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
[twitter-follow screen_name='dangilgoffcnn']

(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. Dan

    your blindness is severe, we are all in the same boat and the end is near ! your blablablablabla! its understood!
    because of your blind mind, its written ISRAEL will allways survive and i allways will pray for ISRAEL

    November 21, 2012 at 12:28 am |
    • Jason

      The blind leading the blind.

      November 21, 2012 at 2:54 am |
    • 200 TON HAMMER

      Very soon the True Isrealite will be redeem by God Himself He shall restore the Borders of Yisreal from Egypt To Iraq Eurphates Great river.the True Yisreal will and Shall SUPER NATURALY RESTORED not by humans on earth BUT BY GOD ALMIGHTY THE GREAT I AM

      November 21, 2012 at 4:32 am |
    • CityBuddha

      OK Dan. Assuming Israel and its religion are one is a mistake but an all elusive one. You are proving to be one of the followers. Somehow I think the powers to be are using this assimilation as a reason to gain control of a more vast glory. And it is from the blood of us all that we shall learn that this is a dance of impermance. You will never be able to grasp onto the land of Jerusalem because it is constantly slipping away from you. You are in a constant battle and it is with your own mind....

      November 21, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • End Religion

      lol @ 200 ton hammer. His posts are more like 2 ounce feathers: no substance.

      November 21, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • PRISM 1234

      @ Dan

      November 21, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
  2. Angel Moronic

    Both sides shares the same god, same patriarchal ancestor : great testimony to the great evil that is religion. !

    November 21, 2012 at 12:15 am |
  3. angel

    The world has never gotten a permanent peace from war itself,and never will as the Bible ends in the worst war ever,so the Bible which many get their belief in God from,is telling us that wars are not the way to go,yet many believe wars are of God,despite Isaiah 2:4,saying God will end all wars,and God doesn't end what is of God and what is Holy.

    November 20, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
  4. Reality

    Only for the beyond-stupid citizens of Palestine and Israel:

    “John Hick, a noted British philosopher of religion, estimates that 95 percent of the people of the world owe their religious affiliation to an accident (the randomness) of birth. The faith of the vast majority of believers depends upon where they were born and when. Those born in Saudi Arabia will almost certainly be Moslems, and those born and raised in India will for the most part be Hindus. Nevertheless, the religion of millions of people can sometimes change abruptly in the face of major political and social upheavals. In the middle of the sixth century ce, virtually all the people of the Near East and Northern Africa, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt were Christian. By the end of the following century, the people in these lands were largely Moslem, as a result of the militant spread of Islam.

    The Situation Today
    Barring military conquest, conversion to a faith other than that of one’s birth is rare. Some Jews, Moslems, and Hindus do convert to Christianity, but not often. Similarly, it is not common for Christians to become Moslems or Jews. Most people are satisfied that their own faith is the true one or at least good enough to satisfy their religious and emotional needs. Had St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas been born in Mecca at the start of the present century, the chances are that they would not have been Christians but loyal followers of the prophet Mohammed. “ J. Somerville

    It is very disturbing that religious narrow- mindedness, intolerance, violence and hatred continues unabated due to randomness of birth. Maybe, just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of all religions.

    November 20, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
  5. Bob

    Earlier someone said there is no military solution to the Hamas/Israel situation. I do no concur. Israel can end this in 2 weeks with an all out ground/air attack to take Gaza to the desert it once was. Afterwards, Israel re-claims their rightful territory. No more Gaza. Israel wins.

    November 20, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  6. Chad

    What is the real problem in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

    easy to identify: ask yourself these two simple questions:
    1. If every Israeli destroyed all of their weapons tomorrow, what would happen?
    2. If every Palestinian/Iranian/Syrian/Egyptian destroyed all of their weapons tomorrow, what would happen?

    if #1 occurred, every Israeli would be massacred within days.
    if #2 occurred, there would be peace in the region.

    The real root of the problem is intractable, irrational, unrelenting Arab hatred of Israel.

    November 20, 2012 at 10:20 pm |

    • The only difference between Jews and Arabs is a story no one really believes.

      November 20, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • Chad

      actually there is a massive difference, as the questions illustrate

      November 20, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Ah, there's Chad. Champion of the downtrodden.

      I heard an interesting summary just today of the situation in your favorite part of the world: "There are no allies here, only interests."

      Do try not to oversimplify.

      November 20, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
    • Chad

      two simple questions
      1. If every Israeli destroyed all of their weapons tomorrow, what would happen?
      2. If every Palestinian/Iranian/Syrian/Egyptian destroyed all of their weapons tomorrow, what would happen?

      if #1 occurred, every Israeli would be massacred within days.
      if #2 occurred, there would be peace in the region.

