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
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(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.

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“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.

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“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. Jim34


    November 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  2. ricky

    Hamas kill more woman and kid from his same people just for the dress code of the sharia law (Islamic law)

    November 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Dunlar

      Man eat pie pant get tight need Old Navy (clothes store).

      November 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
  3. Nate

    Another story aimed at making sure everyone knows that religion is bad and all those non believers are perfect and never cause any violence or wars. Oil caused wars people. So has land. Gold has caused wars. Sure some wars were done in the name of God to get support, but the men behind it always had other motives. Quit blaming God for all man's problems. Man is flawed thus most religions will be. The Bible may have even been skewed by men for their own motives. Frankly it seems like Aetheists want to start conflict and wars. Calling people ignorant or any other names about their religion touches a core. It would be like someone calling your mom every name in the book and expecting you to just accept it. You are not enlightened or better than those of us that believe so get off of it. I am open minded and willing to accept your existence. Accept mine.

    November 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

      Religions are hinduism, corruption of truth absolute , handy work of hindu Jew's, criminal secular s to hind, fool humanity.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • Huh?

      You just can't handle you fell for a cult.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • lionlylamb


      Can one body of people not change that which was declared to be biblically so written? Wherein the biblical can prophesying though forewarned be outwitted should warnings be prophetically heeded? Is it righteously endeavouring to wantonly fulfill a historically imbedded future thought just because it is so written? Should not a people of uncommon intellect become intellectually mundane just to satisfy biblical prophecies? Wherethen lays the lands ending of aberrance foretold of wanton means? Who are the lands beneficiaries should war bemoan them and all do die out due and thru warring? Hell knows no other ways but to willfully fulfill the Word, the Gospel!

      Mathew 6:33 "But seek ye first the kingdom of God!"

      Luke 17:21, "The kingdom of God is inside you!"

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

      1Corinthians 3:9 "For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building!"

      Manly made Gods in name onliness euphemisms have become cherishing sublimations not to be outdone by anothers' naming of God such as Elohim or Jehovah etc etc. Is it not of more-so importance to write or make small-talk toward others to 'menstruatively' condition the morals of youthfulness than to bicker and banter about as aged 'gossipers' seeking praises of others to justify their own selfishness sakes? Who therefore is to be pitied more, the one behind the podium or the audience?

      The christian word of truth being the gospels of which are now many to be had can no more be held up in agonies righteousness sakes. To the christians; "The troubles with unfaithful trinitarians, those who belly-up to one god times three is, they read but only into it and get very little out of what they make 'go-spel-lingly' in amplifications of unblessed pleasings by the manly sons of God. Their rudimentary and timid preaching in devilish tongues beatifies only the dumb-hearted relics, the aged heartburns of their christiandumbness's idiosyncratic marmoset-like redundancies. Their godly embittered moralisms are but self-centered and selfishly censored upon redundant principles that are remorsefully archaic in round-about cultured replicants behooving those old fuddy duddies who fumble ever for their next glass worth of wine! Drunk and in temperamental stupors are the emotionally fallen within christiandumbs folds becoming sciatic pragmatisms unworthy of even one toasting for, but rather for the many to be rightly toasting against!"

      In retrospect, Godless bemoans and bewails the ungodly. For these are the choices from which commonwealth atheists do make felt upon their retrospective and habitual senses denying the goodly upon ever moving towards the ways of godly intent. Many young-bucks of godlessness and the ungodliness sensually tenders to avail themselves with the nailed doldrums' sciatica.They do abound with much societal unpleasantries toward the abaters of commonly wanton deniabilities against them. Ungodly and godless beings of smirked violaters of randomized intention-abilities are meant only as austerities of servile subversions. Their subversive deniabilities are not without compromising or so they do entail and also do weave upon the where-with-all of seasoned papacies irreversibly mandated.

