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Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

The People Power of the IDF

Soldiers in my unit medivacing a seriously wounded soldier.  Photo (c) T. Book, 2024
Soldiers in my unit medivacing a seriously wounded soldier. Photo (c) T. Book, 2024

During these difficult times it is the IDF that plays an important role in Israeli society and is supported by a national consensus of the Israeli population.  In addition to the Jewish and Druze citizens who have compulsory service, Muslim, Christian, and Circassian citizens have the option of volunteering.  Furthermore, polls consistently show that most Israelis would volunteer to serve in the IDF, even if it were not compulsory.  Regarding the sociological importance of military service in Israel, Yaakov Lozowick notes that,

If one were to seek a single explanation for the cohesion of Israeli society and its ability to integrate masses of newcomers, this (service in the IDF) might be it.  The central fact about military service is its universality; even today, when the distance between the ideal and reality is growing, the essence has not changed significantly.

Lozowick observes that most of the youth in the IDF will have had more money spent on them by their country than most will make in their lifetimes.  He mentions that many soldiers (in combat units) will endure sleepless nights and difficult conditions as they are being transformed into a fighting unit.  As far as responsibility and maturity he remarks that they, “will have been given responsibility such as many of their peers in other societies will never have.”  He refers to the IDF as, “a citizen army that has contributed immensely to the cohesion of Israeli society.”

Soldiers in my reserve IDF medical combat unit on the Gaza border during the current “Swords of Iron” war. Photo (c) Tuvia Book, 2023

Since Israel achieved statehood in 1948, service in the IDF has been considered an important agent of national integration and instrumental in forging Israeli identity.  The IDF is a powerful socializing institution.  IDF service does not simply reproduce ethnic and class inequalities but rather, by molding the soldiers’ conceptions of citizenship, is still a powerful mechanism of legitimizing a hegemonic militarized and class-differentiated social order.

Illustration of Idan Raichel. (c) T. Book, 2023

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.

 It is the men and women of the IDF, both those in their compulsory service, and those who volunteered, or were drafted for reserves, who are the backbone of our country.  They are the pride and glory of Israel.  Their strength, compassion, and morality are a beacon of hope for our citizens, and indeed for Jews and well-meaning lovers of freedom throughout the world.  May God give them strength and bless our nation with peace.

The writer is a Jewish educator, author, and tour guide.  His latest book is Jewish Journeys: the Second Temple Period to the Bar Kokhba Revolt: 536 BCE-136 CE (Koren Publishers). He is currently serving as a reservist in the IDF as a combat medic in Gaza.

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: https://korenpub.com/products/jewish-journeys
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