Written by 20:59 World

Proud to Serve Israel, but Not Its Government

In the weeks after the Hamas led attacks on Oct. 7, hundreds of thousands of Israeli military reservists were called to fight amid a surge in national unity. “I gave them 100 days of figuring out this war and bringing back the hostages and keeping us united.” But after returning from war, some of these soldiers say they’re fed up. “The current government, which hasn’t taken any responsibility for Oct. 7 or their actions leading up to Oct. 7, cannot be expected to lead this country to a better place.” In a war that is in its eighth month, and that has killed at least 35,000 Palestinians and roughly 1,500 Israelis, according to officials on both sides, the soldiers we spoke to say they are committed to the war with Hamas, which they see as a battle to defend Israel’s existence. But they say their love for their country doesn’t translate into love for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition, a sentiment shared by the majority of Israelis. “Saturday evenings are the days that we protest, and then Sunday morning I will go to the military.” Reservists have long played a pivotal role in shaping Israeli politics. Anat Arbel is a reservist currently serving at a base in southern Israel. I’m part of this war, like there’s no other way to look at it. I’m part of this war out of a love of my country and of my people. And also I oppose this government and stand against basically everything that they do.” Anat was active in antigovernment protests in 2023, one of the most divisive and turbulent years in Israeli history, as part of a large movement against a proposed judicial overhaul. Now she’s out on the street again because she says Israel’s leaders are failing to meet this moment. “First and foremost, I hope the protests will bring a hostage deal. We need a government that will have Israel’s best interests at heart. It’s heartbreaking and horrible, like any war, but is no end in sight. Global sentiment towards Israel is the lowest it’s ever been.” “My life has changed in so many ways since Oct. 7.” This antigovernment movement has pulled in people from different parts of Israeli society. Unlike Anat, Yehuda Lapian is protesting for the first time ever. “I started my political volunteering when I was in sixth grade, giving out flyers of Netanyahu. I’m 37 — he’s still here. He needs to go.” “Yehuda comes from an Orthodox background. He recently returned from a 120 days of war as a reservist serving in a front line resupply unit. “I’m going back again in July. I lose sleep sometimes about my country, who I love and I care about. The main agenda is that the hostages come home because we don’t feel our government is focusing on it.” Lapian supports the group Brothers in Arms because, among other things, they advocate for mandatory military service for ultra-Orthodox Jews, a move that some members of the Netanyahu government oppose. “I go protest to make a new rule that everyone should draft to the army. It’s the right thing to do morally, and that’s how I got involved. They’re the only one literally shouting it, and it’s something that needs to change.” Like Lapian, fellow reservist Eitan Turgeman also says that serving in the war is what led him to take action. But for Turgeman working with others to start his own group outside of the protests, Tikun or Repair 2024, was the way to fight polarization and push for new leadership. Eitan says historically, he’s supported right-wing candidates and voted for Netanyahu. But since the war broke out, he says he’s looking for new leaders who can help bring the country together. Eitan is now recovering from severe injuries sustained in battle. While serving in the war and later recuperating, he connected with people he had disagreed with before Oct. 7. But as cease-fire talks drag on and the war continues, Netanyahu may not face an election until the end of 2026. Undeterred, Anat, Yehuda and Eitan say they’ll keep pushing for change. “Even though it’s costing me some of my friendships, I believe in what I’m doing.” “There’s been a lot of bloodshed on this tiny piece of land for thousands of years, but I feel like if we had responsible leaders, we could change that reality.”

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Last modified: 20 May 2024
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