      Likewise, the mockeries of these godless and ungodly against the goodly who themselves tenderly believe upon godly importance. The goodly ones may well live on to pass all and give bridled leverages onto every generation's aged continuations. How else could Life Truly End and Real Living Thusly Begin? To believe or not believe for these are Life's choices. Christ Jesus came to this world to condemn it and yet did He come here to also show how tenderly are generous mercies shown upon those otherly ones being most merciful to others who did so shower mercy to be so freely given by those being most merciful! Again I do say to believe or not believe for these are Life's choices. Still yet and forever onwards many generations are to be favoringly found in many a mercies, for the mercifilled ambiences are one of our Life's greatest treasures and livings' sweetest unending rewards upon the most needy of the poorest in spirits.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • southernsugar

      Luke 17:21 says: The coming of the kingdom cannot be observed. and no one will announce, "Look, here it is", or,
      "There it is". "For behold, the kingdom of God is amongst you."

      November 20, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • Christianity is a form of mental illness- FACT

      Hail great sjy wizard....hear me so that I remain in your favor.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Christianity is a form of mental illness- FACT

      Shall we fear what another man wrote? Shall we fear a man that said he talks on a god's behalf? Shall we fear and fall to our knees because a man says he acts on the authority from the gods?

      November 20, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  4. NAHeartBeat

    Just wait until the trumpet sounds and the dead in Christ shall rise- and those of us who are here will be caught up together with them in the clouds. My friends, Jesus is coming back and you will not want to be left here when it happens. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! God will protect Israel because they are His people. We were all engrafted in by Jesus. The God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob will protect Israel.

    November 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Keep believing in your magic sky daddy and all of those Iron Age fables. I'll take science any day.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Huh?

      Nope, because you're Christ was never a god. It's all hail Mithra in order to be saved.

      Was born of a virgin on December 25th, in a cave, attended by shepherds
      Was considered a great traveling teacher and master
      Had 12 companions or disciples
      Promised his followers immortality
      Performed miracles
      Sacrificed himself for world peace
      Was buried in a tomb and after three days rose again
      Was celebrated each year at the time of His resurrection (later to become Easter)
      Was called "the Good Shepherd"
      Was identified with both the Lamb and the Lion
      Was considered to be the "Way, the Truth and the Light," and the "Logos," "Redeemer," "Savior" and "Messiah."
      Celebrated Sunday as His sacred day (also known as the "Lord's Day,")
      Celebrated a Eucharist or "Lord's Supper"

      Mithra was the original lord and savior, your Christ is the imposter!

      November 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • coinrat2

      Honey Badger, who do you think gave us the ability to come up with the science. Darwin? Don't let Science take the place of God. It must be used in concert with one another. Science needs God, for in the Beginning God said let their be light and there was light. No science has ever explained how the big bang came about. Yes we know it was likely due to a build up of gas, but how did the gas get there? Again in the beginning there is God.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  5. Love God

    love God. Save yourself from Hell. You will be abolished if you disobey the Lord.

    November 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Dunlar

      Says who?

      November 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Any evidence of that?

      November 20, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
  6. Chuk

    A lot of innocent children have been killed in a heavy-handed, senseless war and all people are concerned with is the Biblical meaning of the war? Pathetic.

    November 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Gerald


      If the mexicans or candians were lobbing bombs in to your back yard what would you want the US to do about it?

      November 20, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      If the US had started it like Israel did then I would expect it.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • humanist

      to Geralrd
      I dont see a wall around Canada and check points to check on every step a canadian is making, maybe thats why they have no rockets pointed , but please try to take somebod liberty(and land) away, and I guess something will happen there

      November 20, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  7. Heather Anne Franek

    Hello, people – Lest there be confusion by any Americans, this operation means that Israel is INVADING PALESTINE – there is no way that his counts as "defense". You do not go on an all-out war against a small group of people in the name of a biblical cloud. Make no mistake, this is Israel declaring war against Palestine and the fact that they have NAMED THE OPERATION means that they have nothing to do with "self-defense".

