Difference Makers

Eitan Cohen is a Captain in Israel’s Army (res). I met him at Caliber 3 Academy for Counter Terror and Security in Gush Etzion.

I went with my family to learn the fundamentals of firing a rifle at some point a rite of passage on one of many visits to Israel.

What we left with after two hours was a sermon by a military professional on counter-terrorism, a three point ideology of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and a directive to share our experiences with every Tweeter, Facebooker, Instagramer and living breathing person we know.

It was, he said our mission to teach others what we had learned. And, oh yes, we also learned how to hold and fire a rifle.

Captain Cohen’s sermon touched on the Values of the IDF. Looking and sounding every bit the soldier he remains Cohen defined the essence of an Israeli soldier as having Meaning, Morality and Respect.

A weapon in the hand of a soldier he explained is for killing.

It is not for self-defense as many novice first timers wrongly answer the question.

A soldier is trained for combat. While true such training is for the purpose of defending a country the method to accomplish this is by offense not defense that is to kill your enemy.

To live in a civilized society one’s values must embody meaning, morality and respect even for your enemy. That embodiment maintains your balance to shoot and kill in combat only when essential and not indiscriminately.

It was revealing that Capt. Cohen spoke of the values of Jews, Israeli’s and G-D. He did not appear to be a religious man. Yet he was very spiritual. He never spoke of the Arab or Muslim as the enemy he only spoke of the enemy who seeks to kill and destroy you. A mistake could mean killing an innocent person, a brother, even if that brother is an Arab. That is what distinguishes the terrorist from the counterterrorist.

I had planned an afternoon of fun with my family. A lesson in the morality of the IDF which I strongly identify with was more rewarding and more enjoyable than even hitting a bulls eye.

On our 45 minute drive back from Gush Etzion to Jerusalem I had a jarring moment.

My cell phone labeled as an Orange carrier changed to a cell carrier called Palestine.

I now understood a new meaning of the word ‘occupied’. While the world views Gush Etzion and the West Bank as Occupied Territories by Israel of Palestinians I saw it as the opposite. I was disappointed that the Israeli Government permitted the word Palestine to appear on a cell phone as an originating source. The word Palestine should not have standing in Israel a country that defines itself by values of life when many of its inhabitants define their values as the killing and obliteration of all Jews.

But therein lies Capt. Cohen’s heartfelt words.  While our terrorist enemies would never permit the word Israel to appear anywhere in their land Israelis who specialize in counterterrorism view democracy and the rule of law with meaning, morality and respect.

We did spend time learning how to hold and shoot a gun and a rifle.

We learned a proper stance to shoot and the real life dangers of not treating such a weapon with respect.

We spent an afternoon with a difference maker. He reinforced what we knew about the Israel Defense Forces. Soldiers such as Captain Eitan Cohen and countless others before him have made many difficult choices in life so that we Jews in Israel and the diaspora can live and make easier choices.

I am happy to follow this Captains orders in the hazbara of a two hour basic training class that every visitor to Israel should take.

It is a lesson in values worth learning.

About the Author
David Mandel is Chief Executive Officer of OHEL Children's Home and Family Services in New York