What kind of training in military ethics and the laws of war did you receive while you were serving in the IDF? What were the strengths and weaknesses of the training? Would you suggest any improvements?
Did you encounter any ethical dilemmas while you were in the military? Do remember any particular events in which you had to make a difficult decision about what was the right course of action? If so, could you tell me a little bit about the event(s)?
When you encountered ethical dilemmas, how did you decide the best way of resolving them? (In other words, did you try to apply your religious values, instructions provided in training, cultural values, a moral theory, etc.) Based on your experience, how do you think IDF soldiers usually solve ethical dilemmas? Would you expect IDF soldiers to think about military ethics in the same way as American and British soldiers or differently?
Thanks for the awesome questions. To make our lives easier, I’ll just answer your questions in the order you asked them.
Training was certainly a challenging experience, especially for me, who’s Hebrew was quite rough around the edges – at the best. Unlike what I’ve heard from my friends in the American military (Air Force officers) the IDF has a lot of lessons built in both the basic and advanced training regiments. I remember in my training we had, of course, practical lessons on how to use and operate our weapons both accurately and properly, but we also had lessons on topics such as Islam, Palestinian life in the West Bank and Gaza, the Geneva Convention as well as other international military treaties, ethical positions which may be encountered in the line of duty, such as treatment of prisoners, looting, etc… – we even had lessons on the sanctity of life. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a society in the world which places a higher value on an individual soldier’s life than Israel. This of course, can be exemplified in the recent Gilad Shalit exchange where a single Israeli soldier was set free – in turn over 1,000 terrorists were released from Israeli prisons. So, to succinctly answer your question, I was very surprised regarding the amount they taught us on military and ethical situations. I believe this is one of the major strengths that sets the IDF apart from many other military’s in the world. By the end of my training, I felt incredibly confident not only in what I had learned during those past eight months, but also felt I had a firm grasp on a sense of “right” and “wrong” in any ethical situations which I may encounter in the future.
I’m sorry, but I’m not at liberty to detail the specifics of any military operation I was a part of. I can tell you generically though, I had encountered some potentially ethical situations and handled them without a hitch.
Again, while I can’t go in to any specifics, while making decisions which may have any residual effects, I reflected on my training, back on the lessons which they taught us, then I did my own morality check, and finally a religious check. Even in the face of a potential terrorist or someone who wanted to harm or even kill me, before taking any action I always considered, without fail, the fact that this person has parents, possibly a wife, children, brothers and sisters – just like me. Again, I feel this is a consideration that most IDF soldiers calculated, even in the face of danger – “get some,” a phrase which frequents the American military are two words which I never heard during my stint in the IDF. As I’ve breifly said before, I think IDF soldiers have a totally different stance regarding military ethics than American and Canadian soldiers. As aforementioned, from what I’ve heard, we have a much more thorough knowledge regarding our surroundings, the Palestinian culture and religion and similarly, maybe even most importantly, we live among one another. Hence, we have a much broader understanding from a very young age of all the cultures in the region. I tend to believe, (or atleast have seen in my experiences) that IDF soldiers handle ethical situations better than U.S. troops for the most part – of course there are always exceptions on both ends of the spectrum for all parties involved.
Thanks again for your awesome questions. If you have any follow up questions, please feel free to ask me again through the website. Good luck with your research.