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The Mountain Ahead

March 6, 2012 – 6:33 pm54 Comments

By Kovi Rose
They say that when climbing a mountain one should never look down; but I think that the danger of looking up, and realizing how much more of the climb is still ahead of you, is significantly more hazardous.

After three months in the Israeli Defence Forces, I can look back on all that I have learnt and gained with a sense of pride and achievement. It is only when thinking to the future, to the hardship that awaits me, that the reality of the next three years proves scarily daunting. I arrived on my draft date at the recruitment office north of Tel Aviv with the naive excitement that only an Oleh Chadash has. We stored our bags and began what would be almost a 10 hour process of interviews, medical checks, paperwork, and equipment reception. At the end of the afternoon, after entering the offices as civilian teenagers, we walked out the door at the other end of the complex as soldiers – ready to be broken down mentally and physically, and eventually painstakingly rebuilt.

The hardest part of the first few weeks was the challenge of being thrown into a melting pot of cultures; ranging from Moroccan and Yemenite to Russian and Belgian. To add fuel to the fire, we were all suddenly forced into a disciplinary framework of formality and mandatory punctuality – down to milliseconds.

After the initial shock wore away, we began to actually feel like soldiers; learning how to shoot from different positions, about Israeli warfare, and spending weeks camped out in the field sub zero conditions without much warm clothing.

Throughout this, I and the other English speakers struggled a bit more than the Israelis. Having to pass tests and learn how to operate weaponry is hard enough without the language barrier. However, one thing that was universally intense and emotional was our swearing-in ceremony at the Western Wall. In that moment, I could tell that all of us – almost a thousand new recruits from the Nahal and Shaldag brigades – were feeling the exact same emotions; that being pride in our new positions as defenders of the Jewish homeland as well as a feeling of excitement for the years, ranks, and missions ahead. But most of all, a sense of connection to our history; an understanding that those paratroopers, who liberated the Western Wall in 1967, were just like us – youths protecting and serving for the sake of a tradition that dates back thousands of years.

Thoughts like these are what strengthens and saves me at the toughest of times. I have begun to learn from our lengthy and fast-paced marches, all of one’s strength comes from willpower and mental fortitude.

Another thing that also never fails to encourage me is the support from civilians; striking up a conversation with a stranger on a bus, for instance, and being told how much he appreciates all that combat soldiers do in defence of the State.

At the end of the day, it is very hard to be surrounded by comrades talking to their family constantly, and receiving weekly packages filled with food from home. For Lone Soldiers, talking to family is something that we only get to do on weekends via Skype.

On a larger scale, Nahal itself often struggles to provide its soldiers with things like warm clothing, utility supplies (rope, string, tape, gun oil), and enough food to ensure that everyone is satisfied.

At the request of Nahal’s 50th Battalion Quartermaster, anyone in Australia who would be able to donate any of the aforementioned items, or assist financially, your support would be greatly appreciated. Every dollar and piece of thermal clothing donated could help supply and comfort the soldiers who stand guard night and day, rain or shine, on Israel’s volatile borders.

Personally, I hate seeing people suffer from the cold and not having enough supplies to properly secure their combat vests.
Looking nervously and hopefully forward to the next three years of service.

Kovi Rose is a Mount Scopus graduate who made aliyah in March 2011. This is an entry for his aliyah journal that he is writing for Galus Australis.

For those wishing to donate, please contact the author at kovirose AT gmail.com

Kovi Rose, Platoon 1B, Battallion 50, Nahal Brigade.

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54 Comments »

  • Mindy says:

    Thank you Kovi for that eye opening piece. This really helps us to understand the perspective of the individual soldier; a rare and invaluable opportunity. Continue to look forward but perhaps don’t view what lies ahead as one large mountain but a series of small steps, taking each one as it comes. And continue to make us all so proud.
    Xx

  • Ilana Leeds says:

    B’H
    Great piece of writing and Hashem should keep you and all the chaylim of Israel safe. We should have Meshiach now and no need for the services of soldiers and all be living in peace in a totally Jewish homeland which includes Judea and Sumeria.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    “On a larger scale, Nahal itself often struggles to provide its soldiers with things like warm clothing, utility supplies (rope, string, tape, gun oil), and enough food to ensure that everyone is satisfied.”

    Far be it for me to denigrate the wonderful efforts of the IDF in defence of our land, but it sounds shameful that they appear unable to supply their cadets with the basics like clothing, utility supplies and sufficient food!

    I am familiar with the recent press coverage about budget cuts to the IDF, but has it really come to this where a new oleh soldier has to plead for financial assistance from Jews in Australia?!

    I wonder about the ability of the IDF to protect Israel from so many threats when it seemingly cannot even cover the costs of outfitting and maintaining soldiers in its ranks!

  • TheSadducee says:

    Harry

    Perhaps the Govt. can evict the 700-odd settlers from Hebron and use the millions of dollars of costs associated with the security presence to supply their recruits?

  • Joe in Australia says:

    I suppose I am not surprised to see someone in favor of turfing Jews out of their homes; none the less, I am astonished that anyone would pretend that their motive is to save money on policing. Surely it’s transparently obvious that for people who propose such things the act is its own motivation.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Joe in Australia

    Maybe you can explain the commonsense to everyone about having 700-odd Israelis living in Hebron alongside 150,000+ Palestinians and being guarded by at least 1000+ soldiers and the UN TIPH to monitor what is going on?

