The Israeli army and society – a personal viewpoint

My son is just finishing basic training in an infantry unit in the Israeli army. When I explain this to colleagues around the world, a wave of enforced silence hits the conversation.

Am I mad? Is he mad? Can’t you send him off to university? Isn’t it dangerous? etc etc

Well, yes Israel is surrounded by enemies. Our democracy needs defending. There is talk of the next Gaza campaign. And that’s before you mention the possibilites of Egypt worming its way out of peace treaty or the Iranian threat or Syrian unrest …..

There again, this is not Syria. Nobody sends soldiers up on rooftops to fire at protesters in Tel Aviv, nor in the West Bank for that matter. For all the complaints raised by international protest groups over the January 2009 battle in Gaza, no soldier was found guilty of issuing immoral orders.

This is very much a people’s army, where your commanding officer can often be your neighbour.

Mere words? I think not. Have a look at recent postings on the website of the army, the IDF, Israel Defence Force.

1) “There is a 200% increase of minorities volunteering to join the IDF”. This includes Bedouin, Druze, and Arabs of different religions. The report does not mention the many immigrants, who are able to complete their voluntary conversion process to Judaism through the army.

2) Over the past 4 months, the IDF has helped Druze farmers transfer 12,000 tons of produce to their fellow religionists in Syria. This has become an annual process, facilitated by the Red Cross. Fortunately, this year’s crop was completed before the Syrians closed the border as part of their clampdown.

3) The IDF was one of the first teams to send a field unit to Japan. This follows on its success in Haiti and other countries, which have suffered from a natural disasater in recent years. 

Many elements of the ultra orthodox continue to ignore the importance of the Israeli army as a motivator, as a builder of society, as a provider of skills for life, and much more. In truth the IDF remains far more than just a big bully as frequently projected by the likes of the New York Times or the BBC.

And if my son is part of that process, I am proud of that.

Explore posts in the same categories: Israel, Palestinians

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