Humanizing the Israeli Soldier: A Moral Obligation

Tags: Soldiers and Defense, Israel Under Fire, Antisemitism, People and Society

By Dr. Elana Yael Heideman

In the war against Israel, the soldiers defending the human rights of Israel’s citizens are continuously under attack.

The soldiers are maligned by every media outlet and physically attacked by Palestinians, Arab women, and children against whom they are not even able to defend themselves.

The Israeli soldier is dehumanized and a target for terror, legitimized by their role as the uniformed officers. Their task is to keep Israel secure and root out the terror infrastructure that continues to grow throughout Gaza, Judea, and Samaria. Sadly, this phenomenon also exists inside Israeli Arab communities where the lies have brainwashed their thinking, and they believe that their hate is justified.

No matter what, people will blame Israel

No other national army is indicted in the world of public opinion, nor is any soldier of any army held to the impossible standard of behavior and inquiry imposed on them. The young men and women of the Israel Defense Forces, under constant barrage of assaults, remain among the most moral of figures in the fight for freedom. It is because they are fighting for Jewish freedoms in the Jewish sovereign state in the Jewish ancestral homeland that the world is attempting to destroy and steal that this abuse is legitimized.

Much like the historical Maccabees, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) demonstrate immense courage, dedication, and sacrifice in defending their country and its people. They are the embodiment of the Jewish spirit that drove generations of fighters to join King David and King Solomon in ancient times to fight for Jewish rights in our ancestral homeland. They are a reflection of the call for justice that encouraged the partisan fighters in the forests and the underground movements in the ghetto. Israeli soldiers, native-born and volunteers from around the world, are driven by a sense of duty and commitment to protecting the only democracy in the Middle East and the only Jewish state in the world with enemies on all sides - even underground.

The need to defend a nation on all fronts requires all elements of conceptual and logistical strategy. The soldiers who plan and execute the elimination of active threats against Israel’s independence or her citizens are guided by a desire to extract the enemy and sustain the peace Israel seeks. Military education is guided by moral education. They come from diverse backgrounds and reflect Jewish identity, practice, and connection styles. Religious and secular intertwine, and in the field, inside tanks, during the dark, cold nights, and while fighting the guerilla enemies, political ideologies are left by the wayside. They undergo rigorous training and are equipped with a code of conduct and a profound sense of responsibility. They face challenging circumstances, often risking their lives to ensure the safety and security of their fellow citizens.

Saying goodbye before returning to base

Saying goodbye before returning to base

Behind the uniform, these soldiers are individuals with families, dreams, and aspirations. The 5th-grade Bible teacher is a commando fighter, a kindergarten teacher serves as an intelligence officer, and a flamboyant neighbor is a tank platoon commander. The eccentric contractor is a fighter pilot, a well-dressed lawyer who doubles as a police officer, and a grocery store seller who is a sniper. The branch manager, bus driver, and interior designer hold positions such as battalion deputy commander, artillery battery commander, and combat paramedic. A nerdy physics student's affiliation with the Navy Commandos Unit or Sayeret Matkal remains shrouded in legend, adding intrigue to their seemingly ordinary lives.

They exhibit resilience, determination, and a deep sense of camaraderie as they navigate complex and volatile situations. Their acts of bravery and selflessness extend beyond the battlefield. Many IDF soldiers are involved in humanitarian efforts even outside their field service, providing assistance to communities in need, both within Israel and in various parts of the world affected by natural disasters or conflict.

Their stories of bravery and sacrifice serve as a testament to the enduring spirit of the Maccabees, reflecting a legacy of courage that continues to inspire admiration and respect both in Israel and across the globe—defeating Hamas and rescuing the hostages without the tragic consequence of civilian casualties. No army in the world would be able to do so, no matter what tactics they employed, and indeed, no other army has ever done so in any comparable conflict. But this isn’t enough anymore. Israeli soldiers - Jewish, Druze, Muslim, Christian - all face the unimaginable challenge of protecting the innocents while rooting out the evil. And yet, the world media and pervasive Arab propaganda dehumanize one of the most moral armies in the world. So, it is our duty to humanize these soldiers, acknowledging their humanity amidst the demands of their roles. They, too, experience fear, exhibit courage, and often display extraordinary resilience in the face of a brutal enemy. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah, all proxies of an apocalyptic enemy bent on our destruction and who will do anything, including cruelly risk the lives of their own civilians as human shields to curry favor with the media and score a PR outcome in the international arena. The Israeli soldier is now the symbol of evil, of aggression. The soldier has been deemed the “murderer,” and Israel the perpetrator of “genocide” - baseless blood libels that succeed purely because they are borne from traditional tropes of Jewhatred and Judeophobia.