    The costs for Israel run into the millions and we have here a soldier asking for thermal clothing so that his comrades don’t freeze!

    And please don’t presume to judge my motivations – I’m genuinely asking the question – is it worth millions to support 700-odd Israelis to live in the middle of Hebron putting themselves and the soldiers at permanent risk due to their antagonistic actions?

    I personally don’t think so, but perhaps you can explain otherwise.

  • R B says:

    Perhaps the UN can evict the 7-odd million Jews from Palestine and use the billions of dollars of costs associated with the security presence to supply their recruits for feeding the world’s hungry people?

    If the Jews should be evicted from Hebron – this is not the issue here – the reason should not be the cost of securing them, which is really negliable.

    And, now to the point – most security expenses of Israel are spent on personnel salaries, neither Hebron settlers nor aircrafts. There are too many permanent staff members (“Anshei Keva”), who are unneeded, retire at the age of 40-something, and then continue to receive a very generous pension for life. Yes, even those who served in 9-to-5 jobs in Tel Aviv. On top of them, IDF is managed in a very insufficient manner – and this is an understatement. However, when budget cuts are required, it will always cut the important expenses…

  • R B says:

    Oops.. I meant “inefficient”.

    Huge amounts of Israeli taxpayers’ money are wasted. Shame that soldiers need to beg overseas for basic needs.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Perhaps Kovi needs to remember that it is not just his homeland, but in fact, a lot of people born there have less rights than he as a foreigner has– they are Palestinians.

    As a member of the Nahal brigade there is a good chance he will serve in the Occupied Territories,

    Is being a loyal soldier just being concerned about your comrades? There are greater human rights issues at stake that have very little to do with security, but a lot to do with oppression. Some of the founders of Shovrei Shtika/Breaking the Silence came from the Nahal Brigade.

    http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/

    The financial and social drain on Israel of the occupation is massive, not to speak of the effects on the Palestinian economy. http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2011/09/18/the-economic-costs-of-israel-s-occupation.html

  • Kovi Rose says:

    RB, i am not trying to claim that we are forced to stand guard in regular uniform; the army does attempt to provide us all with basic protection against the cold and rain.
    My request, to clarify for those who may have misunderstood, is not a desperate plea for help; it is simply me asking for the community to supplement and support the young israeli soldiers, in order to improve living, working and combat conditions.
    Yesterday, a group of Americans from the Young Israel ZOA came with Mishlochai Manot (traditional Purim food hampers). This small bag which contained probably not more than 15 dollars worth of snack food, brought smiles to my entire platoon for the rest of the day.
    The army, for those conscripted from all kinds of socio-economic backgrounds in Israel, is a equalizer that levels the playing field and gives everyone an equal chance at the best possible life.
    Donations could mean that people here who wear the same undershirts or underwear for weeks on end, would perhaps be able to buy new clothing.
    Think more about the people behind the uniform and less about the politics.

  • Having to do basic training in the winter is tough and kudos to Kovi for living his Zionist dream.
    I wanted to clarify that clothing etc SHOULD NOT be mailed or shipped to Israel from Australia as it will incur customs duties.
    Purim Sameach
    Danny

  • Ari says:

    Sad U See:

    Maybe the army would have more money had it not taken Jews out of their homes in Gaza and now have to spend billions reenforcing all buildings in the south and building a proper fence along the border with Egypt. Apart from building iron domes of couse which can be used in the north.
    Enjoy imun Kovi!!

  • Dov says:

    Great comment, Larry. Hope that you’re either wearing a flak jacket or else that you’ve got a far tougher skin than mine! There’s no way I’d use my real name for that. I even use a VPN to hide my ISP!

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Thanks Dov, but I would prefer that everyone used his or her real name because it might prevent some of the vilification that occurs when discussing controversial issues.

    One more point.

    “Think more about the people behind the uniform and less about the politics.”

    Is this meant to be a universal statement? If so, it is dangerous. If it is just meant for the Israeli army, it is still anaive and dangerous statement.

  • frosh says:

    Larry,

    Do you think Israel should not have an army?
    We can see how Israel’s neighbours such as Syria treat their own citizens (in case you are not across these matters, Larry, they massacre them! By the way Larry, you and your friends have been rather silent on this). Can you imagine what they would do to Israel’s citizens if it wasn’t for Israel’s security forces standing in their way.

    Regardless of differences in politics, I think Kovi (and those like him) should be seen as an inspiration.

    Many diasporaniks (including myself) at some stage in their lives have thought about doing what Kovi has done, but then didn’t, for a variety of reasons, including fear of the unknown, or reluctance to give up our comfortable lives, not wanting to be separated from friends and families etc.

    Larry, your criticisms of Kovi make it seem like you have some insecurities of your own that are playing out here.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    TheSadducee: I don’t think I follow your argument. The IDF is supposed to protect people. They are in Hebron, protecting people. This is not a waste of money. It would only be a waste of money if they failed to protect them.

    Or do you mean that victims have a moral duty to accede to intimidation? It’s not a novel argument, but people making it are clearly on the side of the aggressors.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Frosh, I think your remarks, particularly as an editor of Galus–to which I contribute–are out of place. I really fail to see how “Larry, your criticisms of Kovi make it seem like you have some insecurities of your own that are playing out here.” has any relevance, when so many people and organisations are now critical of the role of the IDF. What specific insecurity are you referring to on my part?

