home
RSS
Name of Israel’s anti-Hamas operation has biblical meaning
Smoke billows from a spot targeted by the Israeli military inside the Gaza Strip last week.
November 20th, 2012
09:49 AM ET

Name of Israel’s anti-Hamas operation has biblical meaning

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) – To English speakers, the name of Israel’s anti-Hamas campaign sounds pretty straightforward: “Operation Pillar of Defense.”

But reading the name of the Israeli operation in Hebrew might provoke some head-scratching. In Hebrew, the Israel Defense Forces have branded their recently launched anti-Hamas effort as “Operation Pillar of Cloud.”

An IDF spokesman explained that most Israelis would recognize “Pillar of Cloud” as a biblical reference.

“It’s based on the pillar of cloud that accompanied the the nation of Israel during the Exodus as they left Egypt and traveling toward Israel,” said Eytan Buchman, head of the North American media desk for the IDF.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

“They wanted the protection from the troubles of the desert, from robbers and people that would attack them and from snakes and scorpions.”

Buchman said the anti-Hamas operation’s Hebrew name is meant to send the message that it is a defensive maneuver.

“We are coming up on a decade of rockets being fired indiscriminately at civilians,” Buchman said, referring to Hamas’ actions in southern Israel. The Jewish state’s current military operation, he said, “is a proverbial cloud that is coming to protect you.”

The Bible’s first reference to a cloud pillar comes in Exodus 14, which describes the Israelites’ flight from bondage, culminating in Moses’ parting of the Red Sea.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

“The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them,” reads the passage in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

"It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel,” the passage continues. "And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.”

The idea of the cloud pillar refers to both physical and spiritual protection, according to Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, who leads Ohev Sholom, the National Synagogue in Washington.

“The spiritual message here is about praying to God for protection,” said Herzfeld, who heads an Orthodox congregation. “In Exodus, the pillar of cloud is spiritual protection of the Israelis.”

Herzfeld said the biblical reference would be instantly recognizable to the many Israelis who have had Jewish educations.

The phrase also appears in the Bible’s Book of Psalms, in a verse that says God spoke to Hebrew leaders like Moses, Aaron and Samuel “in the pillar of cloud.”

Israel’s choice of Hebrew words has provoked some criticism online.

"By calling this operation 'Pillar of Cloud,' the IDF are, in a sense, calling themselves God,” tweeted @joshua_eaton, whose Twitter bio describes him as a journalist covering religion and politics. “And they act like they believe that, too."

A blogger for the website Gawker, meanwhile, said that calling the Israeli operation a “pillar of cloud” evoked “an all-powerful, vengeful God seeking to demonstrate the primacy of his chosen people, to guide them in their affairs, and to confound their enemies.”

“Did Israel launch this attack because there was no other rational route to maintain its security?” asked the Gawker blogger, John Cook. “Or was it pursuing a broader agenda rooted in ancient mysticism?”

The IDF’s Buchman said he contacted Cook to challenge his interpretations, saying the Israeli military merely wanted to stress what he called the operation’s defensive nature.

“Inside the Bible,” Buchman said, “the cloud was defined as (following people that were) leaving and running away from a full army that had enslaved it.”

Buchman noted that previous IDF operations have also used biblical references.

In 2002, he said, the IDF used the name “Operation Noah’s Ark” for the seizure of a Palestinian vessel loaded with rockets, missiles and explosives.

And a 2008 IDF operation in Gaza was called “Operation Cast Lead,” which began during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah and references a popular Hanukkah song.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Bible • Israel • Judaism • Military

soundoff (1,431 Responses)
  1. Hi

    It is so baffling to me how people can follow and practice religions like Christianity and Islam. They are poor attempts to make sense of the world through ego and a laundry list of do's and don'ts..all created by the imagination. Real religion is about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and taking care of your fellow man/woman. Not murdering and spreading darkness like these fanatics are doing! Our God is the Earth people, it feeds us, shelters us, and teaches us. Wake up and start caring for the planet, the cradle of mankind!

    November 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Yep, I'm a Christian.

      Tell you what: I'll pray to my God, and you pray to yours, the earth. Let me know how that works out for you.

      And next time, before you post, take some time to think. Ridiculous.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Hi

      Let me get this right: Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and taking care of your fellow man/woman is rediculous to you? What kind of "Christian" are you? lol. We come from the EARTH and will return back to it, noone escapes. You can go to church and pray all you want. What good does that do anyone else besides calm your own insecurities about death. You have a lot to learn and I feel sorry for you. :/

      November 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Done

      " Time enough for the Earth in the grave."

