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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
And so it was. We preserved the values of the army and humanity in every mission. 
Those who did not live up to these standards were sent to prison. Others were ordered to leave their fighting unit to move to “combat support” units. 
This is what these values look like in some of the combat situations I encountered:
When I joined the IDF, there were not yet fences or advanced technological solutions to help prevent terrorists from entering Israel’s territory, so we suffered from a great deal of terrorism. The more we dealt with these serious problems, the better the terrorists got at using our humanitarian values against us. They used a new and unthinkable kind of sophistication – the use of children, ambulances, pregnant women, and the elderly in order to transport explosive vests and weapons. Eventually, we had to put up barriers to make sure we were blocking terrorists from smuggling weapons that would be used to kill Israelis. 
While we focused on protecting our families and innocent civilians from the daily acts of terror on our soil, mistakes were made, as in all messy and intense situations. When our soldiers made mistakes they were reprehended, not turned into national heroes. Meanwhile, the terrorists focused on public opinion and media by creating situations that would make us look really bad. They also manufactured stories and images that were entirely untrue. They did a great job. Most of the world bought it. 
But unlike them, we didn’t share the horrific images of our dead women and children in the media. The families who lost their loved ones don’t need to see those images, and we do not glorify death. 

One summer day, an 8-year-old boy approached a checkpoint wearing a coat. The heat in Israel is unbearable even with short clothes, so the coat aroused the suspicion of the soldiers. The boy was asked to stop and unzip his coat, and the horrific sight was revealed. He was wearing an explosive vest that he had been told to detonate when he approached the soldiers at the checkpoint.
He removed the vest, and the bomb squad deactivated it. The boy told the secret service officers that he was promised he’d be called a hero if he completed the operation.
Another day, not very far from the same checkpoint, I was patrolling with a relatively small team and a special unit (what most of you know as the “Fauda” unit) to check the area before an operation. We were in a dense residential neighborhood in a hostile city. Suddenly, someone from the crew shouted “gun,” and we all took cover. We were ready to fight.

There was no shooting in our direction, but we saw a young child, about 7 or 8 years old, pointing a rifle at us. The special unit commander ordered us not to shoot but to get to the boy and question him. Within minutes, we found the boy and his rifle. The rifle was a toy that looked very real from a distance. The boy was close to his parents. We asked his mother why she allowed him to do this. And she answered without concern, “Children… What to do?”
We would never forgive ourselves if we shot a child. But if the boy had shot one of us, the fact that he was a boy wouldn’t really have made a difference to any of our mothers.
On one of the warmest days of the year, we received a warning that a terrorist was about to leave in the direction of Israel, and we had to make a roadblock at the exit from one of the Palestinian cities. Little by little, a very long line of people wanted to pass, and we had to check them all, one by one, before we could allow them to proceed. Most of them are good people who do not seek to harm anyone. Unfortunately, terrorists know how to integrate themselves among civilians and often look harmless.
While we were checking the long line of people, I noticed an old man carrying heavy baskets, and I offered to help him go through the line without waiting. I picked up the baskets for him and moved him to the other side of the checkpoint. Apart from a middle finger, I got no response. I understand his anger, but it is certainly not our choice to be at the checkpoint. It is a moral duty to protect Israeli families. But it is also my moral duty to be human and not lose my compassion for other human beings, no matter their beliefs about me.
On another day, we were urgently called to a mission. We received information from the Secret Service that a terrorist with a suicide vest was on his way, and since we were right next door, the task was assigned to us to stop him at all costs. We received precise information and knew what vehicle we were looking for. Within a few minutes, the car appeared, and we ordered the driver to stop and all passengers to get out of the vehicle.
It was a 15-year-old boy who had an explosive vest under his t-shirt. We kept a safe distance, but his fear was evident in his every movement. All our guns were pointed at him, but if he really wanted to die, he would have pressed the explosive vest in order to kill us. Instead, he chose to remove the vest, but then he started running towards us. He was unarmed at this point, so I grabbed him, laid him on the ground, and handcuffed him. 
Despite my enormous anger towards him, I also felt immense compassion for him because I knew he was afraid, and it was clear to me that he did not understand his actions well enough. He was taken for questioning. I assume that after a short period in prison, he was released back to his family in the hope that he would change his ways.
Israelis join the army at the age of 18, knowing that they might die or be captured by the enemy. But we know we will return home, either alive or in a coffin. We have a pact that no one is left behind. I lost friends who didn’t have much left to bury, but we buried what was left with a hero’s burial.
In 2006, a soldier named Gilad Shalit was kidnapped in Gaza, and around the same time, Israeli soldiers were killed in an attack from Hezbollah in the north of the country. Their dead bodies were also kidnapped. Israel went to another war to bring them all back.
In an attempt to save the bodies of the soldiers, we lost a large number of soldiers and civilians. The world held rallies for the citizens of Lebanon and for the citizens of Gaza. Not only was our pain not heard, but the world media only showed the pain of those who suffered because of our response to the terrorist groups who provoked our fighting. Yet, according to the world, we are to blame.
What choice is there in this situation? Not fighting? To leave the only country where Jews are supposed to feel safe? 
The land was given to Jews by broad agreement at the UN in 1948 because 6 million Jews were murdered in Europe. We need some small slice of land where Jews are not endangered for being Jews.
All of Israel mourned the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit and every day, the news broadcasts started with a reminder of how many days Gilad was in captivity. Several years later, 1,027 prisoners were released. The released prisoners are murderers who returned to terrorist activity. But we did that in order to free one prisoner, a boy in uniform who was kidnapped at the age of 19 by terrorists. 
Ever since finishing my military service, I wake up and immediately check the news to make sure there is no war. On October 7, 2023, when I woke up, I wanted to go back to sleep, but the habit of checking if there was a war overcame me. I checked, and once again, there was war. But this is one I have never seen. One that will change the world forever.
A war in which there is no other option but to eradicate terrorism forever.
Krav Maga was developed 90 years ago when Jews were attacked for being Jews. Nazi ideology was spreading, and Jews were beaten and humiliated in the streets across Europe. Imi Lichtenfeld, the creator of Krav Maga, chose to fight back in order to maintain the security and dignity of his Jewish community.
Krav Maga has become the best method of self-defense in the world. It is a method born from a lack of choice – we were weak and had to protect ourselves, or we would cease to exist. But it has only been used “So that we may walk in peace.”
Similarly, Israel has grown stronger and learned to defend itself by itself. We became strong because we had no choice. Losing is not an option because we have nowhere safe to go. As the famous poet Ehud Menor wrote, “I have no other country, even if my land is burning.”
The Israeli army, out of necessity, became a strong and technological army with many capabilities in the fields of combat and intelligence. But many of these layers of protection failed on Saturday, October 7, 2023, and we saw scenes that may be even worse than those in the 30s and 40s of the last century.
I will never be ashamed or hide that I am Jewish, even if it might get me into trouble. I will never lower my head as a Jew or an Israeli. And I wish all Jews and Israelis would do the same.
The global failure that allowed the Holocaust of the Jews will forever remain a hole in the heart of the Jewish people and anyone who has human morals. I have dedicated my life to making sure that “Never Again” means just that. My doors are open to anyone who wants to learn to protect themselves so that they may walk in peace. 
Never again is now