It’s a well-known blessing, one of the traditional simanim (symbols) of the Jewish New Year—“May God bless us to be the head and not the tail”. There is no doubt that modern-day Israel consistently lives up to its Biblical blessing to strive to always come out on top. Israel is a haven for innovators, offering a unique backdrop and plenty of opportunities for small organizations with new ideas who want to make it big. “Being at the head and not the tail” means something different to every person, but the common thread of innovation and ambition acts as the incentive of every Israeli leader in every field.
The Moral High Ground The phrase, “being at the head and not the tail” takes on a poignant significance for the soldiers of the IDF, especially in light of the events of the past couple of months. The IDF struggles on a daily basis with the question of how to efficiently battle terrorist cells that conceal themselves among their own innocent civilians. The Israeli army was the first modern-day military to target terrorists by going house to house, instead of attacking from the air. This method is extremely dangerous for the IDF soldiers, who often find themselves lured into booby-trapped civilian homes, but it is a method which saves thousands of innocent Palestinian lives. When the IDF does decide to attack from the air, they send text messages, make phone calls and drop fliers to warn civilians that there will be an air attack in a certain place at a certain time, and that they should clear the area.
B’, a combat soldier in a special ops unit, describes his time in Gaza as “a constant battle between being an efficient soldier and hanging onto every bit of humanity you have… Every time we walked into a house, we knew there was a chance a suicide bomber was inside waiting to blow us all up…Every single thing you do requires you to think twice… ‘If I knock over this bookshelf, then the family won’t have a bookshelf, but if I don’t check behind the bookshelf then there might be a terrorist hiding behind it and we could all die’”. This level of sensitivity not only to the lives of the civilians on the enemy’s side but even to their property is unprecedented in any modern military, but comes as second nature to the soldiers of the IDF.
In a press conference earlier this month, the Minister of Defence, Moshe (Bogi) Ayalon praised the soldiers of the IDF for their courage and determination to achieve their military goals while maintaining their sense of moral responsibility. A reserve officer in the Foreign Relations unit commented, “The IDF gets a lot of criticism for being aggressive militarily. But people don’t understand that these soldiers are on the front lines of a war that the entire world is fighting, and the enemy doesn’t play by the rules. They are in a constant state of moral conflict, and they come out on the side of humanitarianism 99% of the time. It’s an impossible situation, but these kids are succeeding at it every day.” The world may have their criticisms, but there is no doubt that the Israeli Defence Force is innovating every day how to run a morally-aware military in a world where the norm is a polarized view in which the only two options are guerrilla warfare or utter destruction.
The Height of Sophistication
While the IDF excels in humanitarian warfare, elsewhere in the country, Israeli companies strive to show the world that the tiny country’s innovation doesn’t stop at military tactics. One such success has been in the wine industry where Israel’s wineries have been bringing in the gold medals and ensuring that they remain at the ‘head’ of the International Wine World. Leading the field is the Golan Heights Winery which has recently celebrated its 31st birthday.