    If there is any form of in/security I and engaged in it is thinking of my dear friend Hagit, all 5 foot ( what is that in metres) of her, as a member of Mahsom Watch, having to be on the alert for human rights abuses by young soldiers like Kovi in places like Hebron. That is the insecurity we should think of –the insecurity of innocent people under military occupation.

    Thus, shouldn’t both Israel and Palestine seek demilitarization in the same way that this has occurred in Northern Ireland? Why not aim high? The reduction of violence and the potential for violence between the communities is part of a solution that we should seek and remember, the Arab Peace Initiate and others the reduction of violence. We also forget that in Europe, the endemic hostility between France and Germany is no more. Why not go for broke — swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks if the potential is there for doing so. Of course, this may never ultimately take place, but to get rid of the occupation is certainly one part of this demilitarization.

    Of course, as I well admit, there are horrific ‘problems’ like Syria. I think you are wrong about the left and Syria. None of us are Syria experts in Australia on the Awali, the Baath Party etc.– I am appalled at what is going on, but there is little I can add to what is said by so many others, particularly in places like Facebook, where many people post their opinions and information about the appalling situation . The real problem however, is what will replace the current regime, given the deep communal divisions. Perhaps that is why I haven’t been spouting off with a solution and there is a huge danger with a naive ‘invasion for liberation’. Only a few morons on the far left in Australia appear in their ignorance to stick up for the current regime and they are a disgrace..

    As for Kovi and his military service. Given that so much Israeli military activity is not engaged in national defense but a military occupation that has little to do anymore with national defense, it it right to question unthinking loyalty to the military establishment.

  • Sam says:

    Larry
    You talk about your insecurity for your friend Hagit watching out for human right abuses for soldiers like Kovi. That is both ungrateful and very disrespectful to young people that give up a lot, to make aliyah and do their military service. The jewish people (and I don’t include you), would have no possibility of having a homeland without the IDF and the personal sacrifice made by some of the finest young Israelis who have lost their lives over the past 63 years.

  • Kovi Rose says:

    Thanks Sam.
    Larry, your words express little more than naivety, ignornance, and mindless optimism.
    In your perfect world where Israelis and Palestinians turn their weapons into plows, would you expect the 99% of the Middle that remains to also throw down their weapons and forget centuries of anti-zionist/semitic hatred for Israel??
    Additionally i am quite sure that the Assad family is part of the ruling Alawi tribe; not the Awali’s as you noted.

  • yael says:

    Dear Kovi,

    Kol HaKaod to you. Any young person willing ot give up 3 years of their life in a comfortable diaspora, to serve in the IDF is to be commended and appreciated.

    As a mother of a soldier serving currently and 4 others already out of the service, this is highly appreciated and admired.

    hope you have a great 3 years, good luck and thank you.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Kovi, thanks for your spelling correction–awali (from the word first) for ‘alawi (from Ali).

    But I don’t otherwise withdraw my hopes for demilitarization in the context of what other countries in the region have said that they would support.

    We also need to distinguish between an army that acts to defend as distinct from an army that is an agent of oppression–as many people in Israel and abroad think what is happening on the west bank and elsewhere http://www.yeshgvul.org/en/about-2/.

    As for the personal attack on my identity Sam, forget it. That is below the belt stuff. If you wish to continue, name yourself.It has nothing to do with this conversation which at this point is about the what are just and unjust activities by an army, any army, in any time and any place.

    The doctrine of ‘taharat ha-neshek’ – purity of arms, that holds Israel’s army at a higher moral level–so widely touted is deeply tarnished in practice.

    There should never be blind loyalty to any army’s orders and for anyone in the Israeli army, the comments from Yes Gvul are relevant — “The brutal role of the Israeli army in subjugating the Palestinian population places numerous servicemen in a grave moral and political dilemma, as they are required to enforce policies they deem illegal, immoral and ultimately harmful to Israeli interests. The army hierarchy demands compliance, but many soldiers, whether conscripts or reservists, find that they cannot in good conscience obey the orders of their superiors.”

    Is it naive to belief in swords into ploughshares if we take the occupation as an example of unnecessary violence towards civilians?

    The Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status (the Handbook) of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) states:

    “”171. Not every conviction, genuine though it may be, will constitute a sufficient reason for claiming refugee status after desertion or draft-evasion. It is not enough for a person to be in disagreement with his government regarding the political justification for a particular military action. Where, however, the type of military action, with which an individual does not wish to be associated, is condemned by the international community as contrary to basic rules of human conduct, punishment for desertion or draft-evasion could, in the light of all other requirements of the definition, in itself be regarded as persecution.”

    The Occcuption is is internationally condemened. Soliders who object to serving fall under this claim.

    Total loyalists may not like this opinion, but there is no other way to view the occupation.

    So this is what the orginal signatories of the Combatant’s letter wrote–

    ” We, reserve combat officers and soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, who were raised upon the principles of Zionism, self-sacrifice and giving to the people of Israel and to the State of Israel, who have always served in the front lines, and who were the first to carry out any mission in order to protect the State of Israel and strengthen it.

    We, combat officers and soldiers who have served the State of Israel for long weeks every year, in spite of the dear cost to our personal lives, have been on reserve duty in the Occupied Territories, and were issued commands and directives that had nothing to do with the security of our country, and that had the sole purpose of perpetuating our control over the Palestinian people.

