Observing the Anniversary with the Army

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

The experience of serving in any military is character building. In Israel, it's compulsory — and somewhat more dangerous than other parts of the world. This week is the anniversary of Israel the country, and Israel's army — the Israeli Defense Forces — and we're marking both by talking about that particular military service.

Jeffrey Goldberg is a correspondent for The Atlantic — and he had the unique experience of being an American Jew serving in the IDF. (Please read his coverage of Israel here, and here — it's comprehensive and thought-provoking. Also, he loves The Wire, so read this too.) I saw a documentary about female Israeli soldiers at the Full Frame documentary festival last month — we're lucky to have the director — a veteran herself — on today's show as well. Please post your thoughts — and your experience, if you've served in the IDF.

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NPR's obsession with the "Jewish perspective" and Israel has gone way past unhealthy. The other 98% of the US population should get a corresponding percentage of your news coverage which they most certainly do not get. The entire populations of India, Africa and South America probably don't get half the coverage that NPR lavishes on Israel. Why is that?

There is a perspective in the world that is not Jewish, not Israeli and not even Arab; perhaps we could hear about it sometime?

Sent by John Yaya | 2:29 PM | 5-5-2008

Mr. Yaya: Follow-up reports on the earthquake in Pakistan, the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the threatened cultural sites in Turkey, the lack of progress in negotiations between Transnistria and Moldova, arsenic in the public water supplies of Bangladesh, the impact of corruption on Nigeria and how this impacts ordinary citizens: Yes, there are a lot more stories worthy of greater NPR attention. But this is a 60th anniversary.

Sent by William Hadfield-Burkardt | 2:47 PM | 5-5-2008

How many of these americans who have served in Israel have also served for the US military? If not, why not?

Sent by L. Milton | 2:52 PM | 5-5-2008

I heard a story once (on NPR, I believe) by a woman whose father had served in the IDF right after WWII. He told her late in his life, "We were wrong. It wasn't a land without a people for a people without a land." I wonder if other IDF members have shared this feeling?

Sent by BJ | 3:08 PM | 5-5-2008

I served in the Israeli Army from 1972 to 1975 after moving to Israel from New York in 1969. I was on the receiving end of the first attack on Israel in the Sinai at 2:00 pm on Oct 6, 1973 (Yom Kippur War). Even though I hated taking orders and still hate guns today, I realized that being a well qualified soldier saved the country that provided people like my father, a Holocaust survivor, with a welcoming place to live. I was shocked and outraged when Anwar Saadat came to Jerusalem in 1977, after attacking me personally and killing 5 of my buddies in the Yom Kippur War. However, with time, I came to learn that there CAN be peace in the Middle East, since Saadat's visit resulted in peace that has lasted for >30 years. Israel and Egypt have not been at war since the separation of forces in Feb 1974. Sure, things are more complicated today, but the fact is that Israelis, Egyptians and Syrians have stopped killing each other for 34 years. Isn't that worth something? Strong leaders can make peace that can last decades (like Menachem Begin and Anwar Saadat). We don't have to be best friends...we just need to stop killing each other. It absolutely is possible to stop the killing. What we need is strong leaders on both sides. It has happened between Israel and Egypt and it has happened between Israel and Jordan. No matter what your slant, you have to admit that the inter-nation killings have stopped between Israel and Egypt & Jordan. That is a reality for decades. The world needs strong leaders that ultimately care more about humanity than their personal biases. Sadaat and Begin were such people. We need more such people. That is what I learned by serving in the Israeli Army and taking a look back more than 30 years later.

Sent by Marc | 3:10 PM | 5-5-2008

Respond to Mr. Yaya,
We tend to focus on issues and countries that are vital to our national security and interests.Israel, A loyal ally of the US and the only real democracy in the region is important to us from a stratigic point of view. Israel's existence is threatened by rogue countries as Iran and Syria, dictatorial regimes who've also been sending insurgents and arms to Iraq.
The US understands (and maybe has something to learn from) Israel, a country that's been fighting Islamic terrorism for all 60 years of it's existance (way before the "occupation").

