NEVER AGAIN IS NOW
I grew up in Israel, and like most other citizens, at 18 became a soldier. When it was my turn to defend the people, the state, and its symbols, I fought in a number of wars. I have never shared what I saw as a soldier, but in the wake of the most atrocious attacks on Jews since the Holocaust, I want to share just some of my military service experiences with you.
Like all my childhood friends, I was enlisted right after high school. We joined mandatory service to protect the borders of a small country that is surrounded by hostile neighbors. But the year I joined, the biggest threats were within our borders.
The year was 2001, a year in which the Israelis were in a constant battle in our own neighborhoods. All the major Israeli cities had suffered from extremely severe terrorist attacks. Almost every day, a suicide bomber blew him or herself up in public places where women, children, and the elderly live.
Now that it was my turn to defend, I chose to serve in a combat unit because I wanted to be on the frontlines of fighting terrorists. I said goodbye to my worried parents at the gate of the recruiting base and thought they were exaggerating when they expressed so much concern about me joining a combat unit. In hindsight, my mother’s worry was justified – she never knew her father because he died defending Israel before he even knew she was conceived.
I got a uniform and became a soldier, but I was still a child. They put us on bulletproof buses to get to the training base, which was located in a very hostile area. The bus hit an explosive device, and immediately, a barrage of shots from Hamas terrorists hit the bus. We didn’t have weapons or basic training yet, so we trusted the forces securing the bus to resolve the incident.
Welcome to the IDF.
Believe it or not, I still didn’t share my parent’s worry. (By the way, they don’t know this story.)
In the following months, we learned to function as warriors. We received guns and countless hours of intense training, and in front of the Wailing Wall, we pledged ourselves to the values of the IDF:
“The Israel Defense Forces is the army of the State of Israel. The IDF operates under the authority of the democratic civil government and is subject to the country’s laws. The purpose of the IDF is to protect the existence of the State of Israel and its independence and to thwart the enemy’s efforts to disrupt its normal way of life.
IDF soldiers are obligated to fight, devote all their strength, and even sacrifice their lives to defend the State of Israel, its citizens, and its residents. IDF soldiers will act according to the values of the IDF and its orders while maintaining the laws of the state and human dignity and respecting the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”
On the officers’ residence, which was in front of our tents, was written in large letters – “Every Hebrew mother who entrusts her children to the IDF commanders, know they are worthy of your trust.” Whether I liked my commanders or not, I trusted them to be worthy of leading us and transforming us from children into warriors.
The values that were instilled in us every day and at every hour were clear, written on the wall in our place of residence, and even printed and put in our shirt pockets:
Adherence to the mission and striving for victory. A soldier will fight and act courageously in the face of all the dangers and obstacles in front of him and will stick to his mission with determination and intelligence, to the point of ferocity.
Responsibility and accountability. The soldier will see himself as an active partner in protecting the security of the country, its citizens, and its residents. The soldier will act while constantly showing involvement, initiative, and diligence, with discretion and within the framework of his authority, when he is right to bear responsibility for the results of his actions.
Reliability. The soldier will present things as they are, completely and accurately, in planning, execution, and reporting, and will act so that his friends and commanders can trust him in the performance of the tasks.
Lead by example. The soldier will act according to what is required of him and fulfill what he demands of his fellow man, in recognition of his ability and responsibility, in the army and outside, to set a worthy example.
Human life. The soldier will behave intelligently and safely in all his actions, recognizing the supreme importance of human life. When fighting, he will endanger himself and his comrades to the extent required to carry out the mission.
Purity of Arms. The soldier will use his weapon and strength only to carry out the mission, only to the extent required for this, and will maintain a human image even in combat. The soldier will not use his weapon and force to harm non-combatants and prisoners and will do everything in his power to prevent harm to their lives, bodies, dignity, and property.
Professionalism. A soldier will strive to acquire the professional knowledge and skills required to perform his duty and will apply them while striving for continuous improvement of personal and individual achievements.
Discipline. The soldier will work to the best of his ability to fully and successfully perform what is required of him according to the orders and according to their spirit. The soldier will be careful to give only legal orders and will not obey clearly illegal orders.
Friendship. The soldier will act out of brotherhood and devotion to his service members and will always come to their aid when they need him or depend on him, despite all danger and difficulty, to the point of desperation.
Mission. The soldier will see his military service as a mission; It would be right to contribute whatever he can to the defense of the country, its citizens, and residents. This is because he is a representative of the IDF acting in force and within the framework of the powers given to him according to the army’s orders.