When a spokesperson is speechless, you’re in uncharted territory.
nine years since I wandered, shell-shocked, through the halls of the IDF
recruitment center, the officer bars came off and I joined the ranks of Israel’s
eight million civilians.
During the daily grind, the extraordinary
becomes routine and the scenery blurs. But now, looking back, I can so clearly
see the battles that every day brought.
Every soldier in the IDF fights
their own individual battle. It may be a battle of restraint, facing a killer
combination of cinderblocks and camera lenses. It can be a battle of vigilance,
as a tired 21-year-old stares at a screen in an intelligence facility along the
Syrian border. It can be a battle of solitude, as a driver transports a tank to
a base so godforsaken that even Chabad doesn’t deliver donuts there on
But what keeps them going, what kept me going, is the burning
faith that my military is one that shines. My military glows.
It is an
unrecognized beacon, a predictor of better times and the ultimate insurance for
a battered nation.
The complexity of the issues with which the IDF deals
is tremendous. The political issues in the region may be unresolved and the
quagmire of the political event horizon may shift like a sandstorm. We have our
share of problems, the outliers that may generate the news or show up on the top
of a diplomat’s desk. But I have been on the inside, and I know that these
exceptions are not my military.
And while it is of critical importance,
international law holds a different meaning for us. My military is one that does
not need international law because the moral standards we hold ourselves to
extend farther than that law ever could. It is a military extending medical aid
to a sworn enemy or harbor to a persecuted refugee. It is a military that will
hold its fire, putting itself in mortal peril, because the person crouching by a
rocket launcher may be, just may be, a farmer rather than a terrorist.
is a military put in a hard place but prepared to rise to the task.
while drafting a nation may bring in some who deviate from policy, our conduct,
our behavior, our brave men and women, represent the best of the best. We get
the best and they emerge better, leaving the military stronger, more moral, more
capable of dealing with the prodigious challenges – be they security,
demographic or ethical challenges.
I end my service with two refrains
playing in my head. Some complain about an alleged international double standard
toward Israel. I say bring it. Demand that we adhere to impossible standards.
Dictate moral conduct unprecedented in military history. Ask more of
We will rise to it. Not because of the demand but because of our
internal drive for professionalism. For self-respect. To represent our
traditions, our history, our culture in a way that behooves a nation that has
been on the other side of the blade for centuries. Time and time again, this is
what I have seen. And my heart if filled with pride.
counter-refrain playing in my head is one of hope. I have seen what the young
men and women of this country have to offer. While the world taps out a staccato
drumbeat of post-modernism, the generation I have witnessed herald the change,
harnessing ideology to perform the impossible, that is coming. Today they man
outposts, fly airplanes, program scripts, grease barrels and write
But tomorrow, next week, next month and next year, the fountain of
light that has given so much in the military will hit Israel full force. Mine is
a military that shines because its soldiers are brilliant. And when this
generation emerges from this bubble, my country will shine with blinding
Just like it has for 65 years. Just like it has for 5,000
years. They are coming. And the magnitude of what they will accomplish, well, it
leaves me without words.
The author recently concluded his military
service as the IDF spokesperson to North American media. He has also served in a
number of positions in the IDF’s Strategic Planning Division. A Chicago-born
immigrant, Eytan holds a BA in international relations and psychology from
Hebrew University and is completing a MA in government studies at IDC.