      November 20, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      If Chard dropped dead tomorrow, what then?

      🙂 🙂 🙂

      November 20, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      I see two answers attributable to a simpleton, Chad. I know you can do better.

      November 20, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • Chad

      When people avoid questions, it's because they are uncomfortable with the answers..

      now, in response, there will be many personal attacks on me, but please note, the simple questions wont be answered..

      1. If every Israeli destroyed all of their weapons tomorrow, what would happen?
      2. If every Palestinian/Iranian/Syrian/Egyptian destroyed all of their weapons tomorrow, what would happen?

      if #1 occurred, every Israeli would be massacred within days.
      if #2 occurred, there would be peace in the region.

      November 20, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • Psst-

      You forgot to hide the answers 🙂

      November 20, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • and yet

      another example of Chad not knowing what the fvck he's talking about

      November 21, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  7. TruthTrumpsOpinion

    For all of my life one president after another has tried to secure peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Land swaps with Egypt, Lebanon, Syria was progress and secured some measure of peace. But the apparently unsolvable question is what to give the people that have lived there since before Zionist arrived in the early 1900's to create the new nation of Israel. What to do about the Palestinians?
    The word "settlers" gets a lot of print, but I've never been clear what that word means. It invokes images of our settlers, traveling in covered wagons seeking land and opportunity. There is a tidy wholesomeness implied in this word. Being ourselves a nation of settlers it's difficult to understand what could possibly be wrong with that.
    Here's a very interesting short video that explains settlements,
    And why the Palestinians might object.

    November 20, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
  8. NorthVanCan

    Hopefully the internet and free flow of information around the world will quicken the demise of religion so we can live in peace.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • Cleombrotus


      November 20, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • End Religion

      Yep. The great slide into oblivion has begun. Let's hope it's as quick as possible, and cross your fingers we survive the loonies. Oh, and Cleo that article from 5 years ago was simply stuffed with poorly drawn conclusions and tripe.

      November 20, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
  9. J"

    Jeremiah 33
    King James Version
    6 Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth.

    7 And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first.

    8 And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me.

    9 And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honour before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • Be honest

      just to let u know,, no one is here any more. The story is dead.. Keep posting and you'll go to voodoo heaven

      November 20, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

      From book of hindu Mithraism, savori ism, Christianity, reject of son of blessed May, but preached on his name by hindu Magi's, criminal crooks.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Why can't they get past 6?

      November 20, 2012 at 9:17 pm |
  10. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Operation Pillar of Cloud? The proper translation from Hebrew, using an understanding of idiom, is Operation Nerf Hard On.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Akira

      Operation Nerf Hard On?? Bwahahahahahaha!

      November 20, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  11. J"

    "Lord Bless Israel" and his enemies under your feet.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • Be honest

      yes, you are a nut.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  12. J"

    Proverbs 14:12

    There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

    November 20, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Be honest

      may I suggest a good therapist?

      November 20, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  13. J"

    Isaiah 55:7
    Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

    November 20, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Be honest

      will man still be here? My guess the earth will shake us off well before then, if there is a then, likely not. In the end, there'll be no one left to call you a fool. But your atoms will be floating around the universe,

      November 20, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
  14. hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

    Age of earth, universe, clouds, pillar of buildings, was never reviled to human s, by church s, by temple s, by synagogue s , but by only Allah, by only Taliban, by only truth absolute GAWD, but generation's of human on earth, according to Islamic teachings, according to holy book of gangster Koran, Islam was the first to teach "pillar of cloud", not Hindus, not Jews, not Christian, not atheist, not goons, speculation about operation "Pillar and Cloud", or stop listening to Dan Gilgoff lair goon pastors of CNN, as a common norm to hide Allah from getting credit, fool humanity.

    November 20, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  15. J"

    Matthew 7:6
    Brothers: "Don't give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls to pigs. Otherwise, they will trample them and then tear you to pieces.

    November 20, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Be honest

      holy and pearls.. well that sums up religion holy=cash

      November 20, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  16. USDude

    This post is for the person out there that is struggling with something or has questions about God.

    Step 1 – Take the Roman road outlined below in order. If you don't own a Bible, google the verses.
    It will be the most important "road" you have ever traveled.

    1. Romans 3:10
    2. Romans 3:23
    3. Romans 5:8
    4. Romans 5:12
    5. Romans 6:23
    6. Romans 10:9-11
    7. Romans 10:13

    Step 2 – Say the following prayer, "Lord, I know I am an sinner and I'm sorry for all the bad things I have done.
    I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. Lord Jesus, come into my heart and be the Lord of my life."

