In a time period when disputes with the Palestinians and warming relations between Iran and some of Israel’s new Sunni allies have left a cloud over the Abraham Accords, the IDF’s joint drills with Moroccan soldiers last month signal that Jewish-Muslim normalization still has momentum.
Speaking about “the African Lion 2023” international exercise involving 18 nations, including the specific close cooperation between Israel and Morocco, Capt. O of the Golani Brigade in a recent interview with the Jerusalem Post said, “It was a very substantial experience. They embraced us with open arms and were very warm.”
“We performed joint drills, all of our general efforts, and all of the training conditions were the same and done together. This went on all day, every day, for the whole week. This is not something to be taken for granted. It met all of our expectations,” said O.
He added, “They are very professional and we each taught each other different things.”
Building intercultural bonds
The IDF Golani commander said, “We also ate together and spent time together until late at night. We mostly spoke English, but here and there also a little bit of Arabic or French.”
“There were also classes and discussions about warfare. We both taught and drilled on a variety of different approaches and technical tactics to combat,” he explained.
According to O, “Everything went smoothly throughout, with no awkwardness,” between the soldiers of the different countries, though he noted, “We did prepare beforehand and were ready to employ lots of patience,” in the event of misunderstandings.
Further, he said, “We were both interested in each other’s culture. Wherever we traveled, we continued various dialogues between ourselves and the Moroccan delegation.”
He said it was his first time in Morocco and interacting with Moroccan soldiers.
From the Israeli side, O noted that from the entire IDF, Golani Brigade soldiers were chosen to represent Israel in this joint mission, and his unit was chosen within Golani.
Regarding a more exact breakdown of IDF forces in the joint exercise, there were nine fighters, including O, two logistics soldiers, and O’s superior, who carries the rank of major.
Asked about the most memorable emotional moment of the trip to Morocco, he responded, “When it was about to be Shabbat on Friday, we went to a synagogue in the city and we met and sat with the Moroccan Jews. We talked for a while about what it was like to live in Morocco. It was very special to see the synagogue and to speak to the Moroccan Jews.”