      November 20, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  2. Levite

    No matter what the operation name is, Irael is just defending its population and yes believe or not God is involved on every decision, because that is exactly what they are the chosen people of God and again yes it is all writen in the Bible. Amen

    November 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Cam

      This makes no sense. Chosen people? Man "god" has a weird sense of humor.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      Hell knows no other ways but to willfully fulfill the Word, the Gospel!

      John 18:36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world!"

      November 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • C

      What kind of "God" chooses one group of people over another? The bible teaches some decent values but it is a work of fiction born from the imagination! Simple-minded/brain-washed/ignorant people take it for truth. If you had an education in human history you would know that ALL human beings came from Africa. Religion should be practiced by taking care of your fellow men and women, feeding the hungry, and spreading love and taking care of the environment. WAKE UP and take a look around!

      November 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  3. Changiman

    I meant that they are not carrying the prophet Abraham's gene, therefore they have no claim for Palestine. These European Jews (khazari Jew converts) have a right to go and make a claim for some land somewhere in east Europe since that's where they came from.

    November 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • M. Roy

      IDIOT!

      November 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
  4. tiredofchristinasjewsansmuslims

    Why is that Muslims and Jews believe god is only on their side? Why do you five god flawed human characteristics? You do know the world did not begin nor will it end in the middle east? God is not on either side, his does not stand.for those screaming his name while spilling blood!!! Boths sides ate wrong!!! I am tired of heraing both side stating religious scriptures as a reason to kill. As long as both sides spill blood for selfish reasons, both sides will be void of the divine. Many times i think the world would be a better place without all of you!!!

    November 20, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • M. Roy

      Read the Bible Ghingis and you will know the Jews are the chosen people!

      November 20, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Anita Bongtoke

      Umm the Bible is man made... so God didnt declare the Jews the Chosen people... if he did, what does that say about God, he may not like you too much now..

      November 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • M. Roy

      Anita, have another beer. It's 5 o'clock somewhere!

      November 20, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  5. allah

    israHELL is a pox on humanity!

    November 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  6. not in my name

    only if that terrorist ARAFAT was alive maybe these dirty zionists will negotiate peace with him.

    November 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  7. AbleWitness

    Even when Israel is attempting to defend itself, the Pro-Palestinian, Pro-Russian, Left continues to attempt to find something evil about Israel. You guys can keep returning to 1948 and condemning the existence of a Jewish state, however the reality of the situation is that Israel exists as a nation, warts and all. This is a done deal on Earth, boys and girls. And oh by the way, the U.S.S.R. collapsed under its own weight. If anybody has the right to claim that God has aided them, it's Israel - the Godless are living in their own excrement of late.

    November 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • Levite

      Awesome!! You just pointed it right.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  8. Cam

    Here is a fun fact: Since 2008 (when a cease fire was established between Israel and Gaza) 23 Israelis have died and 314 Palestinians have died.

    And all you supporters of Israel come on here and act like Israel is the one that wants peace? Its pretty obvious that this conflict is taking place because Israel cut off imports to Gaza... Get your fact straight before you start quote when "god" would want....And by god i mean this imaginary guy religion uses to justify the killing of innocent men and women. Guess what... More people have been killed in the name of "god" than people that have been killed by cancer. Where is the bracelet for that?

    November 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • AbleWitness

      You should come up with such a bracelet and wear it. I hope it catches on. It would be handy for you and yours to identify yourselves.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Cam

      Great idea! I think I will do that. Donate all proceeds to victims of this conflict. I bet most my money would be going to Gaza. Just a guess though.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • Paul Kelly

      so your point is Israelis are better shots?

      November 20, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      FACTS:

      Worldwide deaths from war from 1900 – present = 200 million highest figures
      Worldwide deaths from cancer using conservative estimate of 3 million/year (WHO reports 7mil in 2012) = 270 million

      I'd choose magenta

      November 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Sam

      Couldn't agree more. The Jews are making every possible effort to replicate what they claim nazis did to them

      November 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Cam

      Exactly. Better shots because they have chosen guns and chosen bullets and chosen shoes and chosen... you get the point

      November 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm |
    • M. Roy

      You are an Ultra-Maroon Sir!

      November 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Cam

      Yes, I, who take into account fact and reason over storybooks written in 100 AD, is "ultra-maroon". Not sure what that means, but I am guessing it's bad?

      November 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • M. Roy

      You keep believing that Cam. That will be a show stopper one day for you. But hey, I know that won't phase you!