    Step 3 – Did you say the prayer in step 2 and believe with all your heart? If so, welcome to the family of God!
    If not, that's ok, please cut and paste these steps into a file on your computer for a later time when you are ready.

    Step 4 – Now it's time to start reading the Word of God. Purchase a Bible if you can, if not, search the web for
    free online Bibles – there are many! Start reading the New Testament – I recommend starting with 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John
    then Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. Make reading the Bible something you do each and every day! This is a
    very important step!

    Step 5 – Find a church and start attending as often as you can. Volunteer your to help out when you are able.
    It's important to worship with other people. Begin to seek out Christian friends.

    November 20, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • End Religion

      For those struggling, the last thing you need is the cult of religion. Just as we know turning to booze and/or drugs in tough times is not a good answer, we also know turning to fantasy is not a good idea.

      You have the strength within you to overcome your troubles. Religious folks are not concerned for your well being, they simply want converts (more people to eventually give them money). They won't ask for the money up front, and they'll seem incredibly nice to begin with but like drugs, once you're hooked it can get ugly.

      You do not need religion to be a nice person. You do not need religion to tell you right from wrong. You do not need religion to do your thinking for you. There is no heaven, no hell, no god. There is only us, hopefully treating each other the way we wish others to treat us.

      November 20, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
  17. freddy

    to all you idiots that dont believe in god well all i can say is u will find out sooner or later, so that said i have questioned why if god is a loving god does he allow for bad things to happen to good people well i dont have the answer to that,

    November 20, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      i do because he is an evil hateful and capricious narcissistic god

      November 20, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • Be honest

      well,, to good and 'bad' people without discrimination. Sorta makes those wars with the help of god sound rather silly. face it, christains are afraid to die,, they think about death their whole lives, Proof brainwashing works.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • Akira

      Freddy, if you respect your God at all, you will capitalize His name. Oh, and refrain from calling people idiots. That'd be judgemental, and that goes against the fabric of what you are trying to gain support for.

      November 20, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • Ben

      Read Romans 5

      November 21, 2012 at 12:10 am |
  18. watchman and the wardog

    will people please stop trying to prove the Bible is wrong. Many intelligent, smart, knowledgeable men and women have tried to disprove the Bible and failed. Through out history this has been a pass time of many so called enlighten people. Most repented and became a Christian. The rest accepted the fact that they are doom, because the couldn't accept the truth. Next, the Bible predicted before the return of Christ Isreal will stop all air attacks against her. Now, they didn't know what it meant back then but we know now. Just one of many predictions that has come true.

    November 20, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      watchman and the wardog

      Google Edgar Cayce if you will. He died yet he was and still is my idol!

      November 20, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

      Edgar Cayce, gangster, was a Hindu Jew's, terrorist secular s deserve no love, but his own private hell's, terrorism to have peace Is'lamb among humanity.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • End Religion

      @watchdog: "will people please stop trying to prove the Bible is wrong."

      We know it is majority fabrication, so we no longer need to continue to prove it as such. The debate is settled. It is an ostensibly helpful book of lies.

      "Most repented and became a Christian. The rest accepted the fact that they are doom, because the couldn't accept the truth."

      Please cite sources for your claim otherwise we may write you off as an unintelligent liar.

      "Next, the Bible predicted before the return of Christ Isreal will stop all air attacks against her. Now, they didn't know what it meant back then but we know now. Just one of many predictions that has come true."

      What about Isaiah 7:14? Why is your saviour called Jesus when God prophesied he would be named Immanuel? On that note, I'll have you know I prophesied last night what I would have for dinner, and then it came true! Prophesy, praying, all that is simply your imagination and works the same by flipping a coin.

      November 20, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
  19. hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

    ALL WAR CRIMINALS SHOULD BE TRIED UNDER TALIBAN TRIBAL LEADERS, truth absolute Allah, followers of donkey ism, secularism source of hindu filthy Sunni ism, racism. Truth absolute is Hamas, goons of Iranian ayato allah kho mini, and every Taliban, ignorant denies HIM by in his skunkism, filthy self center Islambism, all goons, revise standard Version of the Bible, and include Allah in your book of gangsters, ignorant goons.

    November 20, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

      hinduduism, stupidity of a hindu, idiot.

      November 20, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

      gangster, goon of Thin Allah, crook, follower of donkey ism, ignorant

      November 20, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  20. Marty Edwards

    Isreali leaders needs to meet the International WAR CRIMINALS TRAILS.

    November 20, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • hinduism by Judaism self center ,secularism source of hindu filthy hinduism, racism.

      include hindu criminal Bush too.

      November 20, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • Be honest

      and the vatican for crimes against children

      November 20, 2012 at 8:16 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.