Israeli soldiers speak out

The press, the left and those on college campuses enjoy demonizing Israeli soldiers by calling them murderers and Fascists. But what they espouse is anything but the truth.

They will never speak of Israelis being knifed to death and Iran’s recent firing of two ballistic missiles. These weapons are capable of reaching Israel and had a statement written on them, in Hebrew, reading “Israel must be wiped off the earth.”

Here are the thoughts of some former Israeli soldiers about their views.

Gilad is a retired Israeli soldier who was born in New York. While in the army, he served in the Paratroopers and Intelligence Corps as an officer for five years, managing undercover operations in the West Bank. He is very frustrated that Israeli soldiers are always singled out.

“We constantly ask where is the outcry among the media, the college students and the human rights groups,” Gilad said. “It becomes obvious nobody cares about our side, and that at times Jewish lives are less important. This propaganda is led by not only anti-Israeli feelings, but is also Anti-Semitic. They use freedom of speech to promote their agenda. They should be called out. But it does not surprise me that this is not happening, because they are just determined to destroy our country.”

Sagie concurs. He is a former artillery officer in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), served as a platoon commander in the Israeli Artillery Crops, a commander in the Officers Artillery Course and was a deputy-commander of an Artillery battery.

“The media never shows the real picture,” he said. “For example, they will show me as a soldier up against a young Palestinian child. People then get the impression that the Palestinian is the underdog. Sometimes the strong can also be underdogs.

“Even when reporting a terrorist attack inside Israel, people hear two Palestinians killed with two Israelis. But in actuality, the Palestinians were the terrorists and the Israelis were the innocent civilians.”

Sometimes it appears that the world is going back to the dark times of the Holocaust era. Just last month, Iran, flush with cash from the sanctions relief, announced that they will give slain Palestinian terrorists $7,000 if they become “martyrs of the intifada in occupied Jerusalem.”

Since the Palestinian knifing attacks have started, 34 Israelis have been killed and 404 injured, with 202 stabbings/attempted attacks, 83 shootings and 42 vehicular (ramming) attacks.

“We are fighting on our own land,” Sagie said. “So when I am taking my soldiers with me to fight in Gaza, sometimes the missiles that we are viewing, that Hamas shot headed to Israel, sometimes my soldiers, even me myself, can see the missiles going towards my home and to my soldiers’ home. That’s something that you can’t understand from just watching the news.

“Regarding the stabbings, not only is Army personnel attacked, but also civilians, mothers and children. The minute they know it’s an Israeli, it’s a Jew, they attack them. We want to protect ourselves and it is difficult because you can’t judge someone who is under attack, if he made the right decision by killing the attacker or by running away. It is very difficult to judge someone when you haven’t been in that situation yourself.”

Gilad added that the attacks have caused Israelis to make changes in daily living.

“I don’t take the bus to school anymore. My wife doesn’t walk to work, as we used to,” he said. “We drop each other off in the car. I don’t think people like to admit it so much, but you are aware if someone from the Arab population is near you. Having said that, we understand, of course, that the vast majority doesn’t pose a threat. But you can’t help feeling that way because we are in a situation where people are getting stabbed every week.”

Yet, they still make every effort to reduce collateral damage that includes dropping leaflets and text messaging. This not only puts the Israeli soldiers in more danger, but also eliminates the tactical element of surprise.

Another former Israeli soldier, Edan, grew up in both Israel and the United States. After being drafted in the IDF, he became a trainer for new combat recruits and has commanded a platoon of veteran combat elites.

“Most Palestinians just want to live their lives,” he said. “We in the Israeli Defense Forces put emphasis on protecting Palestinian lives, culture and religion.”

Those interviewed cited two examples. While patrolling in the Old City an elderly Palestinian always offers the soldiers cups of water. Another example was after a female terrorist was arrested, there was a search to make sure a female Israeli soldier frisked her in order to preserve her family’s honor and the rule of religious modesty.

Another important point all wanted to make is how much they feel a comradeship with those serving in the American military. While on tour in America, they met with many U.S. soldiers, including those in the ROTC program. They told of obvious differences and similarities.

The main difference is that the IDF must fight and confront the enemy on their actual borders. They are in battle for their country’s survival. Edan said he had arrested terrorists that were 10 minutes from his house.

Because everyone in Israel must serve, three years for men, two years for women, soldiers are able to speak their mind and make suggestions, even to generals.

“In the Israeli army there are not very many career soldiers — although we do have mandatory service,” Gilad said. “I think that our army has more improvisation, while the American army has more protocol. Remember, all Israelis must serve in the active reserves and actively train until about 45-years-old.”

Also, discussed is the disconnect between American society and those serving. About 98 percent of Americans do not know anyone in the armed services or a family member. Everybody in Israel knows someone who has served, is currently serving and has been touched by tragedy. The image of the Israeli soldier is that those serving are everyone’s children. There is a much stronger awareness of what they and their family members must go through and sacrifice.

Asked about the similarities, all said they feel the IDF and the American military forces share the same goals. They are highly motivated to serve their country and believe they are fighting for the values of freedom, democracy and to protect their fellow countrymen. “We now confront the same enemy and face the same challenges in fighting in urban areas,” Sagie said. “I felt privileged to meet U.S. army soldiers and veterans.”

It has become obvious that both sets of soldiers face the same reality and difficulties. Each group understands they need to stand firm. It is very sad that many in the press, on college campuses and politicians do not realize that Israel and the U.S. should be true allies.

What has become evident is that when the barriers are broken down, both the Israeli and American soldiers share the same values.



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About the Author

Elise Cooper

Elise writes book reviews that always include a short author interview.