I watched a documentary the other day called Beneath the Helmet. It was about 5 Israeli soldiers and their journey from high school into the Israeli Defense Force.
It was a special journey, not because these people were any different to many other 18-year-olds in the world. In fact, they were pretty much the same. They liked music, enjoyed the beach, going out, talking with friends.
In fact, it was remarkable as to just how unremarkable they were, despite the fact they came from many different backgrounds. They were, nevertheless, ordinary people – doing an extraordinary job. Because the job they are doing is the most important job any person can do. They are protecting their country.
When I look around the world today and I see these protest groups like Jews for Justice in Palestine, or Jewish Voice for Peace or BDS – groups who march against Israel and constantly criticize it, many of them are comprised of people the same age as these new IDF recruits. Yet, their lives are governed by a hatred for the State of Israel. They are defined by what they are against – rather than what they are for.
For the Jewish kids involved in these movements, if they are so passionate in their beliefs, and they are so moved by what they call unfairness, and they are so driven by a sense of justice, then why don’t they take up the plight in Israel itself? They are Jews and therefore have got the right to make Aliyah and to live in their own country of Israel – a country in which many Jews have died to secure that right. If they are sitting in America, and don’t like what they see in Israel, then come on over and change it from within. They should place themselves at the mercy of Israel’s enemies and walk the streets like ordinary Israeli citizens. They should board the buses that travel through the country, drive cars in areas where Jews have come under rock attack and gun attack. And if they do get attacked by an Arab wielding a knife, they should calmly and simply explain who they are, their political view, their reasoning and their views towards achieving peace.
But of course they won’t, because while they’re extremely brave with other people’s lives and other people’s limbs and other people’s families – it turns out they don’t quite display the same courage with their own limbs and lives.
All Israeli boys and girls have to, by law, join the IDF at age 18, yet the overwhelming sense I got from watching this documentary is that they do it out of sense of love as well. They do it because they love their country and want to defend it. And they also do it because it is a duty they embrace rather than avoid.
While some kids around the world their age are kicking over bins, and burning cars and spitting venomous rhetoric, Israeli kids are acquiring skills, training and knowledge to defend their country and their families. They are showing a level of maturity and duty of which those other kids are incapable.
So on this Yom Hazikaron, when we remember Israel’s fallen soldiers as well as the victims of terrorism, we should always remember that all the advocacy and hasbara and speeches and articles would mean very little without Israel’s most important defenders of all, these soldiers – kids who stand between a free and Jewish State – and absolute hell.