What I learned from the massive IDF Joint exercise

A rabbi, a hi-tech entrepreneur, a lawyer and an educator walk into a tent.

This is not the opening of a joke, but a scenario last week in my unit headquarters in the IDF’s largest exercise in 20 years. It is a classic situation in the Israeli phenomenon of miluim, reserve duty.

Thousands of Israeli citizens left their jobs, families, and studies, got into uniform, and took part in the ten-day September mock war. So did I, in my first operational drill since discharging exactly one year ago.

As I sat down to write fresh conclusions drawn from the exercise for my commander I was already thinking what would be permitted to publicly share regarding Israel’s current challenges on its northern border. After handing in my official statement I erased all the classified information. Here then are my top three lessons from the exercise:

  1. Our intelligence picture of Hezbollah has never been better – therefore we should be much humbler and cautious.

As this guerrilla and terror organization adapts the characteristics of a regular army, we understand better the structure, strategy and warfare tactics of the IDF’s #1 threat. This should be good news. Yet hearing the way IDF senior officials speak in the media should alert us that we might be underestimating our challenges and be over-confident; especially as we approach the Yom Kippur War’s 44th anniversary, where our exaggerated self-confidence cost us a very heavy price.

Humility. Even when things look like they are going well, and your knowledge and confidence are better than ever, don’t abandon caution. Stay humble and alert. 

  1. A big challenge in deep maneuvers will be control.

As the troops moved deeper and deeper behind enemy lines our ability in the headquarters to control and contact them became more and more challenging. If we prepared them properly, gave them tools to face unexpected (and expected) challenges, and implanted in them our spirit and vision of the greater goal – this is where it pays off.

Not everything is in your control.  Share tools and values with those you love and are responsible for, and trust them to know how to face the upcoming challenges on their own.

  1.  The enemy tries to distract, demoralize, and create uncertainty. The one answer is: Keep moving forward!

A semi-military guerrilla army like Hezbollah will have a hard time to stop the IDF, but can take advantage of our weaknesses and create distractions that will preoccupy us and divert our attention from the main goal ahead of us (as they did successfully in 2006). In this exercise there were attempts to get us immersed in a specific event and miss the strategic picture.

Keep moving forward! Don’t ignore the challenge; rather solve it while you’re in motion. The enemy is trying to create uncertainty. Yet when you continue moving forward you are turning the tables around – the enemy will lose balance and will have a much harder time stopping you.

Stay focused on your goals, minimize your distractions, never stay in place and always move forward.

As I hope you have noticed too, these results are not just food for thought in my military job or for my public presentations – I realized these are lessons that each and every one of us can weave into our daily lives.

I hope you will take these Hezbollah-oriented spiritual and mental preparations for the next year.

Shana Tova, may God grant a peaceful year to Israel, to the Jewish nation, and to a whole world awash in challenges.

About the Author
Major (Res.) Yaakov Selavan is a strategic affairs expert and IDF motivational speaker for soldiers and draftees. He is a social activist invloved in several NGOs. A Golan resident and an IDF Tactical Command College alumnus, Major (Res.) Selavan is a popular speaker in Israel and abroad and a leading Golan international spokesperson. Through Slingshot Israel, he draws upon military experiences to instill values and encourage social action.