“Israeli soldiers aren’t ‘murdered’ in battle, they ‘fall’ in battle.” While the sentence is catching in English; in Hebrew, it’s a lot more powerful. As my conversation with Yoaz Hendel progressed, we discussed the idea of soldiers falling and not being murdered.
“Murdered is the language of a crime. In war, soldiers aren’t victims of a crime, they are warriors in battle, and when they die, they’ve fallen in battle.” To suggest they’re victims of a crime is to deny the sovereignty of the country they’re fighting for and to relegate them to civilians in a dispute. Israeli soldiers fight for their homeland, and their heroes fall in battle on behalf of their country.
I love a great conversation; the more meaningful the conversation the more I enjoy it. I was talking to Hendel, the Israeli minister of communications, and we were having a very meaningful conversation. Hendel was a former historian, journalist and educator, and his thoughts reflected a life of careful contemplation. The topics we broached about Israel and its future were difficult, but as Hendel told me, if Israelis don’t have difficult conversations today, we’re setting ourselves up for bigger problems in the future.
Israel today is vastly different from the Israel of the past, and its challenges are different from its past challenges. We discussed how, as much as external threats still pose a danger to Israel, internal threats are much more challenging. Israel is stronger today than it’s ever been, and that strength gives us the ability to face internal challenges we haven’t been able to previously address. An outsider’s view of Israel doesn’t allow the true threat of internal tribalism and division to be seen, but from inside Israel, the danger is becoming clearer.
Two major communities compromising more than 30 percent of Israel’s population don’t play a part in Israeli life commensurate to its share of the population. Hendel explained that if the charedi and Arab populations remain autonomies in their own right, Israel would suffer serious consequences. These communities separate themselves from the Israeli mainstream and are also kept out of the Israeli mainstream. The tribalism must end, Hendel strongly asserted. These communities cannot live in their own “ghetto,” refusing to partake of certain national responsibilities while demanding Israeli society conform to their notions of how Israel should operate.
It’s my opinion that as much as the Arab and charedi sectors must begin participating in Israeli national life, the rest of Israeli society must incorporate Arabs and charedim into Israeli society – something Israel has failed at miserably. A combination of racism (yes, we need to admit it) against Arabs, and discrimination against charedim hasn’t made it easy for these two sectors to join the larger nation. To successfully integrate both communities into Israeli life, both sides will need to compromise and conform to each other.
Hendel displayed the courage of Zionist leaders of the past when he strongly stated that the current state of Israeli government politics – avoiding difficult issues to ensure coalitions – is a weak form of governing and creates more problems than it solves.
“We’re buying people off and not solving the internal problems that pose the biggest threat to Israel’s future.” We’re acting as cowards now, Hendel contended, a strong leader addresses and solves problems, they don’t avoid them and allow them to grow larger. A leader moves towards the problem and brings the people along with them.
I was enthralled with our conversation. It had been a while since I’d heard an Israeli leader talk about bold solutions and not shy away from problems, with excuses of the bounds of his coalition agreement. I fully understand the limitations Israel’s current leadership faces in its broad and diverse coalition, but those limitations are weakening Israel by allowing its problems to grow.
I’m not one to make political predictions about who will lead Israel in the future, but the courage and boldness Hendel advocated for is exactly the leadership Israel needs. Zionists look at Israel and its people and envision a better future. Zionists see problems and run towards them, and its leaders must do the same. Israel can use bold leaders who run towards its problems with the goal of solving them.