My name is Amit. I have two small children, and another one on the way. And even though balancing a young family and a full time job is difficult enough, once a year I leave everything behind and report for one month of reserve duty in the Israel Defense Forces.
It’s hard to explain, to those who haven’t experienced it, just how powerful the experience of miluim, as we call it in Hebrew, really is. There are few things more moving than seeing a collection of guys put their careers on hold and happily do their part to keep their nation safe. My own company is made up of a successful engineer, the manager of one of Israel’s trendiest restaurants, a biologist, an educator, and others from all walks of life who, for one month a year, put aside political differences, financial worries, and anything else to spend 18-hour days patrolling the vicinity of Hebron and keeping the peace.
We’re not unique in any way, but, sadly, you’re not likely to read about us in the papers. The headlines, I learned the hard way this week, are reserved for violent provocateurs. Last Wednesday, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed an Israeli citizen, wounding him lightly before being shot and killed by a nearby security guard. On Friday, Israel returned the terrorist’s body to his family, a basic humanitarian act that Hamas, for example, denies the families of the Israeli soldiers it had kidnapped and killed. We were told to expect trouble.
The next day, Saturday, my men and I, about 100 of us in total, arrived to find about 400 Palestinian rioters throwing Molotov cocktails, hurling large rocks, attacking us with slingshots, and burning tires. They were documented by something like 40 cameras representing every foreign press outlet you can think of. They were shouting slogans about Muhammad’s army coming to avenge itself on the Jews, and pranced bravely in front of the photographers, knowing full well that the IDF’s strict regulations prevent us from doing much more than trying to disperse the violent mob by shooting canisters of tear gas.
We did the best we could to keep anyone, Israeli and Palestinian, from getting seriously injured. And then, magic: A short while into the demonstration, the media, getting what it came for, decided to leave. As soon as the last cameraman was gone, the very same Palestinian rioters who were, just a moment earlier, so passionate and furious and violent tossed aside their gasoline-soaked rags and their boulders and cheerfully walked away. They weren’t interested in a real confrontation. They weren’t truly mad. They were putting on a show for the press. An hour later, a friend sent me a photograph of myself, just published by the Arab media, holding a tear gas gun and looking menacing.
To be honest, I’m amused by the incident, but also incensed by it. I know this is hardly a new story, but when your own well-being and that of your friends is on the line, it feels just a touch more urgent than usual. I’m very proud to do my duty and serve my country, but I wish members of the media were as serious about doing theirs, taking the time to accurately reflect what’s happening on the ground rather than buy into fake news narratives set up by cynical propagandists.