Krav Maga, Hard Bread
By Moshe Katz


October 3, 2012, Israel


"Hard, only with bread"

The Dude: "Man, Walter, You are living in the past!"

Walter: "3,000 years of glorious Jewish history from Moses to Sandy Koufax, you better believe I'm living in the past!" (The Big Lebowski)

Can one ever truly comprehend the Russian resistance during World War Two without having been to Russia? Without having experienced their winters or met their hardened people?

Can one ever understand a people without having sat with them, drank with them, cried with them?

In Israel and in my travels around the world I am always being asked questions that are difficult for me to understand. It is difficult for me to understand because the questions display such a profound lack of understanding of our people.

Am I nervous about "the situation"?

Why do we cling to ancient rules?

Why do we still speak of a building that was destroyed nearly 2,000 years ago? Why are we so "obsessed" with history? Why do we have so many events to remember past massacres and tragedies?

Why do we Jews live with so much pain?

Why do we have one foot deeply entrenched in the past? Can't we just forget about it and move on?

And why is Krav Maga so different from other martial arts, totally unrelated to MMA or the UFC, Taekwondo, or anything else?

Ahh, for you do not understand the Jew, you do not understand this ancient people, and until you do you will not understand Krav Maga, our laws, our way of life, or anything else. So Toh Shma (Aramaic), come learn…

The Great Hebrew poet Haim Nahman Bialik wrote, "If you want to understand the strength of the Jew, go to the house of study, the ancient house of study." And I add to this, walk through the streets of the Old City and see it through my eyes, for my eyes are very very old and have lived many lifetimes. Stand with me on Masada and look down upon the Roman legions, yes, they are still there, in my eyes. Walk with me through the trenches of Ammunition Hill and meet the young Israeli men whose lives ended there, for in my eyes and soul they are still there, they are still fighting the Jordanian legion, they are still fighting for the liberation of Jerusalem, our city.

Come to Yad va Shem Holocaust memorial, you will see guns used by members of the Bielski partisans, men who did not know if they would live to see tomorrow but struggled to save as many lives as they could, city dwellers forming a new community deep in the forests of Belarus.

See guns and knives used by members of the Jewish resistance movement in the Warsaw Ghetto, Poland, whose only goal was to die with dignity, to see Jewish self-defense, and as Elazar Ben Yair said nearly 2,000 years earlier, show the world that some Jews are still free.

You will sit in the synagogue and read the words, ".., and may the city of Jerusalem and the Temple be rebuilt soon, speedily, in our days, …and gather in our scattered exiles from around the world", and you will begin to understand Krav Maga.

The words Krav Maga are Hebrew; each word is rich in meaning and history, and the spirit of Krav Maga, the Hebrew warrior stretches back a long way, long before America, long before Europe became civilized, long before Christianity or Islam.

Can you understand Krav Maga if you have not walked through Yad Va Shem?

People ask me, "Are the people of Israel nervous because of the Iranian threat?"

Nervous? I have not noticed anyone nervous. I grew up with the children of Holocaust survivors, I grew up feeling we are living through a time of great bliss. Blessed are we who have witnessed this day when the flag of Israel flies high over Masada. Blessed are we who can walk the streets of our holy city of Jerusalem. Blessed are we who are privileged to serve in Israeli armed forces.

Do we still have a few small problems? Of course! But as we say here, "We survived Pharaoh of Egypt, we shall get through this too!"

Jewish perspective my friends.


Moshe gazing upon Masada, the last stand of our people against the Romans in the year 73 (or 74)


The flag of Israel flying high and proud over Masada. And we remember...


Recently I was speaking to Sharon, a combat veteran, anti-terrorism expert etc etc . I mentioned that I was having a hard time with something, he casually responded, "My brother, Ahi, hard exists only in bread" (comes of so much better in Hebrew,"Kashe yesh rak be lehem")

What this humble combat veteran was telling me was this; nothing is hard, bread gets hard , that much is true, but nothing else is hard, everything can be overcome, everything, we are the living proof of this.

A person who survived Egypt and Masada and Auschwitz and Chelminitzky and Babi Yar and the Massacre of York and the St. Louis (Voyage of the damned) and the Cairo and Baghdad massacres and the Persian hangings and the Arab riots and so much more, can say this calmly..hard? only the old stale bread is hard, everything else is manageable.

If you don't get it, well, time for a trip to Israel, as my mother always says, to be a Jew is to remember, and to learn.


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(Photo by Avital Pinick, Jerusalem Central Bus Station)