    We, whose eyes have seen the bloody toll this Occupation exacts from both sides,

    We, who sensed how the commands issued to us in the Occupied Territories destroy all the values that we were raised upon,

    We, who understand now that the price of Occupation is the loss of IDF’s human character and the corruption of the entire Israeli society,

    We, who know that the Territories are not a part of Israel, and that all settlements are bound to be evacuated,

    We hereby declare that we shall not continue to fight this War of the Settlements.

    We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people.

    We hereby declare that we shall continue serving the Israel Defense Force in any mission that serves Israel’s defense.

    The missions of occupation and oppression do not serve this purpose – and we shall take no part in them. ” http://www.seruv.org.il/english/combatants_letter.asp

  • frosh says:

    A quote from Samuel Johnson: Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier

    Larry, in your case, it appears you’re taking it out on Kovi.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I don’t think so. Kovi has written about being a soldier. I am writing about the ethics of being a solider.

    You don’t have to be a solider to reflect on ethical and non-ethical behaviours, particuarly when applied to a civilian population.

  • Ian Grinblat says:

    Larry,
    If I read you correctly, you are saying that Isarel (and Jews) have no place in Hebron. The problem with that is of course that Hebron is where our people were first established in Israel. Our history and culture have grown out of the soil of Hebron.
    The Tomb of the Patriarchs is a geniune holy site – there has never been a time in recorded history that the local inhabitants did not venerate it – and it is ours by the right of the purchase described in detail in Genesis. How many times do we have to purchase the same piece of land?
    You say that the Jews are settlers but given our association with Israel, that the only place to look to for a homeland. That is altogether different to settlers – the white South Africans (and Americans and Australians) are settlers as were the English in Ireland. For that matter, are the Arabs not settlers also? There were none in the area until Saladin’s forces swept through it.
    Judea and Samaria are currently under military occupation because their status is not finalised. The occupation is indeed costly for Israel but the Israeli government has not baulked at removing Jews from areas such as Sinai and Gaza – clearly Hebron is different and hence the acceptance of the cost.
    Military occupation is quite different to civil administration and demands for the people of an occupied area to enjoy the same rights as citizens are unrealistic and, I believe, calculated to generate discord and social unrest.

  • TheSadducee says:

    R B

    A couple of thoughts to your response;

    i. Equating the removal of 700-odd settlers from downtown Hebron to removing every Jew from Israel and Palestine is absurd. The rest of your point made no sense so I cannot address it.

    ii. The costs for maintaining the troops and UN force to monitor these 700-odd settlers in downtown Hebron is not actually negligible – it is enormously expensive. The funds could be better spent elsewhere.

    iii. The troops who have to guard these people open themselves up the legal/ethical issues relating to military occupation forces and policing – something that could easily be avoided.

    iv. The settlers in question are particularly unpleasant and ungrateful and are not worth the expense and/or trouble that they frequently cause for the State and its soldiers.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Ari

    The Israelis have done the right thing in removing themselves from the Gaza despite the fact that it has entailed a significant security threat for the south.

    The costs and risks to Israelis living in the Gaza strip were/are of a higher degree to the costs and risks of living in the south in Israel. This is especially true with the troubled political situation in Egypt.

    Don’t forget that Hamas and the various groups in the Gaza are themselves complicit to or active in war crimes by firing unguided missiles/rockets/munitions into Israel.

    Hopefully one day we will see some of the leaders of these groups on trial in the ICC for their crimes. The Israelis should require it as a precondition of final status talks IMHO.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Joe in Australia

    I sort of assumed that you wouldn’t understand my argument.

    It is not about defending/protecting people – if it was, they would be safer in Israel than in downtown Hebron. I don’t think that is debateable.

    It is about the costs involved in protecting 700-odd people in a city of 150,000+ generally hostile people. The money could be better spent elsewhere by any measure of thought.

    And I don’t support your supposition on aggression and moral issues. If someone attacks an Israeli in Israel or a Jew living peacefully and legally in the diaspora then there is a right to respond with appropriate force if required. Hebron’s settlers don’t live peacefully or legally where they are and are an unnecessary drain on manpower and resources for the State. One IDF soldier’s life lost for them is one too many.

  • Sam says:

    Larry
    Ever heard of the “One Trick Pony”. Do you have more than agenda?
    During the pesach seder the four sons ask their father one question each. We all know that there is one that asks “What do YOU! mean by all this? His comment and tone shows that he excludes himself. That son would not have been redeemed if he was present at the exodus from Egypt. That was the reason for my comment directed at you.
    Internet trolling is the posting of provocative inflammatory comments that are usually off-topic. Could you possibly be guilty of that also?
    If I give you my full name will you look up my address and then come and beat me up in dead of night? Would it then make you feel better?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Sadducee. Thanks for your comments, but I fear the cost of occupation (financial, psychological, for both sides), is irrelevant to people who believe in Hebron at any price.

  • Kovi Rose says:

    Larry, you may be correct in saying that “you don’t have to be a solider to reflect on ethical and non-ethical behaviours”. However if feel it to be very condescending to be lectured about MILITARY ethics by someone who has never been in the military; let alone been in the sort of situations that Israeli soldiers face.
    Due to personal reasons i was absent, however last weekend my platoon was in Hebron guarding the Jewish community there. Protecting against terrorist threats against our people Larry, if you consider yourself part of ‘us’. And please do not dare to lecture me and say that “there is no threat” or “the Israeli’s are the terrorist”, because that is simply a lie. Israel is entitled, as Ian articulated, to defend a city that is (beyond a shadow of a doubt) one of the most important historical sights of the Jewish tradition. And on the subject of threats, a close friend of one of the people in my unit was stabbed on thursday afternoon guarding that same community.
    Left-wing extremism – and the kind of mindless optimism that could make a vegetarian, Prius driving, gay marriage supporter look closed minded – is good and well; however i would prefer if you refrained from criticizing and lecturing on subjects that you know nothing about (besides what you may read online).
    Personal connection to an issue, is the best way to know what you are talking about.