      November 20, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Cam

      Hey Roy,

      Most religious people believe a "showstopper" within their lifetime. How's that for ego. Is there anything more egotistical than believe there is a god out there that prefers your race over another? This reminds me of "cliques" in high school. Are you in high school. It would explain a lot.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  9. SirToYe

    No Archaeological evidence of Jewish slaves in Egypt. Stop reading old hebrew myths as history.

    November 20, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Ken

      You better do some more research fool because the evidence is there.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Ken

      Funny, because I looked for the archaeological evidence and papers publishing it, but there was nothing. Do you have citations? Or do you consider your assertions archaeological evidence.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • allah

      exactly! its all a fabricated lie. No historical evidence for the existence of jesus either....

      November 20, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • M. Roy

      All of you are soup sandwiches that actually believe Hamas are really nice people. Go over there and live and see how "friendly" they really are. Nitwits!

      November 20, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Done

      THis is because the land of Goshen was given to Jacob during the Hiksos rule of the Northern KIngdom. The Hiksos were a people of another land , possibly related to Cannanites, who ascened the throne of Egypt when a male heir could not be produced. A rebellion ensued,with the blood line of Egypt defeated, they retreated and ruled the Southern Kingdom from Thebes. Meanwhile(some say around 14 century BC) A famine occured and brought many people to egypt.etcetc. The Hiksos ruled for about 130 years, and then were conquered by the true egyption blood line of the south. All record or contracts made by the hiksos were then declared void., and all evidence as possible erased of thier rule. The bible says: A pharoh arose who knew not Joseph... etc etc. The truth is there if you do your research, and have a mind for it. Albeit, spelling is to me arbitrary.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  10. Honey Badger Dont Care

    This is no different than xtians in America using the bible to justify slavery or bigamy.

    November 20, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  11. smoore

    You wouldn't have to be Israeli or Jewish to figure out the reference. Thanks for the info, Captain Obvious (CNN).

    November 20, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
  12. aizen

    wow i never looked at it this way lolz!! but unfortunetely these people never lived in egypt..all myths and no proof...

    November 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Amr Azim

      Israel are in a rude awakening if they think that they will be able to invade Egypt.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Christopher Eason

      The pillar of cloud reference is in keeping with the human predilection with mythos to calm the pathos. There often is a feeling of a need to be right. In this case, it is likely that there is no true right, so to speak. On the one hand recent history is murky with zionist nation building, as well as a formed nation's people deciding what is right for them. As Israel's history unfolds, all parties would prefer to benefit. How each goes about it is the question. All said, the world is not going to get out of this one cleanly unless we stop pretending that anyone's agenda will fit the other.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • Christopher Eason

      History would seem to hint at a cataclysm on earth responsible for the "plagues,"
      in a most scientific, the way it works, kind of way. Also, the only mention of the jewish people prior to the pyramids would cast then in a mercenary light. Hired guns, and a displaced people seeking assistance from Joseph, exiled and working in egypt or a friend in high egyptian places.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • bubba's cousin

      You have mythed the point ... so clever, you are...

      November 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Rachel

      There is proof actually. Recently an inscription was found in Northern Egypt of a Jewish slave writing in ancient Hebrew stating: God please set us free for we are slaves to Pharaoh. Google it, you'll find it.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  13. Changiman

    ...but These aren't the Jews of Moses's time, these are European jeans who have no DNA connection to the the Jews who escaped Israel....please stop pretending that you are Semitic!

    November 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Rachel

      That isn't actually true. There have been many genetic studies done and they find that we are one and the same. And, very interestingly is the Kohen gene. These genetic studies have also proven that those who claim they are a Kohen or priest descended from Aaron actually are. Google it. It's really interesting.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  14. Martha Raymond Clarke Thompson Adidas the III Esq.

    I thought the "Pillar of Cloud" was coming from Snoop Lion?

    November 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • sparky

      He's a Dogg

      November 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  15. Honey Badger Dont Care

    how novel. People using their religion as an excuse to kiII other people.

    November 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Shakingmyhead

      Keep in mind, they are defending themselves. They're not the one that started it.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
  16. SJ

    So interesting to compare US CNN coverage of this versus the rest of the world. Starkly different focus. So much effort put in to making the people think this is a "defensive" maneuver. Do they think that Americans are stupid and don't understand what an OCCUPATION is and the slow genocide of Palestinians that the Israeli government has been doing for years? Stop insulting our intelligence.

