kassam zikim 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
Distraught parents besieged the IDF's Zikim boot camp on Thursday, hot on the heels of the Gazan rocket barrage which wounded 69 recruits. They vociferously demanded that "the children" be removed from the facility, which is so close to the border, and sent to safety far from the line of fire.
Michael Salim was one of the more prominent of the screaming parents, banging on Zikim's gates and demanding to be admitted to fetch his son and take him away. "I give you five minutes," exclaimed the father. "You can either let me enter to get my son or you release him yourself. Otherwise, we'll break in by force."
Footage of these scenes was broadcast all over the region, doubtlessly intensifying the sense of glee and triumph among the Islamic Jihad Kassam-launchers and their tacit Hamas backers.
Though some might dismiss such antics as an isolated incident, anyone looking for proof of Israeli lack of resolve and staying power need not have looked further. A single rocket volley sufficed to ignite panic, besides causing actual physical harm. Psychological damage is terror's ultimate objective, even more than bloodshed. The scenes of the parents at Zikim can only have fueled Gaza's rocket crews and their government-backed dispatchers with incentive for further similar "successes."
If, during these Days of Awe, Jews indeed engage in soul-searching, then the proclivity to media-amplified hysterics must feature large in our collective stock-taking. So should the general public's tolerance and even understanding for such overt displays of vulnerability. It is evidently insufficiently internalized that, besides fighting for its very physical survival, Israel is being targeted with merciless psychological warfare. If we lose the battle for our own hearts and minds, our fight for self-preservation will be severely undermined.
Israelis need not be turned into 21st century Spartans, but we ought to recall King David's lament over Saul and Jonathan: "Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon, lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice." Even 3,000 years ago, the importance of psychological warfare was not ignored. It should not be now. The very same guidelines, as enunciated then, are still every bit as valid.
But our leaders nowadays do not reproach their countryfolk for triggering jubilation among today's enemies. And so the IDF, wary of parental disapproval, emptied out Zikim - for now, until the next batch of recruits arrives, if their parents won't object. "I am so happy," declared another worried mother on TV. "My son is going home and will never return to Zikim - I won't let him."
It's high time the IDF focused on the uniquely Israeli, increasing and often-insufferable parental meddling, which has led more than a few officers to complain that they feel they function in a grade school parent-teachers association setting instead of in the context of strict military discipline.
It's not that parents have no cause for anxiety. Theoretically every soldier's parent faces risk and uncertainty. Soldiers by the nature of their tasks encounter danger and are put in harm's way. But withdrawing the military from the frontlines is an elementary contradiction, incongruent with the mission of the people's army to defend the people rather than shield itself from confrontation.
The problem at Zikim is no different from that faced for years by Sderot's 24,000 noncombatant residents and their rural neighbors. Parents who demand security for soldiers in Zikim weren't as agitated, loud or outraged when children in Sderot were killed on their way to and from school.
We cannot afford to protest dangers only as they affect given sectors. What's unbearable for Zikim is equally unbearable for Sderot. And the answer isn't to evacuate military forces from the front, while leaving hapless civilians there as the hinterland's proverbial breastplate.
This is not the first time Zikim has been targeted. Rockets fell within its perimeter in December 2005, after which concrete cubes were placed all around to pacify parents and offer cover. Perhaps the time has come to realize that rather than improve defensive casings, it would be more effective to remove the threat - both from Zikim and Sderot.