    November 20, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • dave

      Excuse me but what would you do if you had rockets fired at you day after day after day .... or even what would u do if ur neighbour kept throwing rocks at ur house??
      it is all very sad...if the arabs/palestinians/ whoever laid down their arms there would be peace..if israel did there would be no israel.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • tify

      It is not a small group of people, Hamas is the government that is in power in Palestine. Considering Palestine has been dropping rockets on Isreal for quite some time, it is defense. They are defending their people from being bombed daily. If another country was dropping rockets on DC on a regular basis the American people would expect our miltary to protect us.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  8. hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

    To learn fundamentals of their hindu racist agenda, please visit limitisthetruth.com
    Word hindu is based on Latin word hindered, Hun, great, Han, to be in greatness, hin, to be negative to both of them, hindu, a noun in negativity, hinduism, way of negativity.

    November 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • Done

      Or what was described by followers of the PIEBALD standard as "Oriental", specifically in regard to " The MAn In The MOuntains" this was what the FRanks called the HASsASSIN. It was an ancient cult of the Chaldeans that survived the Persians , Alexander and the Islamic conquest by donning the mantel of MUhhamiism for apperances only. The use of Hashish during thier rituals is why the Franks called them HAssassin, but they dont pronounce the 'H', it is where the word assassin comes from. THey were an eastern, some say of Indian origen, snake cult, and the KNites Templar were in regular treaty with them for special needs. So there was eveidence of a hindu like religeon in the Levant during the crusades, and it is said, the KNites Templar absorbed thier knowladge and to some extent thier mystisism.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  9. eno

    an arab shouts.... "ALLAH AHKBAR" ... and a drunk Mexicans respond " A LA CHINGADA ... WEY!!!

    November 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  10. Tower of Babel.

    And, this is why the Bible is all gobbledyguk. So much was lost in translation that now red necks hate gay people, masturbation is a sin, and we can't eat shellfish or mix cotton and polyester. Nonsense.

    November 20, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
  11. ricky

    Please anyone can't read the bible. Before you talk o write someting about the Isaac and Ismael situation read the whole Bible and research about Israel. is a lot mis- information is a big promises for Israel and God go to fight for his country happen before with Egypt The Six-Day War. read first. God Bless

    November 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Dunlar

      ^This is not English.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  12. The Truth

    "When Arab Mothers start loving their children more than they hate Jews, there will be peace." Golda Meir former PM, 1957

    November 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

      Hindu Jew's, terrorist secular s deserve no love, but their own hinduism, terrorism to have peace Islam among humanity.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Juan Fernandes

      The problem is that the children have been killed by Israel, so Arab mothers have no choice but to hate Israel.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
    • coinrat2

      I never understood the anger among religions. I myself am Baptist, and from my understanding of Religion believe in one God as do most other Religions. If this is the case, does it not stand to reason that the God you are fighting for is the same I believe in (and you Hamas) are fighting against. You cannot say you fight for one God and then say you hate his children just because they have different ideas. This to me is the same as judging Gods word (something that should never be done, if you are truly a believer). Islamic, Jew, or Christian the father God is the same, his children just have different ideas, certainly not worth killing over (oh yeh, that is one of the laws set down by God isn't it?) Common to all 3 religions. For the non believers, I do feel for you, it is a lonely world without faith.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Lamparo

      The truth is that the root of the hate of the jews by the islamists is in the Coran. Explore the Coran and you will see the explanation of the belicosity of the islamist against the jews. There is only one way to stop the vicious continuous attacks of the islamist to the jews, and it is eliminating the islamist. But there are too many of them to be eliminated, therefore be prepeared because the conflict will continue for thousands of years in the future, unless Jesus come again to establish a never ending kingdom of peace.

      November 20, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  13. eno


    November 20, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  14. Dunlar

    Operation How About We Move, Because This Place Sucks

    November 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  15. eno

    F @#@@# ALL RELIGIONS ....

