The Great Defenders
"הנני נשבע(ת) ומתחייב(ת) בהן צדקי לשמור אמונים למדינת ישראל לחוקיה ולשלטונותיה המוסמכים, לקבל על עצמי ללא תנאי וללא סייג עול משמעתו של צבא הגנה לישראל, לציית לכל הפקודות וההוראות הניתנות על ידי המפקדים המוסמכים ולהקדיש את כל כוחותיי ואף להקריב את חיי להגנת המולדת ולחירות ישראל." "I swear and commit to maintain allegiance to the State of Israel, its laws, and its authorities, to accept upon myself unconditionally the discipline of the Israel Defense Forces, to obey all the orders and instructions given by authorized commanders, and to devote all my energies, and even sacrifice my life, for the protection of the homeland and the liberty of Israel."
Over the course of my time in Tel Aviv I visited a number of different museums. As I've said before, Israel likes remembering, and a large part of remembering is also educating. One of my favorite museums was the Israeli Defense Forces History Museum. Although it was mostly full of old tanks, guns, radios, and other war relics, the place really made me contemplate how I felt about the Israeli army. Israeli society, like most other societies, is a complex lady. She is very multifaceted (always multi-tasking), full of many opinions, many moods, many styles/ways of doing things, etc. One of my favorite characteristics of Israeli society is the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and how it is an important piece of every single person's life (whether they like it or not). I've never been a huge fan of war/military history, except when it comes to Israel—here it is probably my favorite.
The IDF is different from any other army in the world. Israeli citizens (excluding the ultra-orthodox and Arab populations) are required to serve–two years for women and 3 years for men. The initial reaction to this is usually some comment about how this makes Israelis inherently militant, violent, or hungry for war. If you ever meet a person who has served in the IDF (which is essentially every Israeli), you'll immediately know this is an absurd assumption. Less than 10% of the IDF is comprised of combat soldiers. Jobs range from educators to medics to social media gurus and researchers. Civil service in the community is offered as an alternative to army service. Additionally, the IDF Code of Conduct, which every soldier carries with them, emphasizes 3 values: 1)Defense of the State it's citizens, and residents, 2) Love of the Homeland and loyalty to the country, and 3) Human dignity of every human.
I've spoken to combat soldiers, people who serve in education, people who've worked in tense areas like Hebron, people who worked mostly behind desks, and even Israeli Arabs who volunteered for the IDF. From my observations and interactions I've seen the IDF serve as something that helps make Israelis have a greater value of life and of love for their family/friends. They already have the shared experience of knowing their lives are threatened everyday. Serving together and being a part of sharing the burden of protecting each other gives them another shared experience, one of true camaraderie. I've seen how it makes the kids grow up faster, whether that is good or bad. They learn to have responsibility in a controlled environment, they learn respect, efficiency, work ethics, hygiene (gotta keep that uniform clean and sharp!), and whole list of other important life skills. Of course every Israeli, every person, every soldier is different. Some have a harder time than others, but generally I see this experience having such an interesting and positive effect on the dynamic of Israeli society. I respect and value every Israeli who serves, no matter what their service might be, and I hope they respect and value themselves just as much.