Sent by H. Krer | 3:29 PM | 5-5-2008

I have always thought of myself as an open minded, non prejudiced person. However, when I educated myself about the Israeli/Palestinian issue I have no empathy for the Israeli population. The Israeli government, propped up by the US Israeli lobby (AIPAC), the many Christian/Zionists, and US foreign aid, has no interest in peace. Yes, Israel did pull out of Gaza, however, while doing so, Israel increased its building of settlements in the West Bank. The Gaza pull out was a ploy to distract international media attention from the fact that Israel's goal was to annex more of the West Bank through tearing down homes of Palestinians on the false pretense of building code permit violations. The 500 and more check points, the continual building of more settlements in the West Bank, the illegal collective punishment of Palestinians, the apartheid wall, the slow genocide of Gazans, and so many more human rights abuses not mentioned here due to time and space constraints, are the very thing that will lead to Israel's destruction. Hamas was a legally and democratically elected government who have been denied their elected right to govern. Hamas does not call for the destruction of Israel. They have repeatedly said that they will recognize Israel's right to exist WITHIN ITS OWN BORDERS when Israel recognizes the right of the existence of a peaceful, viable Palestinian State. Hamas kept a self imposed six month cease fire that was broken in response to continual violations of Israel against Gaza. More recently, Hamas agreed to President Carter's six requests, including another unilateral cease fire, and the Israeli government said NO even though 64% of Israelis support negotiating with Hamas. The PLO was once considered a terrorist organization by both the Israeli government and the US, however, when Israel decided to negotiate with the PLO, the Oslo accords came into existence and Yasser Arafat shared a Nobel Peace prize. It WAS an Israeli extremist who destroyed the famous peace agreement through his assassination of Rabin. Until the US and the Israeli's give up their dreams of Zionism, Israel will always be in danger. Occupations, like that of Israel in Palestine, Lebanon and Golan Heights and the US in Iraq, do not work and are inhumane to the occupied and the occupiers. Also, I have had the privilege to visit Lebanon on many occasions, my American husband lived in Lebanon while growing up and calls it home, and I have seen first hand the wrath and destruction of Israel. I was last in Lebanon in the summer of 2006. It is not anti semitic to criticize Israel's government policies. Since Arabs are semitic, as well as the Jews, it is anti semitic for the Jews to condone the cruelty and inhumanity Israel continues to impose on its neighbors and the Palestinians. It is time Israel accepts the many Olive Branches extended to them. It is also time the United States prevents Israel from its atrocities through UN veto power, military aid as well as monetary aid. Only, then, will there be peace and so called terrorist attacks against Israelis and Americans will cease to be a problem.

Sent by Andrea | 3:34 PM | 5-5-2008

For Andrea,
It is easy for a person who spent years in Lebanon, a country used to be dominated by Syria and now by the Iranian and Syrian backed terrorist organization - Hisbollah to be expressing the false and one sided ideas she's been led to believe in. The best dispute I can give is to advise Andrea to read the Book "Because They Hate, A survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America" written by the Lebanese American writer Brigitte Gabriel. That book will give anybody an insight into what Israel has to deal with in its daily fight against terrorism.

Sent by Bob Z. | 6:52 PM | 5-5-2008

For Bob,
Of course you are totally avoiding the reality of a brutal occupation/apartheid system that imprisons and murders whole families in Lebanon and Gaza and any other nation that attempts to resist Israel's terrorism. NPR seems to ignore the reality on the ground: a vicious and murderous occupation that indiscriminately kills anyone standing in its way.

Sent by Anne | 8:08 PM | 5-5-2008

Andrea's rant sounds like a page from a Hisbollah PR booklet.
She needs to answer why, after Israel returned all teritories the Lebanese Hisbollah (who by the way also fights US soldiers in Iraq) sends daily rockets into Israeli villages and towns and abducts 4 Israelies for no reason? Why, after Israel returned all of its Gaza holdings, Hamas now sends more rockets into Israel then ever? It seems to me that the more territory Israel gives up the more violance she faces.
Israel needs to think what's behind all the peace talk for PR sake on one hand and the rockets suicide bombers, and abductions on the other. President Carter has been totally humiliated when the day he spoke to Hamas(who's considered by the US and European Union to be a terrorist organization) about his peace proposals they shot a number of rockets into Israeli town. They're ready to talk but not walk the walk.

Sent by Gerry Wiz | 8:09 PM | 5-5-2008