I don’t blame the IDF soldiers for running

Utterly devastating. That’s how I would describe today’s Jihadist truck-ramming in Jerusalem which claimed the lives of four young IDF soldiers HY”D.

While they were handing out candies to celebrate in Gaza, and reports circulated that several Israeli Arabs who passed the murder scene in Jerusalem honked their car horns in support, (and as I type, celebratory fireworks are exploding over the skies of Jebul Mukabar, the neighborhood of the terrorist), the lives of four sets of Israeli families have been altered forever.

Within just a few hours, the video of the attack surfaced on the Internet, with a glimpse of pure evil on display for the world to see.

The Jihadist barrels his truck into the group of soldiers standing by their bus and immediately reverses the vehicle in an attempt to roll back over those who might still be breathing.

But the video then provides a startling reality.  While some of the many armed soldiers who were in the area on various educational/training experiences realized what was happening runs towards the truck in order to try and neutralize the terrorist, many others are seen on camera gathering their gear including their weapons and hauling tail in the other direction.

In fact it was reported that ultimately it was the civilian tour guide leading the group — who was initially knocked down during the truck’s first pass, who reacted fastest and fired towards the truck’s cabin in order to stop the attack.

I won’t lie, it was extremely disheartening to see the scores of soldiers who fled the scene.  For some, I’m sure it was the natural and very human fight or flight response, and while I would hope that “fight” would be the reaction, it clearly wasn’t.

A friend of mine with army experience explained to me on Facebook that so many soldiers are “jobnikim” and simply aren’t trained to deal with this type of situation. Fair enough.

Another suggested that if all of the soldiers reacted by charging the bus guns blazing many more innocents would have been hurt or killed in the crossfire.  I’m willing to accept that theory as well.

But the scenario I believe played out in the minds of some of the troops there today, which I find unacceptable is “if I react too strongly, I could get in trouble.”

Yes, today’s incident comes on the heels of the Elor Azaria verdict and perhaps his image or the subliminal influence of the court’s decision during those first seconds caused the soldiers to act in a certain manner.

One soldier who did in fact fire admitted in an anonymous letter that he had fearful visions of becoming “Azaria #2” (link is in Hebrew) and going to jail, but still chose to use his weapon.

But I have seen that look of hesitation firsthand on the faces of our soldiers long before Azaria.

It’s not a look of fear.

I truly believe that our troops in the field are the bravest in the world putting their own lives at risk 24/7 to defend the State of Israel and its people.

But it’s that glazed look seeming to say “I’m worried about getting in trouble” or “being punished” for using “too much force” in a given situation. You can also see a tinge of “frustration” in that look, of someone whose hands are tied, but knows he or she has the ability to do what’s necessary.

On October 7, 2015, I was nearly the victim of an Arab lynch mob on the road from Tekoa to Jerusalem, when 40 attackers charged my car with cement blocks and bricks with murder on their mind.

A few minutes earlier a woman from Tekoa was surrounded by that same mob and after they managed to force her car to stop and bombard it with rocks, they opened her driver-side door and started trying to beat her to death. She miraculously managed to escape.

But when I returned to the scene and the soldiers had arrived, it was that look of indecision that I’ll never forget. The mob had backed away from the road, but continued to hurl rocks down at the soldiers below. The threat remained clear and present. If the soldiers went home, the next group of Jewish motorists would have been the targets.

But the wait to react was on. The wait from orders from above.

It was the fear of taking the initiative or doing “too much,” that dragged out an altercation, which should have ended in arrests if not more — justifiably against those seeking murder.

I understand that an army has a moral code that it must follow. I understand that there is a chain of command, and I get it that there can’t be vigilantism in the ranks of an organized armed force.

But something here is amiss. When the automatic response created in the brain of our soldiers isn’t ‘react’ or ‘defend,’ but instead is ‘will I get in trouble?’ or ‘I should flee?’ then the operational procedure within our army – the ‘system,’ is extremely flawed.

About the Author
Joshua Hasten is the International Spokesperson for Gush Etzion. He is host of the weekly “Israel Uncensored” radio broadcast on The Land of Israel Network, as well as an international Middle East Correspondent in print and on television. Joshua is also a sought-after speaker around the world. His workshops and lectures on pro-Israel advocacy have impacted thousands. Joshua was the CAMERA organization’s 2009 Letter Writer of the Year, and is a member of the Judea and Samaria Speaker’s Bureau. Originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, he resides in Gush Etzion, Israel.