Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

More Silence to Break

Shalom Marc,

Having read your response to my post that you titled: “What does an illegal order look like?” I have to respond that, although I have the greatest respect for you and everyone else who served in the IDF, I take issue with your comments on my post. Three points stand out:

1. “He [that’s me] says he was never asked to follow an illegal order, I wonder if he means he was never asked to carry out an order his own moral compass had an issue with.”

My response: No, I mean, I was never asked to follow an illegal order, EVER!

2.   “I am glad there is a Breaking the Silence, a space where soldiers can talk about the things they did in the heat of the moment. Where they can criticize their government for putting them in uniform and sending them to a place they feel they were ill equipped to deal with.”

My response: People who serve in combat units are entirely voluntary. If you don’t want to serve in a combat (Kravi) unit you don’t have to. The “Government” is not putting people in uniform and sending them to places, without training and briefings, against their will. The IDF is the apolitical army of an elected democratic government and it is there to carry out the wishes of that government. One doesn’t like the government policies? Vote for another one. Welcome to democracy. One has a problem with what one did during ones service, or with one’s officers? Keep it in house. There are enough bodies WITHIN the army and State that can take care of issues that come up. DO NOT run to our enemies abroad and give them ammunition based on hearsay anonymously. If you are a Zionist and lover of Israel (left or right, religious or secular) then surely you realize the harm brought on our State by giving the haters even more to hate. Family takes care of family. Period.

Concerning the integrity of BtS, please view this link (in Hebrew) to see how “truthful” BtS is. The brothers in arms of Avner Gvir, one of the leaders of BtS speak about what really happened:

Here are some extracts:

  • “We were with him and events did not happen that way that he told them,” say his friends who served with him in his unit.
  • Hearing his testimony people who don’t know any different would think that “Every day the soldiers want to come in and hit and go crazy” and are just a bunch of sadists.
  • “The reality is much more complex. And he comes and says, not just in Israel, but also throughout the world, how much we are war criminals. This about people who endangered their lives in order NOT to endanger innocent civilians.”


3. “I read a lot of pieces like Tuvia’s before I went into the army, before I made Aliyah. But unfortunately that view didn’t survive my mandatory service. In fact, I resented Israel afterwards, I was angry because I couldn’t find the country I had been told existed in pieces like his.”

My response: Growing up in both South Africa and the United Kingdom, and not having Israeli parents or an Israeli passport, I was not obligated to serve in the IDF.  Whilst my friends and I were obsessed about going to university after high school, young Israeli Jews I met after high school during my gap year in Israel were focused on how best they could serve their country. In the immortal words of Naomi Shemer; “they came to give and not to take.” They inspired me to make Aliyah and to serve in the IDF as a “lone soldier.”  It is heart-warming in these times to meet these special, selfless and proud Jewish young people, who come to give and not to take, and who represent all that is good about the miraculous times we live in. After almost two stateless millennia we live in a fortunate era where we are in charge of our own destiny in our own land and we have good people to show us the way.

I come from a family where my mother’s side was almost totally annihilated in the Holocaust precisely because they were Jews, and there was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. They were murdered, together with the other six million Jews, because we were not in charge of our own destiny and had to rely on the pity of our host nations.  My service was the proudest moment of my life. My IDF uniform is the finest suit of clothes I have ever worn. I consider it an honor to live in a generation where Jews can stand up and defend our honor and be in charge of our own destiny.

Band of Miluimniks_Final_72_PPI
© Tuvia Book, 2016

Marc, some of your views, in my opinion, border on “Post-Zionism.” Anyone who regularly reads Haaretz or listens to some of the political statements of some leading academics at Israeli universities (especially recently some of those from some tenured academics at Hebrew University regarding Israel’s Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked) will have to agree with Sarah Tuttle-Singer’s observation that,

A lot of people have a hard time with Jewish people being in a position of power. Including ourselves, apparently.”

This kind of self-doubt and reassessing the “carved in stone” educational foundations of Israel’s history is a major contributing factor to the lack of pride, clarity and direction for some in contemporary Israel.

Whilst no country is perfect, what Israel’s homegrown detractors seem to forget is just how much Israel has achieved in the first sixty-seven years of its existence. We have revived our language, made the desert bloom, rebuilt our homeland, ingathered our exiles, have the ability to defend our homeland and protect Jews worldwide and we strive to make the world a better place for all of its inhabitants. Daniel Gordis succinctly summed it up when he stated that, in addition to striving for the benefit our own citizens,

This country has become a country, with all of its imperfections, that sees as part of its purpose as looking out for other people.”

Unlike you Marc, I believe that our army is an ethical and moral army and our state, with all the issues it is wrestling, is more than just a, “nation like other nations.” Rather, we strive to be a, “light unto the nations.”

Popular musical entertainer Idan Raichel made a moving observation about the two-minute silence during Memorial Day (Yom HaZikaron) in Israel which is commemorated immediately preceding Israel’s Independence Day (Yom HaAtzmaut). Raichel who served in the IDF himself, refers to service in the IDF as a “basic ingredient” to “Israeliness.” Raichel commented that,

I think that those two minutes truly reflect the Israeli way of life, the Israeli pride, our longing and sadness, our concern for and about the future, our patriotism and our mutual destiny. Those two minutes truly show what all Israelis have in common, if it’s our lives in the present, or the respect we have for our past. To me, those two minutes sharpen our minds and are the epitome of Israeli society.”

About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He was a Senior Editor and Teaching Fellow at the Tikvah Fund. He is a research associate at the Hudson Institute. Tuvia is the author and illustrator the internationally acclaimed Israel education curriculum; "For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Studies" (Fifth edition, Koren 2017), and "Moral Dilemmas of the Modern Israeli Soldier" (Rama, 2011) and has a doctorate in Israel Education. His latest book, "Jewish Journeys, The Second Temple Period to the Bar Kokhba Revolt – 536 BCE-136 CE," was published by Koren this year. To order:
Related Topics
Related Posts