Tuvia Weissman (z"l) heard that there was a terror attack happening where he was shopping with his family. Without hesitating, unarmed, Tuvia ran into battle and because he was unarmed, he was killed.
Last week, my 20 year old son came home for a week's vacation, similar to the vacation Tuvia was on when he died. This time, because of what happened with Tuvia, the army sent my son and his unit home with their weapons. Over the course of the week, my son took his rifle with him when he left the house.
He went back to the army, as motivated to conquer new challenges as he has been for all of the four months since he was drafted. He is stronger now than he was, thinner and though I know it isn't possible, he even seems taller. He can run faster and farther; jump and scale wall. He's midway through his training, meeting every challenge they throw at him. He's even turned out to be an excellent marksman and so was given a special rifle, one of only two in his unit.
I speak to him as often as I can during the week but days can go by when he isn't given time to call home. He is a combat soldier - a fraction of the entire army and yet, at the very core of the army's reason for existing. His job, this beautiful son of mine, is to defend, to step forward as others fall back.
We walk together in the street. Last week, I was so sick I didn't have the strength to even get myself home. I have raised amazing, giving children. Four out of five have volunteered for the local Magen David Adom, two still do. One took the advanced training course and is now an ambulance driver. He has to leave for a shift, so my soldier son took the bus to my office so that he could take me home.
He walks differently now than he did a few months ago. Besides the weapon strapped to his side and the hand near the trigger, his eyes are always moving. He stands with his back to the wall on the train, looking, noting, checking. I want to distract him, I want him to look at me and stop acting like the soldier he has become.
This was last week.
He called the other night and told me of what the soldiers are feeling and I am so filled with anger I can barely breathe. What the Chief of Staff and Defense Minister have done to the soldier accused...no, no longer of murder...but of some crime as yet undefined, perhaps...is unforgivable. I hope that Chief of Staff Eizenkot knows his days are numbered. You can't lead an army that will not follow, that does not trust you. He has betrayed the soldiers and they can no longer believe in him.
Yes, I believe the soldier will be exonerated. I believe the Military Courts actions and the way words were presented are very telling. There is no unequivocal evidence of guilt, of intention. There are two facets of justice that are held dear in a democratic society. The first is that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty. The second is that they must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There are many very reasonable doubts in this case. The MADA investigation, the body language expert, the soldier's rendition, the medics calling out warning of danger. There are no hard truths and I wouldn't be surprised if even the soldier can't fully confirm anything other than a reasonable reaction presented in the heat of battle.
This was not a cold-blooded execution. The commander said he checked the terrorist and yet, the medics who were there say he did not. By every army definition that I have ever seen, that terrorist was not neutralized...but I don't want to get into this whole argument again. I've already written about this several times, including:
- Support Our Soldier
- Who are my heroes?
- Offensive Headlines Do Not Serve the Interests of Journalism
- To Rot in Jail or to Rot in the Ground
- Would you Curse a Soldier of Israel?
What I do want to say is that the 5% who called the soldier a murderer, and, for all intents and purposes the Defense Minister and Chief of Staff and the Prime Minister have set in place a terrible new reality, one in which our soldiers have lost faith in the army leadership. The one thing my son knew last week, was that the army was his family and they would be with him in all that he does. They may want to send him in to Gaza to fight, but they won't send him in alone. They may order him to do something, but his commander will be leading the way and the army will have his back.
What the 5% have done that the 95% now have to work hard to undo, is damage the morale, the backbone of trust. Our sons gave everything and now, they have been stabbed in the back in ways more painful than any terrorist's knife.
When you undermine soldiers with rules not followed by any other country, this is what you get. Once this skit was comedy, today, it might well be reality. A reality caused by those who don't have the decency to have faith and trust in the sons and daughters they expect to be there when we are attacked. While they run for shelter, they expect these boys to try to shoot down the missiles; When a terrorist raises a knife and they go running for shelter, they expect the soldier to step forward, in the path of the terrorist, and protect them.
Won't they be surprised when the soldier asks why they should bother when in the end, these 5% may well turn around and call them vile, murderers, and worse.
Once this was comedy...today, this may well be the reality of what we are doing to our sons:
When you undermine the army, this is what you are left with. Once this was a comedy...today it is becoming a reality
Hebrew....(Rough translation follows)
The commander tests the soldier before he goes out to the field "So, you go out and then suddenly, you see a terrorist with a knife coming at you from 100 meters away...what do you do?"
"Shoot him," replies the soldier.
"Shoot him?" says the commander. "Just like that? Without a reason?"
"But he's coming at me with a knife."
"What if he just wants to make a salad?"
"In the middle of the road?" asks the soldier.
"Soldier, we are not barbarians. First you have to check his intentions."
"How do I check?"
"You wait. If you see that he isn't coming to butcher you. You don't get involved in the day-to-day issues around you.
"Understood," says the soldier.
"Ok, so he continue to run towards you, staring at you. What do you do?"
"Shoot him," answers the soldier.
"Shoot him? Shoot him? Is that why you have a weapon? To go in the street and shoot people?"
"No," answers the soldier, "I just thought..."
"You don't shoot. You don't anything. You take this" says the commanding officer as he picks up a tape measure, "and measure how far away he is.
"For what, Commander?"
"Because beyond a fixed distance, it isn't considered endangering your life and you can't shoot him."
"But how can I measure the distance," asks the soldier, "if he is running towards me and is constantly getting closer?"
"You ask him to stop," says the commander, " but ask NICELY. They are very, very, sensitive."
"So, you measure, and you discover that the distance is below the minimum and he's continuing to run in your direction and he yells 'Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar. What do you do?"
"Shoot him," answers the soldier.
"Tell me, do you have psychological problems or something?"
"And in your house, do you shoot everyone who yells Allahu Akbar who has a knife in their hand?"
"No," says the soldier hesitantly.
"You don't shoot him. You take the weapon in your hand, pointing upwards and say, 'dear terrorist, stop or I"m going to have to shoot you."
"What did you understand? And if he doesn't stop? If he continues to run towards you?"
"So I shoot him"
"You don't shoot HIM, you shoot in the air!"
"In the air?"
"In the air...but it doesn't help. He continues to run in your direction. He grabs you. He raises the knife...what do you do?" yells the commander.
"I warn him," says the soldier.
"NO!" says the commander.
"I ask him very very nicely to leave me alone."
"NO!" yells the commander.
"I sing him a song by Umm Kulthum [a famous Arabic singer]"
"NO!" yells the commander even louder.
"So what should I do?"
"Shoot him, idiot! Why do you have a gun?"