Yoni Alon
Cooks a very good schnitzel

Israel in three seasons

I still believe in Israel! I recently told my brother in a conversation we had about the future of the Jewish state. He who has spent the last 6 years of his life studying and working in Europe has a different perspective than mine about the future of the 66 year old country.

For someone who lives temporarily outside of Israel I have the freedom to observe my homeland from the other side of the fence. Standing here away from the borders of Israel, distanced from the effect of its day to day life, I can make some honest remarks without feeling subjective.

I wish to share with you my thoughts about “Israel in three seasons”.

We had a very hot summer.

The last war in Gaza was a pointless display of excessive forcesomeone told me a few months ago. As someone who spent six and a half years of his life wearing a uniform (more than two years in the Gaza Division), it is easy for me to disagree with those who charge the IDF with the use of excessive force. Yes there was an artillery shelling there, and also air bombardment but it is the Israeli intelligence, and IDF combat protocols that turn excessive into reasonable.

Why the intelligence? It is precise, specific and based on multiple sources. An Israeli F-15i that hovers above Gaza does not just drop bombs on random houses. The pilot is instructed to follow a very explicit target plan and has the duty, independently, to abort the mission if he realizes, upon approach, that the intelligence was not precise and that innocent individuals are in danger. He will not be court-martialed but presented as a hero in a society that sanctifies life and not death.

Why the military protocols? Did you ever try to imagine how a house in Gaza becomes a target? I can help you with that by sharing with you the following story I’ve heard from a friend who came back home from Gaza in early September. “We were walking in one of the more risky neighborhoods in Northern Gaza and spotted a group of Hamas militants firing from one of the houses” he said. “Later we realized they left the house and that it’s booby-trapped. The commanding officer in my company decided it would be better to bomb the house from the air instead of calling the bomb squad unit to deal with it in a dangerous process that will take hours. And thus began what came to be a very bureaucratic and enduring process”. Once a unit on the ground `paints` a house to be attacked from the air it goes up the chain of command and travels from one headquarters to another. You see, you can’t just bomb a house in Gaza. The targets specialists in every military echelon have to examine the target, make sure there are no uninvolved citizens around, no civilian infrastructure facilities and only then have a high-ranking officer give a `green` or `red` light to the strike. My friend continued, “Eventually that house was not bombed because in the `target creation process` someone realized it would endanger too many innocent people. We `painted` many risky houses like that to be attacked from the air but only a few were eventually bombed”.

We had a fall of uncertainty.

In light of the recent wave of terror attacks in Israel a friend told me “There is no chance of an actual peace among the Israelis and Palestinians”. I can’t allow myself to lose hope of the vision of an end to this long time conflict between us Israelis and the Palestinians. For me there is no point of living in Israel and thinking about a future in Israel without the hope of ending this violent clash one day. I might be naive and young but I choose to live in a society that envisions a more peaceful future for its children and their children. A society that believes in defense and security as much as it believes in the creation of cultural and religious bridges between our neighbors and us. The recent wave of terror towards Jews in Israel was carried out by individual Palestinians who are not linked (by majority) to any terror organization. The Israeli intelligence and defense community are well trained in preventing the execution of organized terror attacks before they happen. When it comes to stopping the acts of a single individual, it gets almost impossible. These “lone wolf” antagonists usually gather no intel, choose random targets and use very simple weapons that can be acquired easily. I believe that most of these men are driven by two main factors – hatred and despair. Hate that surrounded their past and present environment. They felt it growing up listening to their parents talking about Israel and the Jews. They got some of it through the Palestinian public school system that often educates about the “Imperialist occupation of the land by the Jews” although that has improved some in recent years. They also were influenced while walking in alleys of small towns and villages in the West Bank where poverty and unemployment are the fertilizer of this hatred-filled soil.

The despair usually arises strongly after a conflict with Israel that produces no change. Operation “Protective Edge” did not lead to any dialogue between the two sides. We are now further away from any realistic peace process and the upcoming elections in Israel are just another ice cube in an already very cold glass of scotch.

We are heading towards a political winter.

The 19th Israeli parliament that was dismantled two weeks ago managed to operate for only 671 days instead of full four years. It is not a rare thing in Israeli politics. To be fair, only 7 out of 19 parliament cycles in Israel survived full term. It says a lot about us as a people, as a nation. A nation of people who often don’t agree with each other, who criticize their own actions, policies and decisions far more than the outside world does. People who are so different than one other yet all desire a better future for their children.

The upcoming political shift in Israel is filled with question marks. I can’t bet on anyone yet, not a single leader, not a single party. In a recent poll conducted by Israel Channel 2 we learned that one third of the public supports Buji Hertzog and Zipi Livni for the prime-minister position. The other third supports Bibi Netanyahu and the last third support none of them! The last third of the Israeli Jewish public said in that poll that they don’t want to see any of them in that position. This segment of the Israeli public will be the one affecting these elections the most. Israel is the greenhouse of many great ideas. Technological inventions, great high-tech companies and great food. However it has been too long since we also enjoyed the leadership of great individuals. I feel as if the Israeli public is looking for a new set of leaders – who don’t just talk – but also walk the walk. It reminds me of a quote I once read, “If you don’t know what you’re standing for – you better sit down”.

This is my summer, fall and winter as an Israeli in Colorado. Hoping for a better spring.

About the Author
Yoni Alon is in the field of building bridges between Israelis and non-Israelis. He was an Israeli Shaliach/Emissary with the Jewish Agency for Israel at the Robert E. Loup JCC in Denver from 2013-2015. Prior to that, he served in the Israel Defense Force for seven and a half years (Maj res.). Throughout his military service, he acted in various roles, including as a liaison officer in the International Cooperation Unit of the IDF, connecting the U.S military with the IDF.
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