We Are All Soldiers
By Justin Amler
I’m no soldier.
And if I had to march, I’d probably accidentally march in a different direction to everyone else. And if I had to fire a weapon, it’s more likely the weapon would be firing me.
The only time I’d be sent behind enemy lines would be to cause unintentional chaos, rather than some devious superspy plot from the movies.
Yet, a long time ago, I was one…kind of. Despite wearing different sized boots, a shirt that was way too big and pants I had to do up so tight that I was seeing Magen Davids to prevent them falling down, I could not be prouder.
Because back in 1995, I was part of a volunteer program called Sar-el, where people from overseas would volunteer in the Israeli army to help out and do some of the functions that the regular soldiers would usually do.
In my case, I was stationed at an army base in the north of Israel, working on the Golan Heights and building bunkers destined for Lebanon.
Every morning, we’d wake up early, don our uniforms, eat breakfast with the regular troops and head out for the day’s activities. We’d mingle with the soldiers, who were often curious at these crazy people from abroad who actually wanted to come into the army and do work they were usually supposed to do. We’d learn about how the army works, their methodologies, their philosophies, what made them unique to any other army in the world.
But we’d also go on day trips, proudly wearing our IDF uniforms, visiting different places around Israel, learning about this majestic land and this beautiful country.
And even though we weren’t soldiers, just being part of something like that, made our hearts swell with pride and honour, knowing that somehow we were contributing something, no matter how small, to the State of Israel.
Now many years later from that moment, the world has changed for the Jews in some ways, yet in other ways it hasn’t. There’s always been anti-Semitism, but in more recent times it’s become more dangerous, more scary, more intimidating.
Anti-Semitism hasn’t just increased – it’s exploded. We see it everywhere – and not just in those dark crevices of society, but out there in the blazing sunlight of the main squares of the biggest cities. People aren’t ashamed anymore – they speak of it with pride. Political parties don’t shy away from it either – but hold it high as a badge of honour. Political parties in Britain and America have members who spew hatred of Israel with ease and comfort, honouring those who wish death upon this country. Even events to honour singers like Aretha Franklin have a raging anti-Semite standing front and centre with former US Presidents.
Jews in Britain and in France and in many other places around the world do not have the same level of security they thought they once did. Many are fearful. Many are scared. And the future that always seemed so secure has given way to a fog of uncertainty that continues to drift through the Jewish world.
We may not want to admit it and we may not like to say it, perhaps hoping that silence will act as an invisible barrier, but it won’t.
For today we are at war.
It is not just a war of guns and tanks across deserts and fields. It is a war across mainstream media and social media. It’s fought in music stadiums and sporting fields. It’s fought on so-called human rights councils and governments. It is a war across society and across countries and a war that encompasses the entire world itself.
It is a war of truth and a war of justice – a war we must wage, so that we don’t suffocate in the thickening fog of hatred around us.
And although I may not have been a soldier all those years ago, I am one now.
All Jews are.
We have to be, because each of us has a responsibility to fight this war that is being waged against us and against our country and against our history and against our very soul.
Our weapons are our minds and our keyboards and our voices and our truth. Our ammunition is our history and our stories and our beliefs.
And our motivation… well… it’s simply to live. To breathe. To laugh. To love.
To live as free Jews in our own land and continue our story that first began almost 4000 years ago when God spoke to a humble shepherd about a plan he had for the future.
When I first put on that uniform all those years ago, I felt a sense of immense pride, knowing that it represented in many ways the return of our people to a sovereign power destined to protect itself. But that pride doesn’t come from a uniform alone – it comes from a place far deeper.
The primary mission of the Israeli army is to protect the Jewish State, yet the primary mission of every Jew is to protect the Jewish world.
And for that, we are all soldiers.