The typical individual does not know how to make sense of or respond to the lies about the soldiers of Israel. Many claim they are “unsure of all the facts,” so it is better to stay silent - and yet unquestioningly accept the Hamas/Iran/Islamofascist antisemitic narratives and propaganda. In the streets, on Ivy League university campuses, in workplaces - the lies are extreme and frightening. And Palestinian violence and calls for genocide of the Jews is excused. As a result, the dehumanization of the Israeli soldier and Israel as a whole entity grows unchecked. In an effort to legalize the demonization of Israel and Israeli soldiers as aggressors and murderers, South Africa filed a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as a legal representative for the terrorist organization Hamas, an Iranian proxy accusing Israel and Israeli soldiers of enacting a “genocide.” Taking the defamation effort into a trial that gained global attention, the damage of the distortions of truth and context has wide-ranging consequences. Even as the evidence confirms there is no proof of any misconduct on the part of Israel, the threats have a powerful echo in public opinion - yet another element of the war Israel is fighting.

Israel has done more to minimize civilian deaths than any other army in the history of war

What is missing here is the respect of the Israeli - soldier and citizen - as the vanguard against Islamic Fundamentalism for the world and all of humanity. Assessment of training procedures, the ingrained desire for peace among mankind, and the foundation of Jewish faith and values are the keys to understanding the IDF and the moral foundations upon which Israeli military education and action are based. Perhaps these may serve as the grounds on which individuals of all faiths and ethnicities can feel confident to stand with Israel, knowing that the claims of rampant and unwarranted persecution of the Gazans or those who identify as Palestinian. More people should and can have faith in an army that does more than any other nation to protect human life and that takes responsibility for every mistake, every error, holding its own soldiers and leaders responsible any time there is an unforeseen event that stole the life of an innocent unnecessarily.

In the current war, we have seen several painful, heartbreaking instances: A Jerusalem man was shot by the IDF after taking out two terrorists; soldiers felled by friendly fire in military training accidents; and the worst of all, the death of 3 Israeli hostages that Hamas had kidnaped, who were mistaken as terrorists and shot by our own soldiers. Even the explanations of the booby traps set by Hamas that the soldiers had already encountered - the recordings of crying babies, the use of false white flags, and calls of SOS - do nothing to mitigate the tragedy of these fallen innocents. The agony of the families is matched by the agony of those soldiers who could not have known they were actually hostages begging to be saved. An unimaginable reality that will permeate our moral consciousness for years to come.

As the names of the fallen soldiers continue to grow, those in Israel feel each death as if it were their own child. Nearly everyone is connected somehow, and the parents and spouses of every fighter hold their breath each day, hoping they will not be among the families to be notified. Still, we all suffer to know that another family will know that pain.

Being Israeli is crying for people you never met

Whether Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze, Arab, American or Canadian, British or Russian, or any of the communities who serve faithfully for Israel’s defense, the collective connection is one of a just and moral fight. Those around the world must recognize and respect this, and those who deny this truth must be shut down in no unequivocal terms.

In the eyes of public opinion, the tremendous personal life and death challenges and the humanity of our Israeli soldiers must be acknowledged and reinforced. We must not let the world demonize these young men and women and diminish the integrity with which they serve and the morals that guide them.

This conflict is not about land or Palestinian human rights, but about exterminating the Jewish people. This is not just a war against Israel but against the Jews. And not only against the Jews but against the Christians and other religious minority groups, the free world, and civilized humanity. Maligning the Israeli army undermines the purpose of deterrence against Islamic Fundamentalism that the IDF soldiers are fighting - on the southern border against Hamas, the northern border against Hezbollah, and in the world against Iran’s many proxies determined to wipe out Israel.

Only when people recognize that Israeli soldiers - of every faith, ethnicity, and political leaning - act solely through their pursuit of justice and freedom for all of Israel’s citizens will we need to change the rhetoric of hate that demonizes and dehumanizes these fighters. These fighters are fighting for the cause of religious freedom that Abraham, King David, the Maccabees, and the ghetto fighters all fought for throughout the centuries. They fight against the reign of terror, and they are determined to win at all costs. This is a war of good vs. evil, and even with the inevitable errors of field battle, the Israeli soldier is the human embodiment of the just war for peace.

Get the facts. Share the truth.


About the Author

Dr.  Elana Yael Heideman
Dr. Elana Yael Heideman, Executive Director of The Israel Forever Foundation, is a dynamic and passionate educator who works creatively and collaboratively in developing content and programming to deepen and activate the personal connection to Israel for Diaspora Jews. Elana’s extensive experience in public speaking, educational consulting and analytic research and writing has served to advance her vision of Israel-inspired Jewish identity that incorporates the relevance of the Holocaust, Antisemitism and Zionism to contemporary issues faced throughout the Jewish world in a continuous effort to facilitate dialogue and build bridges between the past, present and future.

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Tags: Soldiers and Defense, Israel Under Fire, Antisemitism, People and Society