  • TheSadducee says:

    frosh

    Playing armchair psychologist about your contributors and commentators isn’t very nice. Perhaps you should refrain from personal comment and address some of the arguments that you don’t agree with.

    Larry

    I’m of the left too but I have to admit that I don’t agree with a lot of where you are coming generally. eg. With regard to Syria – approx. 200+ civilians and combatants a day are being killed by the armed forces/irregulars there.

    Discussions esp. on facebook (I can’t believe you brought that up btw) and the Arab League/UN etc just isn’t working and arguing that potential consequences from an intervention inhibit taking action despite the actual situation at the moment is a cop out – especially when people’s lives are at stake.

    The casualties have run into the 1000’s now – when is the number acceptable to do something rather than worry about what might happen in the future?
    (Incidentally I despair at seeing Annan involved based on his utter failure previously in Rwanda btw)

    Kovi

    The military is usually guided by the civilian government – this is
    a general standard of democratic societies. Whether you like it or not, civilians can and should provide input to military ethics/behaviour etc regardless of whether they have a military background or not.

  • Kovi Rose says:

    Yes but the civilians of Israel are entitled to input because a. 90% have served in the military and b. Because they live here

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Kovi. This is a remarkable statement on your part.

    In every democracy, the military is ultimately subject to civilian control. What you are saying is that unless you are in the Israeli army, you have no right to comment. We have all heard that said by defenders of the military and their uncontested actions, whether it applied in Vietnam, Northern Ireland, South Africa or other parts of the word, particularly where civilians have been unjustifiably victimized and brutalized, in the name of preserving a particular set of power relations. It has nothing to do with the rest of your typology of what left people may or may not be. And as I intimated earlier, there are many (but not enough) people who have served in the Israeli military who have spoken out against abuse, including members of elite units who served in the territories. Your straw man of the weak lefty just doesn’t count here. We are speaking of human rights issues.

    Your argument is similar to the argument made by police who don’t want civilian supervision. It is a path to corruption and abuse of power because ‘they know best’ and ‘have seen the barrel’ of a gun pointed at them. It is a very old argument, but as I have said, to fall for it in every situation is to fall for its abuse and tyranny. Juvenal coined the famous phrase–Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? — who will guard the guardians. If we cannot question the actions of the guardians, then we live in a tyranny. It is simple as that.

    The military in a democracy is the servant of the people, not the other way around. The best example of this is McCarthur’s insubordination during the Korean War. Douglas McCarthur defied orders because he thought he knew best. Thank goodness Truman (while a civilian, had served in WWI) stood him down. McCarthur represented a threat to democracy. Ariel Sharon of course managed to bully his way through controversial military action, and his leadership has helped to create the mess Israel is in today.

    If you notice, I haven’t criticized the Israeli army in dealing with terrorists, contrary to your attempt to box me into a corner. I am speaking here of something entirely different, that is, its activity as an occupation power.

    The problem with Hebron of course, as most other countries understand, is that Israel is occupying a town that doesn’t want outsiders and the situation over the past 45 years or so has made that xenophobia worse. Of course there will be attacks. I lived in Israel when this really began, and I am very aware of the murderous intent of people. I used to visit Hebron over 35 years ago, when things were starting to ‘warm up’ and the warning signs were all there. Unfortunately, the problem is likely to be irresolvable as long as Israel continues to occupy the place for a few hundred fanatical settlers.

    Your friend should not be in Hebron. That solves the problem. The settlers are nothing but a provocation and have been ever since Levinger and supporters moved back in 1968.

    It is an impossible situation to think that Israel can lock for ever an occupation of 30,000 Palestinans in area H2 in the immediate control zone for the sake of 500 people. Even if Israel permanently took over the entire area, the same helllish situation will continue.

    As proposed for the Temple Mount / Haram as-Sharif in the Geneva accords , the site should be put under multinational presence supervision for rights of access once the entire area goes under Palestinian control. The Geneva Accords already proposes direct access from Israeli into Hebron with Multinational Force supervision –see Article 10 of the Geneva Accords. http://www.geneva-accord.org/mainmenu/english, and I suspect the same kind of thing is in the detail of other proposed agreements.

    But peace and human rights should not be held hostage to zealotry by settlers who hold the Palestinian residents in contempt and have done so for as long as I can remember

    I think it is Ian Lustick who said that Hebron represents the division between those who see the occupied territories as an asset or burden (in my case), and those for whom the Land of Israel and every sacred site such as the Cafe of the Patriarchs is part of a cosmic redemption process for which any pullback is impossible–this is certainly reflected in various streams of religious Zionism or redemptionism (Kook, Schneerson) that led to the current impossible situation.

    My POV is that that it is best to keep the cosmos out of this, even for a place like Hebron, and be realistic about Israel preserving itself as a democracy, and not as an occupier.

