Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about my job: what I’m really doing in the army, what it means to me and what is happening in the real world that connects to the requirements of this job. I work as a “lookout” from inside a war room, watching over an Arab village that is almost a city in size, the village of Qalqilya in the West Bank.
Many serious acts of terrorism came out of Qalqilya, including major attacks that took the lives of many people. Today, the lookouts who sit in this war room are preventing many of these attacks, even a great many of these attacks, when they watch the village through cameras that are placed at strategic points. I am one of these lookouts, and with all of the pride I feel in what I do, part of me wonders if it might have been easier if things were different and I was just a commander dealing with internal military matters and not with clashes with those defined as enemies.
Why? Put aside the fact that the work is difficult and demanding and leaves you without real freedom (since we all depend on each other). I am referring to the burden I carry regarding the lives of other people. I am the one responsible for these areas during my four-hour shift. It’s just me and nobody else. If I were to think about it all the time, chances are I’d go crazy. The pressure is intense, not to mention the ethical dilemma. I think this is what bothers me most. Many people, who are not at fault, become casualties. The manipulation of young Palestinians towards violence is so simple and easy to do. And we need to understand this, because this manipulation also exists on our side, the ability to influence youth in a negative way. And the hatred in this war room, on my official post, is so prevalent. Jews towards Palestinians and Palestinians towards Jews. It never ceases, it never leaves.
I think about it a lot, and I’ve decided I will not be poisoned. I believe that the fact that I am protecting the lives of citizens in my country does not stand in contradiction to my desire for and support of peace.
In the army and in general, it is important that we remember who we are. We need to remember that beyond the opinions, the religion, the positions, the job – we are all people who feel pain and love. In a place like Judea and Samaria, there are many moral contradictions with which soldiers are forced to deal and those who served here know what I mean. I think about the study week we had in Mechina on Judea and Samaria during my service here. You see Hebron and venture into areas that are very sensitive, to both the right and the left in Israel.
The Mechina experience constantly reminds me that I cannot define myself as one thing alone. I am many things – a person made up of many definitions who make me who I am. And I am happy with that. But more than being a lookout, more than being a Mechina graduate, or a soldier, more than being even a citizen or a student, I am a person. Like everyone else.