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A reflection on my service in the IDF reserves

Jonathan Burman grew up in Manchester. He went on Year Course 2018-2019, and then he became a movement worker for FZY until he made Aliyah in December 2019. He enrolled in the IDF and was in reserves when October 7th happened.

Like 300,000 others, I was called up to the reserves on the 7th of October. From my time in Kfar Aza, on the northern border, and in Gaza, here are some reflections for this FZY project.


Unity in the reserves

I hadn’t done reserve service before the 7th of October—I’d been released from regular service less than a year before—and the first thing that struck me was the sense of unity that exists in the reserves. Arriving to base on that Saturday, I was introduced to a squad who were diverse politically, religiously, and professionally. There was little sign of the debate over the judicial reforms that had divided Israel in the months before the war, and as we entered Kfar Aza, nothing seemed to matter beyond the military objectives we had been given. This sense of unity has, for me at least, continued until today. Even as protests once again grip the country, now calling for a hostage deal and elections, reserve service still feels to me like a place of respite from political divisions.


IDF successes

The horrific scenes of the 7th of October were caused by a Hamas force that was well trained, well supplied, and very well organised. In the months since, the IDF has been incredibly successful in dismantling Hamas’ military capabilities. During our two months in Khan Yunis, my battalion encountered only small Hamas cells and not the organised companies and platoons that had attacked the kibbutzim on the 7th of October. This is a testament to the IDF’s military success in Gaza. Air strikes have killed large numbers of Hamas commanders and the ground operation has destroyed most of their infrastructure—all while effectively minimising civilian casualties. This alone isn’t a victory—we need a deal to bring home the remaining hostages and a viable plan for the ‘day after’—but the IDF can be proud of its military successes.


Changing views

The barbaric scenes we witnessed in Kfar Aza at the beginning of the war will stick with me, but Gaza was also depressing. We found weapons in civilian homes and tunnel openings on residential streets. My battalion twice came under fire from schools, one of them operated by UNRWA. Towards the end of our time in Gaza, my company carried out an operation in an area where Israelis had previously been held hostage. What struck me was that we were in a residential (and seemingly quite affluent) area. Not every Gazan is complicit in Hamas’ crimes, but Palestinians are adults who should be expected to take responsibility for their situation. As someone who always believed in peace and the necessity of Palestinian statehood, I found these experiences very politically challenging.


A final thought

Last week my brigade was in Northern Israel, carrying out a training exercise in preparation for a potential ground invasion of Lebanon. On the first night we manoeuvred through the Arab-Druze village of Yarka. Its terrain may be similar to villages in southern Lebanon, but there was no pretending that we weren’t in Israel. Houses there are adorned with Israeli flags, and as we passed, the children lined the streets to give us coffee, cakes, and knafeh. It was a nice reminder of how united, and special, this country can be.

By Jonathan Burman


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