    Sadduccee — as for Syria, I don’t quite get what you are saying. I don’t have an answer for what is going on–the problem is that no-one wants another Iraq-like situation. The people are very divided it seems. If the international community can’t figure out what to do, don’t ask me. The regime would have no hesitation in putting civilians on top of military targets if there was an international airstrike campaign. This opinion is interesting http://tinyurl.com/7vssrwp

  • Kovi Rose says:

    i stopped reading after the fifth line because you were saying that said something which i had not said.
    Although in scrolling down i did notice that you blamed by friends being stabbed on the fact that he was provoking the non jewish residents of a jewish city that because of ridiculous politics is under non-jewish civil administration.
    Larry, whether or not you are an intelligent person is unknown to me, so i will not comment on that… I will however request that you stop airing ignorant and political spam on the wall of my article; which was intented to charitably aid young men under difficult conditions (their religion, race and political agendas being irrelevant).

  • TheSadducee says:

    Have to chuckle at the irony of Kovi’s last comment – a Jewish soldier from the state for all Jews telling another Jew that he can’t comment on the state that claims to represent him…

  • TheSadducee says:

    Larry

    The UN should authorise an interventionary force to invade Syria, depose the Govt., hold trials for the leaders’ crimes against humanity and then set up an administrative govt. which builds up the necessary infrastructure and mechanisms for a democratic society and independent self-rule. If that process takes 100 years so be it – the current situation and politics and UN/international efforts are an abysmal failure with people dying.

    This is a side issue though and largely irrelevant to the topic at hand (except Galus’ editor Frosh brought it up).

  • TheSadducee says:

    Ian

    I’d like to comment on your earlier comment to Larry.

    Hebron is important because it helped define our (Jewish) culture, religion and identity. It is however not the be all and end all of our people’s culture and identity and certainly doesn’t require the occupation and its costs etc.

    Ideally we should have access to the holy sites, but if we can’t then we can’t. This wont destroy our culture, religion or identity. We can then point that out to show our cultural and moral superiority to those who oppose us – we grant them access to their holy sites because we are more civilised than they who refuse us.

    As to the claims in Genesis – each to his own. I personally prefer to rely on our demonstrable historical and cultural connections to Israel rather than the pseudo-mythology of the Torah.

    As to Arabs in the area – they’ve been there since the 6th C CE – about 500 years earlier than Saladin for your info. Nonetheless, our ties to the area are of greater significance (for me) because it is the cradle of our culture and identity.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Kovi–I am not blaming your friend at all. It is terrible that he was hurt. It is not his direct fault. But it is the fault of the Israel government to put him in this situation as a solider of an occupying power.

    I don’t think I have missread what you said in not agreeing with your work as a solider. You wrote — “It is only when thinking to the future, to the hardship that awaits me, that the reality of the next three years proves scarily daunting. ” You are also an active participant in the occupation “. You also wrote, “Due to personal reasons i was absent, however last weekend my platoon was in Hebron guarding the Jewish community there.”

    If you publish such thoughts on a public website, while asking for charitable donations, then I think I have the right to question the correctness of your participating in an army of occupation whether I am a solider or not, because the occupation is in breeach of international law as are the practices of the Israeli army towards civilians. To ignore that while asking clothing and so on for soliders is really turning a blind eye to deep injustice.

    I am asking you to think of the moral implications of willing participation in not defence, but occupation. This is not a question about what you would do in combat to defend your life, and you know what my answer would be. You have to defend yourself.

    I am referring to the big question of why you should in a place like Hebron in the first place. If you are a willing participant then you need to be prepared to bear the moral consequences of being an agent of an army of occupation, or you may choose to just pretend that there is no occupation, that it is benign, or that it is ‘their’ fault. I find the latter set of answers unsatisfactory.

  • frosh says:

    Sadducee,

    I brought up Syria because I get the impression from Larry that he not only thinks the Israeli army should be disbanded, but that he thinks all Mid-East conflict (or is it just ALL conflict) comes back to “the Occupation”.

    My point is that it’s hard to see how Israel can have demilitarised peace with its neighbours when the neighbouring regimes use their own military forces to massacre their own citizens. If Israel’s neighbours were as harmless as New Zealand, Canada, and Costa Rica, then I would agree with disbanding the military. Halevai!

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Larry – you say that if Kovi is seeking support fro IDF soldiers on a public site, then he also has to account for the role of IDF soldiers in, for example, protecting settlers in the occupied territories.

    But your comments would be more compelling if you acknowledged anywhere here that the IDF is also an army of defence and that the security of Israel’s citizens depends on it.

    Of course the occupation causes and requires terrible human and civil rights offences against Palestinians. Perhaps those who emphasise the importance of Hevron in Jewish life should consider how Israel can on the one hand state it is committed to a negotiated peace over what we can for present purposes call disputed territories, while at the same time, supporting people to settle in those territories and supporting their presence which requires the oppression of locals in a most appalling way. And those people are now a third generation of people with no citizenship who live alongside Israeli citizens but have different (less favourable) laws applicable to them, and share few of the rights afforded to those Israelis.

    If people commenting here believe that holding onto Hevron is more important than civil rights then they should admit that democracy isn’t important to them in the way they support Israel and is not part of what they wish for, for Israel.

    This isn’t going to go away. It’s a bizarre kind of denial to hold forth about the importance of Hevron without understanding what this means for the prospects of a Jewish and democratic Israel.

