Israel's Secret Weapon: its Reserve Forces
Written by Asher Sacks and Benji Levy
We are both in our mid-30s, coming from a Commonwealth background, married with four children and living in the same community in Jerusalem. We have both recently completed stints in the IDF and await our next call into the reserves.
Many Israelis undertake periods of reserve duty in the decades following their release from mandatory service. Often at short notice, Israelis must leave their families and civilian life to take part in their reserve service. It is always a considerable challenge for the soldiers, and a greater challenge for their partners, parents and children who remain at home and must maintain life during their absence.
The IDF reserve forces have been vital to Israel’s defense since the country’s independence in 1948, and remains so to this day. In addition to the reserves’ role in combating external threats, our experiences have highlighted the contribution made by the IDF reserves to countering threats a little closer to home.
The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University, which is currently convening its annual conference, cited instability within Israeli society as one of the top-three threats to national security (alongside Iran and Hezbollah). The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, repeated lockdowns and a fourth upcoming election within two years, have only exacerbated an array of deep-seated societal pressures.
While the IDF remains Israel’s primary force tasked with addressing enemies who wish to harm from afar, the togetherness and collaboration experienced during military service also serves as a platform to support a stronger, more united society from within.
Known as the “people’s army,” the IDF is one of Israel’s greatest melting pots.
Soldiers from every part of the country and vastly different backgrounds serve alongside one another during their mandatory service. Working together, young adults discover that what counts is not where you come from or what you did at home, but rather how you approach the tasks set before you. The experience of working together to fulfill these tasks, at times in the most testing of situations, has a lasting impact on every young soldier.
The IDF’s melting-pot effect is most acutely felt in the ranks of the reservists. It brings together the farmer who leaves behind the olive grove, the real-estate magnate who abandons his business, and the teacher who departs from the classroom. While temporarily rededicating themselves to military service, a 23-year-old university student from Haifa will share troubles with a 39-year-old parent of six from a settlement in the South.
The experience means that they will both return home enriched and with a stronger connection to fellow citizens whom they would otherwise not encounter. Working together for a greater cause, they recognize both their common fate and common destiny that transcends so many of their differences.
Our experiences have highlighted that this sense of unity forged during reserve duty puts Israel in good stead to face growing divisions within our society. As we start to come out from the forced isolation and lockdowns, we need to think more about how to maximize opportunities that enable people from different backgrounds to collaborate together.
By emphasizing the common values the majority of us hold together and putting them into practice in joint missions, we can build a stronger and more secure future in Israel for all its citizens. One such opportunity is taken up on a regular basis by the IDF reserves, we salute them.
As published in the Jerusalem Post: https://www.jpost.com/opinion/the-idfs-secret-weapon-is-its-reserve-forces-657267