    November 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  16. thebeast

    So with Faith in Jesus the Christ the Jews shall overcome in their assault on the Palestinians and defend their nation.

    November 20, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • J2

      Palestinians are Gentiles...just like the rest of us.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • J2

      What do you mean?

      Israelis don't believe in Jesus.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

      hinduism, fabrication called Jesus has no power, because he never existed.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • scott

      I don't think the Israelis/jews need the faith in jesus..they're fine on their own without him. But if that's what you believe, continue to tell yourself that so you can sleep better at night.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • Jim

      The pillar of cloud being referred to has nothing to do with Jesus – it is in the story of the Exodus from Egypt and the 40 years wandering in the desert, centuries (about 1,500 years, I think) before the Christian era.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • Nofal

      The fact of the matter is that for the past 60 years, Palestinians have been living under constant oppression. Millions of Palestinians have been forced out of their lands, and hundreds of thousands fled to other countries seeking refuge. The people of Gaza have been living under a blockade for years, and Israel's occupation of the land left Gaza the densest territory on earth. What's Israel's argument for their occupation? That land belonged to them 3000 years ago. God chose that land for them, and they have the right to return. I wonder how this argument can fool so many people. Lets try to redefine the world's borders back just 500 years, not 3000, and we will find that Americans should go back to Europe and Latinos should go back to Spain. Sounds silly, doesn't? Well, it's even sillier for Israel.

      Or perhaps the argument that their was no Palestine. That the land belonged to the Jordanians, and therefore, Israel has more right to that land than anyone else. We must not forget that the existence of a nation is not necessary for basic human rights to be violated. People, regardless of their nationality, owned that land. They had rights to the land, grew crops on it, and raise cattle in it. To take this right from those people is the most disturbing and the cruelest violation of human rights I have witnessed.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
    • southernsugar

      Jesus Christ is the Messiah; God made flesh. I still don't understand why the Jews rejected him. God Told Abraham, Solomon, and David that they would find him in the villiage of Nazerath. Reject Jesus and you reject God.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  17. Lindsey

    So no one should have a problem with Islamists' references to a "holy jihad", then, should they?

    But we have always and will always have a problem with it. But Hebrew Biblical references to this WAR is A-OK.

    Not to me it isn't.

    ANYthing done in the name of ANY religion STINKS. To the, errr....."high heavens". And shows just how irrational, insane, and bloodlusting humans really are. We are NOT the most intelligent species on the planet. Not by a longshot.

    November 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Corey

      Agree with you 100%. If we can't use still can't after thousands of years use our big brains to find a way to stop killing each other for the various reasons throughout the years, anyone would have to question humanitiy's collective intelligence.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  18. Beth

    Israel is not fighting for religious reasons, they are defending themselves

    November 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

      To protect loot from their rightful owners.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • southernsugar

      Israel is a menace to the entire middle east. They think they are superior and they ARE NOT! They're just more terrorists.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  19. MsRepub

    Okay, if you who don't have or don't want a relationship with God, then why get on this page under Belief and Criticize our freedom to believe? It's all lined out in the Bible, get over it.

    November 20, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • Eric G

      Not criticizing your right to believe. I only ask you to present verifiable evidence that what you believe is fact. If you cannot present verifiable evidence supporting your claims, please stop claiming they are fact.

      November 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • hoser

      Ms Repub I just clicked on the story it happened to be under "belief"
      and can you please tell me where it is outlined in the bible

      November 20, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • eno

      Im a believer ... ALLAH AHKBAR ... MOFOS....!!!

      November 20, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  20. hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

    Judaism is nothing else but hinduism, racism, way of hindu's racist pretending to be Israelite to hind, fool humanity.

    November 20, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • scott

      well, golly hiduism...after reading all of your posts all i can do to summarize your drivel is think of th teacher from The Peanuts: "wha, whaaa, wha wh, whaaa, wh, wh, whaaaaaaaaaaaaaa."

      November 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
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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.