularly to chase away Arab thieves coming from across the border. When he did so on April 29, 1956, he rode right into a trap and was shot. Gazans dragged his body to their side of the border, badly mutilated it, and returned it to the Israeli side.

Dayan’s eulogy for Rotberg gets compared to the Gettysburg Address because it was brief yet powerful, a statement of national purpose and identity amid tragedy, and a searing indictment of complacency. Israelis must look at themselves through Gazan eyes, he told those gathered. In 1956, many of those in Gaza were refugees from the war. Not only did they fail to exterminate the Jews, but the Jews had clearly been accepted by the soil itself in their ancient homeland. And so, Dayan said, “Not from the Arabs of Gaza must we demand the blood of Roi, but from ourselves.” Jews have forgotten, he lamented, that the youth of Israel carry the burden of “the heavy gates of Gaza, beyond which hundreds of thousands of eyes and arms huddle together and pray for the onset of our weakness so that they may tear us to pieces.”

Without security and vigilance, the Jews of Nahal Oz could not plant a single tree because “beyond the furrow that marks the border, lies a surging sea of hatred and vengeance, yearning for the day that the tranquility blunts our alertness, for the day that we heed the ambassadors of conspiring hypocrisy, who call for us to lay down our arms.”

What follows is Mitch Ginsburg’s 2016 English translation of the speech. The Hebrew original is fewer than 300 words, but in any language it says all that needed to be said:

Yesterday with daybreak, Roi was murdered. The quiet of a spring morning blinded him, and he did not see the stalkers of his soul on the furrow. Let us not hurl blame at the murderers. Why should we complain of their hatred for us? Eight years have they sat in the refugee camps of Gaza, and seen, with their own eyes, how we have made a homeland of the soil and the villages where they and their forebears once dwelt.

Not from the Arabs of Gaza must we demand the blood of Roi, but from ourselves. How our eyes are closed to the reality of our fate, unwilling to see the destiny of our generation in its full cruelty. Have we forgotten that this small band of youths, settled in Nahal Oz, carries on its shoulders the heavy gates of Gaza, beyond which hundreds of thousands of eyes and arms huddle together and pray for the onset of our weakness so that they may tear us to pieces — has this been forgotten? For we know that if the hope of our destruction is to perish, we must be, morning and evening, armed and ready.

A generation of settlement are we, and without the steel helmet and the maw of the cannon we shall not plant a tree, nor build a house. Our children shall not have lives to live if we do not dig shelters; and without the barbed wire fence and the machine gun, we shall not pave a path nor drill for water. The millions of Jews, annihilated without a land, peer out at us from the ashes of Israeli history and command us to settle and rebuild a land for our people. But beyond the furrow that marks the border, lies a surging sea of hatred and vengeance, yearning for the day that the tranquility blunts our alertness, for the day that we heed the ambassadors of conspiring hypocrisy, who call for us to lay down our arms.

It is to us that the blood of Roi calls from his shredded body. Although we have vowed a thousand vows that our blood will never again be shed in vain — yesterday we were once again seduced, brought to listen, to believe. Our reckoning with ourselves, we shall make today. We mustn’t flinch from the hatred that accompanies and fills the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs, who live around us and are waiting for the moment when their hands may claim our blood. We mustn’t avert our eyes, lest our hands be weakened. That is the decree of our generation. That is the choice of our lives — to be willing and armed, strong and unyielding, lest the sword be knocked from our fists, and our lives severed.

Roi Rotberg, the thin blond lad who left Tel Aviv in order to build his home alongside the gates of Gaza, to serve as our wall. Roi — the light in his heart blinded his eyes and he saw not the flash of the blade. The longing for peace deafened his ears and he heard not the sound of the coiled murderers. The gates of Gaza were too heavy for his shoulders, and they crushed him.

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