    But Larry your failure to anywhere expressly acknowledge what would happen to Israelis if it wasn’t for young men like Kovi, smacks of a different kind of denial.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Mandi, on several occasions I distinguished between defence and occupation. I think you have mis-interpreted me.

    For example, I said “If you notice, I haven’t criticized the Israeli army in dealing with terrorists, contrary to your attempt to box me into a corner. I am speaking here of something entirely different, that is, its activity as an occupation power. ” And, “This is not a question about what you would do in combat to defend your life, and you know what my answer would be. You have to defend yourself.” Perhaps I should have been more clear and said in war combat.

    But it is not just me who has problems with this–read the Combatant’s letter. http://www.seruv.org.il/english/combatants_letter.asp.

    One of the great other difficulties is very idea hat all Israel’s wars have been or wil be defensive in a traditional sense and reflect existenial crises as they are made out to be –look at controversies over the Suez crisis, or even 1967, the invasions of Lebanon,or even conflict with Gaza (which has blown up again).

    It is tragic for Israel that in my opinion, , many of Israel’s conflicts were /are avoidable, and many political opportunties are thrown away, and the terrible risk that Kovi and others face is a result of that political ineptitude, and not simply blind Arab or Palestinian intransigence. This is where Israel has completely failed politically, and we see Bibi beating the war drum again.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Larry – then what does demilitarise mean to you, as you use it in this article?

    Do you really believe that if a negotiated just peace could be reached between the PA and Israel (which seems increasingly impossible because of the instransigence of both sides, not just political ineptidude on Israel’s part) that Israel would not still have real and existential security threats?

  • Mandi Katz says:

    And while rockets on the south of Israel aren’t an existential threat to the state of Israel but they are pretty much an existential threat to the people they fall on. And would cause more deaths if not for high tech, expensive defence technology.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Demilitarization is an ultimate goal of course.

    If a variety of the various plans for cessation of hostility came to fruition (eg the ‘Saudi plan’-see Wikipedia and the linked text), the imperative for violence would be greatly reduced. Agreement for assertive international peace-making is required and a mutural non-agreession agreement be part of this. There have been enough studies (I know, words are nothing — http://tinyurl.com/27wlg7p) about how to achieve a strong civil society situation in Palestine to reduce disruptive violence by undermining the power of radical factions and re-incorporating the mainstream of Hamas into the normal democratic sphere.

    If it is happened in other conflict zones, it could happen between Israel and Palestine.

    As for the Gaza rockets, of course it is horrible, as you well know and thank goodness there is the iron shield. But precisely the opposite is put by Palestinians as you know–that they are threatened and bear the brunt of violence.

    It is the weakness of Obama–under the guns from AIPAC and the the lobby– that is particularly disappointing in all this because the administration’s role, whoever is in power, is critical. Of course, the weakness in the Pal. political sphere is another key factor, but they expect support for their position from someone like Obama.

    I can hear a discussion on the wireless about the US elections–yet it has turned to he pressure on Obama from the Lobby–so this is a real life issue, not something I am making up.

    Unless one is a believer in cosmic power and eternal god-given rights that brook no compromise, Israel-Palestine should not be spared from the usual rules of international conflict resolution though talk and political processes. Israel has thought it could get away with manipulating the situation , the stuff of detail and hours of work.

    The list of places on earth where long-standing conflicts have been resolved and we can learn from them.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Larry

    I sincerely hope your not relying on the international community, or even worse, the UN to play a productive role in the conflict are you? Thats a degree of hope spiralling into gullibility in my opinion.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    Mandi, I don’t believe that “holding onto Hevron is more important than civil rights”. On the other hand, I do believe that any meaningful interpretation of civil rights requires people should not be driven out of their homes by racist or sectarian neighbours. Although I acknowledge that the Arab residents of Hebron dislike the IDF presence, if it were to abandon or expel the Jews of Hebron it would be complicit in a fundamental breach of human rights.

    This is a Catch-22 of sorts but not one without a remedy: if the Arabs of Hebron would live in peace with their neighbours there would be no need for an IDF presence.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I think you are falling into a trap about the UN, forgetting that its international peacekeeping forces have a huge amount of experience, mostly successfully (with some shocking exceptions of course). You are also criticising the UN because of the ‘pro Arab’ history of resolutions and rhetoric coming out of members.

    The difference here of course is that the recent peace plans have the full support of major Arab countries, and I haven’t heard anything about them rejecting them since the Arab Spring.

    More than any other issue, the blocker is dispute what the right of return for Palestinians means in practice, -as Palestinians of all shades have made clear time and time again. If that could be resolved equitably, along the lines of what is proposed in the Geneva Accords, with a justice and compensation mechanism, a lot more would fall into place and countries like Iran would be marginalised.

    The pressure would be on Hamas and others to accept it because other Arab countries would accept, and Hamas’ ‘hudna’ (long term ceasefire position) is a defacto acceptance of peace and long resolution of the refugee question to be worked out in a way that is culturally acceptable with an Islamist regime. See http://tinyurl.com/6p9m4wg. Hopefully as well, the Fatah and Hamas would work out their differences and a much more representative Palestinian governance system be worked out. As the International Crisis Group has made clear, this is critical for the reduction of terrorism.

    Political blocking tactics over the past 5+ years by Israel at least have failed miserably in the international community, and assuming Obama wins, the Lobby will more and more on the nose as a negative force in domestic, and not just Israel-US politics. It has also contributed to the hopeless state of affairs in the PA and the PA-Hamas split and the emergence of t anti-Israelism in the west.

