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A Parent’s Pride and Fear: My Three IDF Reservists

Being an Israeli soldier is a lot easier than being the parent of one, or more.

by
Michael Widlanski

Bio

November 20, 2012 - 12:00 am
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Soldiers wait to be called, and their parents die a little bit inside during this wait.

Our three sons are infantrymen, reserve soldiers who expect to be called to active duty to finish the business of putting the Palestinian terrorists out of business. They are ready, literally, to answer the call. They left their cell phones within easy reach on the Sabbath so their unit commanders would have no trouble reaching them

Sara and I are proud parents who did our national service a while back, but we both know a few things about speaking to and/or fighting with Arabs. We know defeating Hamas and jihad is not something you can accomplish from the air. But going in on the ground means exposing your soldiers — especially your infantry — to risk.

Daniel, 28, who just got engaged this month, also trained as a medic. He has been looking at places for a wedding in May. Yoni, 26, the jazz pianist in the family, is from the “engineer” branch where they have taught his dexterous fingers to prepare and to dismantle devices more destructive than a piano. Lately, he has been attached to some hush-hush infantry unit whose name he will not tell us.

Elad, our 23-year-old, is from the elite sayeret (patrol) units of the Golani brigade, where the boys love to snack on barbed wire and go on 70-mile hikes with a full pack. Elad’s idea of a good time is doing push-ups and pull-ups — a regimen that he inflicted on his campers last summer in Camp Ramah, where he was the sports counselor.

None of the boys has a military career or thought of one, and none of them is especially bellicose or spends spare time tracking and hunting animals, but they have each been trained to fight to protect their country from external invasion and from the more insidious threat of terror.

Sara and I know what wars are like. Sara’s brother Yossi nearly burned to death when his vehicle was hit by a Syrian anti-tank missile in the 1973 war. He was knocked out, ammunition inside his armored personnel carrier (APC) exploding around him. Fortunately, Yossi regained consciousness and pulled himself out.

It took him months to recover from burns over his whole body, and he still carries some shrapnel in his chest. Well past his 50th birthday, he was a reserve infantry colonel doing almost 60 days a year of active reserve duty.

I was a war correspondent for Israeli Army Radio — Galei Tzahal — in Lebanon during the 1982 war, and this gave me a chance to go all over Lebanon using my Arabic, French, and English to get some interviews off the beaten path.

Israel overturned the PLO terror state in Beirut and southern Lebanon, which was similar in many ways to the terror state run by Hamas in today’s Gaza Strip. One almost never got real news out of Lebanon in 1980-82 that the PLO did not like, and one almost never sees a report from Gaza today that Hamas does not like.

The PLO and the Syrians browbeat the Western press corps in Beirut. People like Tom Friedman and John Kifner of the New York Times and Robert Fisk, then of the London Times, and reporters from the Associated Press and Reuters did not probe too hard into PLO or Syrian actions nor report how some reporters were harassed or even killed.

Kifner was among a group of reporters kidnapped by a Palestinian group, but he did not report it until an Israeli official embarrassed him by going public with the story.

Like Kifner, Friedman also pretended the PLO was a benevolent presence.

Friedman and Fisk willingly believed much of obviously false Palestinian claims about Israeli participation at the Sabra-Shatila massacre, with Fisk also describing Israelis as behaving like Nazis. Somehow, neither man showed much enterprise reporting on Syrian massacres of Syrians in 1980 and 1982. I wonder why. (Today, Friedman likes to claim that he invented the term “Hama Rules” for Syria’s Hama massacre, but that really only took place when Friedman wrote his book about Lebanon when he was safely outside Lebanon.)

These same “intrepid” reporters lovingly passed on every bit of PLO propaganda, including the farcical nonsense that Israeli bombings had caused 600,000 homeless in southern Lebanon, when the entire population of southern Lebanon did not even reach that number. (A fuller description of how the press interacts with terrorists appears in my book on terror.)

After the 1982 war, we discovered how the PLO kept the population of southern Lebanon under its thumb, and I suspect that if Hamas gets sharply curtailed, we may suddenly discover that whole apartment complexes in Gaza City have been built atop concrete bunkers housing Grad missiles and Fajr-5 rockets.

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