What is the value of reserve duty?
To answer this, I am brought back to the memory of a relative of mine, Shmuel, who was murdered in Europe during a pogrom in 1917. Less than 20 years later, his cousin’s child (my great aunt), Rivka, would also be murdered in Europe, in Auschwitz.
These would not be the last of my family to be murdered, as my great-grandmother, Clara Hirschensohn, would later add the names of her two brothers to Yad Vashem’s archives. Both of them were murdered in Romania during World War II.
Shmuel and Rivka, and Clara’s siblings, were all murdered before the rebirth of our nation in 1948, yet the same hatred and apathy that led to their deaths is still very much in evidence against us throughout the world today. Just think back to the 2017 murder of Sarah Halimi in Paris, or the 2012 Burgas bus bombing in Bulgaria, for contemporary examples. It is precisely for this reason then, that we must have a nation for ourselves.
We need a nation so that we no longer have to fear whatever action our neighbors might one day decide to take against us. And in order for us to have a nation that can provide us with this ability to live in freedom and safety, we must have a strong and robust military that upholds the spirit of the IDF, that can protect it.
This is why we do reserve duty. The reserve forces are the very backbone of our nation’s military. Without them, there is no IDF, and without the IDF we – as a people – will inevitably return to being at the mercy of those who would harm and kill us, simply for being Jews and Israelis. I spent the majority of my life outside Israel and made aliyah at the age of 20.
Over the past four years, I have been studying overseas to get my undergraduate degree.
During that time, whenever I was called up to do reserve duty, I would fly over to do it. I have done so and will keep on doing so, because of how important reserve duty is for the continued existence of our nation. Additionally, it is only within the reserves that I have witnessed people from all walks of Israeli life join together in such harmony.
It doesn’t matter if an Israeli is male or female, rich or poor, conservative or liberal, religious or secular, Mizrachi or Ashkenazi, Jewish or not Jewish. When we willingly serve together in reserve duty, we are unified for a common purpose.
To elaborate further on this, I currently serve in a combat unit with both ideologically conservative soldiers and ideologically liberal soldiers, and while we may not always agree ideologically speaking, I am confident that any one of them would take a bullet for me, as I would for them.
I have also run combat training exercises with combined male and female soldiers and witnessed the same unity, competency, and camaraderie among these soldiers that I do among the men within my own reserve battalion. I have served in the reserves with non-Jewish Israelis, secular Israelis, and religious Israelis, and found that they were all equally ready to do whatever was necessary for the defense of our nation.
Reserve service is where the spectrum of Israeli society truly comes together
This is to say that I have repeatedly seen, within the reserves, that it does not actually matter what one’s own personal background or beliefs are when serving. What matters is their reason for serving, and that reason is the protection of our homeland. In the reserves, while fulfilling this duty, I have witnessed Israeli society at its very best: beautifully unified in the common endeavor of preserving our collective existence.
In a society that seems so very divided of late, this social cohesion is something that we, as a nation, cannot afford to lose. As such, the true value of reserve duty can be seen in how it allows us to live autonomously, unanimously, and without fear, within our own country, which is something we must never take for granted when recollecting our collective turbulent history prior to 1948.
The writer, 34, resides in the UK. After enlisting in the IDF, he joined the Givati Brigade and served as a sharpshooter. He continues to carry out reserve duty, flying to Israel for each call-up.