    November 20, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Levite

      Smart on your own opinion? You are just showing how ignorant you are...Please look through history and then you'll be inteligent enough to know when to shut up.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Levite down

      As noted by the responce of Levite, yes, 'Muricans only care about Black Friday and how much gas they can use in a day...

      November 20, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
  17. Rachel

    They got this a little wrong. It just means that God is protecting the Jewish people has He always has. We trust in God to protect us. It's really not more complicated than that. We don't think we are God, what a stupid notion.

    November 20, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Xdoc

      So does God magically stop rockets? That would've defended Israel better don't you think? What has God been doing these past 10 years? I know the answer to that, magical invisible beings can't do anything....

      November 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      That's funny, I thought that they were using the Iron Dome to protect themselves. You know, technology, developed using science.

      There is no need for a god.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Brenda Kyle

      I agree with you Rachel. But lets face it, no matter what Israel does, there are those who will find fault with it. After all, the Israeli Government should just "sit there" and allow Hamas to fire on its citizens. The notion that not only should Israel defend itself, but has EVERY RIGHT TO, is a notion that they can't seem to grasp. Keep firing back Israel, until the aggression against your people stops. Godspeed to the "Pillar of Cloud"....the Angel of God.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Ken

      Umm technology and science and man come from God you fools

      November 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • Cam

      Fact: There is no proof of god's, jesus', or any other character mentioned in the bible's existence. and, no, the bible is not proof.

      Every heard of a hypothesis? maybe a Theory? Ya...they don't work with religion... hmmm I wonder why.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • James

      Rachel,

      I find it humorous your comment that god is helping you as you use weapons that do more damage to innocent people than to the people you say are your enemy. Lets be clear about one thing Isreal was founded on an agrrement back in the thirties called Havaara by the leader of Germany. Isreal had not existed since early BC. Siince its creation the middle east has been in turmoil. Why dont you just pay legitimate palestinians for stealing thier land. The United States pays legitimate Indians so whats the difference. All can live in peace. I am sure its cheaper in the long run for everyone.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Anita Bongtoke

      Rachel.. I thought that God was watching out for his favorite quarterback Tim Tebow... ????? Its scientifically proven prayer works.. maybe the lord isnt getting Tims prayers??? Just a thought.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • 123elle

      I always stumble on the Holocaust when I hear about G-d protecting the Jews. It simply beggars logic, and I cannot accept that explanation. It's a hopeful fiction.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Rachel

      God IS in those iron dome rockets. God gives the intelligence to humans to do good like developing technology to save lives, or the intelligence and skill of a surgeon who can massage your heart back to life. People take the idea of God intervening in people's lives too literally. What you people seem to lack is spirituality, which is what the Amood Anan is (piller of defence) is. We trust on God and our intelligence to protect us. You have to be willing to take action. Nechemia ben Aminadav walked into the Red Sea up to his neck before God parted the Red Sea during the Exodus This teaches us that we have to take action and God will do His part.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • 123elle

      I always stumble on the Holocaust when I hear about G-d protecting the Jewish people. It simply beggars logic, and I cannot accept that hopeful fiction.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • 123elle

      Sorry for the double post; this system is slow.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  18. Scott

    So the translation, from Hebrew, is "Pillar of Cloud".... not "Pillar of Defense". So is the media admitting that they've fabricated the translation we've all been hearing until now?

    November 20, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Amr Azim

      "Operation Pillar of Cloud." – more like "Operation Pillar of Jewish Farts!".

      November 20, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  19. YAh

    The "pillar of clouds" in the Bible meant an intermittent presence of God...not the presence of missiles!!! This "pillar of clouds" descended from the sky; missile clouds ascend into the sky! We need peace, not war!

    November 20, 2012 at 2:22 pm |
  20. via2

    I pray for the peace of Jerusalem as well as the Palestinians.

    November 20, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
    • I wonder

      via,

      Your sentiment is nice, but:

      - Others are "praying" for the total destruction of Israel.
      - Others are "praying" for the total destruction of Palestinians.

      Whose wishes is big daddy gonna grant?

      Nothing fails like prayer.

      Gov. Perry had the entire state of Texas fervently pray for rain - and the next day fires rages all over the dang place.

      Maybe if y'all pray for devastation, the opposite will occur?!

      November 20, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Ken

      God will protect Israel no matter what the fools say

      November 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Akira

      Governor Perry is about as relevant as toe jam.

      November 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Cam

      Hey everyone,

      If you want some posts that will brighten up your day. Look at "M.Roy" and "Rachel". Sad thing is the majority side with them. How pathetic. I thought we went to school to learn? Maybe they just didn't go to school.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Advertisement
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.