Usually on Yom Hazikaron, I mourn Israel’s fallen heroes. This year, my goal is to do something a little more proactive. So I decided to do what I can as a father of a future IDF troop to prevent more avoidable and unnecessary deaths. So the following is the conversation that every Israeli father must have with their son before entering the IDF. But first a quick disclaimer: This piece is not intended to create mutiny within the ranks of the IDF, but rather to educate future soldiers and help them better understand the political nature of the those who are deciding their fate.
Son, we need to talk
So you have decided to let yourself get drafted into the army. I specifically word it this way because although there is a compulsory draft in Israel, those wishing to get out of it can…easily. Therefore, I am proud of you. You have selflessly chosen to join the first Jewish led army since the time of King David. A fighting force designed to protect the land that God has promised our nation as an inheritance – Israel. But with my pride, also comes great concern.
Everything has changed
That’s because the IDF of today is not the same army it was in 1967. Many things have changed; from the rules of engagement to the very spirit of the generals that are running the show. You must know, son, that if the status quo continues, you will be placed in unnecessary danger by top generals who don’t have your (or the country’s) best interest at heart.
Believe it or not, your life will be in the hands of Israel’s top brass who will sacrifice your safety for the sake of Israel’s enemy without even flinching. This is precisely what former Chief of Staff Benny Gantz proudly stated to a crowd at a recent conference. You will be relying on the judgement of top generals like Yair Golan who sees no difference between Israel today and the days leading up to Nazi Germany (yes, he actually said that).
The days of preemptive strikes against hostile enemies like Egypt are over. As I taught you son, there is a saying in Pirkei Avot that states that if someone is plotting to kill you, you must wake up earlier and kill them first. This motto is what led Israel to such a decisive victory in 1967. But IDF chiefs like Gadi Eisenkott say that this crucial piece of advice is now obsolete (and they wonder why they can’t win any wars anymore).
The popularity contest
Actually, I take that back. IDF chiefs like Gabi Ashkenazi, who sends troops onto Hamas affiliated flotillas armed primarily with paintball guns know exactly why the most technologically advanced military in the world can’t beat a bunch of thugs with homemade mortar launchers. They don’t want to.
That’s because the new generation of IDF leadership shudders at the thought of bad press in Europe, more so than they fear funerals on Har Herzl.
What you need to understand
Son, I know your intentions are true and your fellow soldier’s are as well, but I can’t stress enough how important it is that you know who is calling the shots here. When Gadi Eisenkott proudly states that killing those who launch incendiary balloons into Israel is “against his operational and moral positions”, surely you can see where my fear stems from. You will be serving in an army that responds to mortar and rocket attacks by scrambling fighter jets…to bomb empty buildings and parking lots. They will later claim that they have hit ‘terror targets’ giving the media the impression that these campaigns cause an iota of deterrence. (We both know that they don’t.)
A loser’s approach to war
It has turned into an army that parades its mixed gender unit with the same level of pride as a military victory. Unfortunately, those responsible for all the small scale “operations” in the Gaza strip, with all their experience and university degrees, wouldn’t know how to win a war against a bunch of teenagers with rocks (This is not an exaggeration. They are literally losing a war against teenagers with rocks). These IDF generals are unfamiliar with the most basic principles of war. Principles like offensive action, regional strategy and the element of surprise are completely foreign to them. They are 100% defensive. And when they are struck, they will give a half-assed response. That’s one reason why the Gaza problem hasn’t gone away despite their best efforts.
They invent suicidal concepts like ‘purity of arms’ and ‘noal maatzar chashood’ (protocol for stopping a suspect). These concepts translate into killing the enemy as a last resort…always.
Whatever happens, always remember one thing – better 2 years time served than six feet under for eternity. It’s important that you understand this because if you are ever in a position to kill your enemy, those same generals will happily lock you up if they think it’ll cover their ass. There is a good chance you will have to make the choice between your life and your freedom. Always choose life because unfortunately, the IDF probably won’t.
They are weak. You don’t have to be.
Many soldiers understand this harsh reality but see no way out as they are just following orders. So allow me to explain: During basic and advanced training, it’s ok to follow orders like a robot. Unless they ask you to do something that you perceive to be extremely dangerous or that compromises on your values (which happens). But for the most part, what you learn in basic/advanced training builds you up. Things are different once you are in operations. That’s because you will be assigned missions that might unnecessarily expose or compromise you to ‘level the playing field’, a progressive, defeatist concept that many in the IDF brass learn in the Wexner foundation or events sponsored by the New Israel Fund. They have no place in wartime. And although you are a mere grunt, you do have input regarding selecting the missions that you embark on. If you can convince your entire team of the avoidable dangers of said mission, this information will likely be relayed to higher ups. Sometimes they will consider your feedback. The outcome could be that the mission’s approach will change. Or, it can be assigned to a different battalion altogether. If the assignment is unnecessarily dangerous, simply refuse it. Remember, better to be locked in a cell than a coffin.
And if you’re ever unsure, here are some questions you should always ask yourself before setting off on missions:
- Is the mission unnecessarily dangerous? If so, do what you can to alert your team to either avoid going on it or change the approach?
- Will this mission inject crippling fear inside the hearts of our enemies? Or is it just another formality like going into Gaza to ‘restore calm’, (a euphemism for getting killed without actually changing the situation on the ground).
Remember to always be strong in your Torah and faith in God. Because given the situation that today’s Israeli military is in, it’ll probably be the only thing keeping you safe…and who knows?…maybe even out of jail.