    Hopefully, Obama will be able to act much much more strongly post November.

    Israel cannot go it alone forever and to think it can survive on halukah (charitable donations) would certainly not support it except as the kind of state it was in the 1950s.

    Why not aggressively sue for peace? The cost is certainly less than increasingly militarization and the endless round of tit for tat between Hamas, aligned factions and Israel. You forget that the UN has a long history of keeping the sides apart, most of the time successfully I am remember correctly (with I think one incident between Israel and Lebanon)

    This is certainly the kind of thing btw, in which Australia as a country respected in both the Arab world and Israel, and experienced in demilitarization and peace-keeping, could play a significant role.

    It is also something which elements of the left who have jumped on the Palestinian cause may feel deeply uncomfortable, because it brings the issue back into the area of deeply boring international lawmaking and professional peacemaking rather than an instant solution to bring about global revolution. Of course, this is my heretical view.

    Compare spending 100 billon dollars on agressive peace than war? (I believe the Iraq war was or is costing the Americans about 1 billion a day, and Israel is the US’s largest foreign aid recipient). It’s a paltry amount for something that has enormous possibilities.

    All it takes is political will, and why ask each of these people for a billion each http://www.forbes.com/billionaires/list/ ?

  • Kovi Rose says:

    Larry – please stop spouting your political agenda on an article that was intended to encourage charitable donations to what some people consider a good cause.
    If you do not agree that it is a good cause, that is your opinion and you are intitled to it; however i did not post this article in the hopes of finding out who DOESN’T want to support our cause.
    Please stop, Thank you.

  • Dov says:

    Kovi,

    Really, what Larry initially said was reasonable. What is a good cause to you is an occupying power to some. Larry, reasonably, suggested that this might be part of a discussion. I appreciate that in your little Scopus clique, you may not have encountered views such as Larry. What he is saying, however, so far from being on the fringes of most peoples thinking.

    Larry, kudos for you for walking such a hard line. I think that being a liberal (or leftist) Zionist is a very, very difficult undertaking. It is much easier to fall into the certainties and camaraderie of comforting nationalism, such as Kovi is doing; or into the self righteousness and certainty of some of the hard left’s knee-jerk support for anything opposing Zionism.

    As for my identity, which Larry mentioned earlier. I respect you for putting yourself on the line like this. I’d rather stay hidden – the ridicule and nastiness to which you are subject (to the extent where you are told that you are excluded from the Jewish people) is pretty profound. I don’t really want to cop that in my personal life, and I certainly don’t want my family (who are pretty involved in Jewish communal life) to be subjected to it.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Dov — Internal community suppression orders are interesting. You are welcome to contact me off line.

    I’ve decided that I am going to try to write a full piece on the ‘just war’ issue for Israel and Australians who ‘join the cause’ rather than keep commenting as my time is short. This has nothing to do with what Kovi has said in his last post–I need to make more of a coherent argument and it takes a bit of research. Of course, whether or not it appears depends on the editors of Galus.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Kovi

    a couple of thoughts –

    i. if you didn’t want comments on your piece then you didn’t have to enable comments. the fact that you did, and don’t like what you’ve seen is something you have to deal with.

    ii. if you really think Stillman is disrupting your thread, man up, and go to the eds and have him kicked off your thread or out of the site if you think you have a legitimate case.

    iii. in reality you should thank Stillman for a couple of things –

    a. his comments have pushed up the comment count on this thread, without them you would probably have less than 10;

    b. he’s the only guy here who isn’t prepared to reflexively pat you on the back and say what a good fellow you are, but instead is thinking of your future by putting out his opinion on the occupation and warning you.

    You’re the guy that has to live with what you do out there – not Stillman, or me or anyone else on this thread. Consequently, If I was you, I’d rather someone tell me about the legal, psychological, ethical/moral consequences of your possible actions – it gives you the option to think about things and act from an informed position. maybe you don’t see that as a positive thing – to each his own, but I think Stillman cares a lot more about you than just about everyone else here.

  • TheSadducee says:

    Larry

    I’m criticising the UN because it is a demonstrably corrupt, inefficient and odious institution that is in need of radical reform and overhaul.

    The fact that the group doesn’t even apply its own Charter of human rights to the member states is damnation enough – consequently you see a human rights body (rebooted after the complete discredit of the previous incarnation) populated by dictatorships, human rights abusers of varying degrees and out of touch elites with foolish agendas which presume to lecture other countries on their actions whilst committing crimes themselves or excusing them for others for political/financial gain.

    I have very little faith in the UN getting anything done – and I think the failures it has contributed to are far in excess of any of the successes you refer to.

    And I’ll ignore your assumption that I’m critical of the UN because of the I/P conflict etc – its behaviour with regards to that issue is indictment enough, but I see the bigger internal problems that need addressing before anything positive will be done.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    At this point–and that’s it–I have a son the same age at Kovi, and I would like him to spend time in Israel, and I have other Israeli friends with serving kids–which is one reason why I am concerned.

  • Kovi Rose says:

    Dov, you are in no way entitled to make a judgement call and pressume to know anything about my private life… So refrain from talking about my “little scopus clique”
    Sadduce, comments were enabled in order for people to write things like: “hey i would love to help, what are donation details”. As much as i love and am encouraged by the “pats on the back”, that is not at all the reason i wrote this article.

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