You Know it's a Jewish Army when...Update from Israel

Last night the participants in my program were invited to the director’s home for Shabbat dinner. Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman has a beautiful apartment in the Baka neighborhood, close to Emek Refa’im St. It’s a gorgeous apartment and he and his wife are gracious enough to host us every time our program is here to study. We schmooze together over dinner and there is always time for him to facilitate a discussion about issues in Israel or challenges at home. Last night his son, who just came out of his stint in the army and was in Gaza for a week, joined us. Most of the conversation focused on what he experienced.
Hartman’s son is very quiet so his father helped him. The son – Yitzchak – didn’t share anything about his mission because it was too fresh and he’s still trying to digest it. But he and his father did share two things which highlight the Jewish nature of the army.
Yitzchak and Donniel pointed out that the soldiers’ cell phones had to be turned in as soon as they entered Gaza. This sounds logical – why should soldiers be making calls when they are supposed to be focused on the task at hand. Yet this wasn’t always the policy. Apparently, during the war in Lebanon in the summer of 2006, parents would call their sons, and often their sons’ commanding officers, and warn them of where they are headed and argue with the commanding officer over the course of impending action. It seems incredible to me that parents would have the chutzpah to do such a thing, but I chalk it up to a long series of things that I call, “only in Israel.”
Another “only in Israel” occurrence is when the soldiers left Gaza. As soon as they were given back their phones, they called home to say they were okay and that they were back on the base. Immediately, parents and families dropped what they were doing, hopped in their cars, and brought food, and goodies. Cars were lined up for miles as they all tried to get to the bases and meet up with their children. Only in Israel.
Finally, the despair over prospects for a lasting peace continues. In conversations last night and today over lunch with Rabbi Dr. David Hartman – the founder of the Institute – it was evident that the average Israeli feels that peace is far away. Whether hawkish or dovish all agree that the war in Gaza most likely didn’t achieve its goals. It is quite uncertain how to make peace and even if there is a moderate Palestinian partner with whom to talk. I haven’t felt this depressed about the future of Israel in a very long time.
More to come. Stay tuned.