Intifada: Through a Soldier’s Eyes
The following interview was done by Israel My Glory with an Israeli believer who is a Sabra (a Jew born in Israel). His comments mirror the frustration, resentment, and personal problems encountered by those in the ranks who must deal with the Intifada at street level. He also provides insights, through his own reactions, to the breach caused between believers on opposite sides of the issue.
IMG: The Intifada has been going on for two years now. How has it affected the people in Israel?
SABRA: The main thing I see is the growing fear people have. They don’t feel as free to move about. Some bad things have gone on. You don’t hear much about what is happening to us Israelis, at least in America. When something happens to an Arab or Palestinian, the whole world hears about it. When it is one of our people, there is little said about it.
An American tourist can come to Israel and see almost nothing of the uprising. People will not get hurt in the streets. It is safe. The terrorists are not looking for Americans, only for Israelis. They are looking for Jews to kill. I am deeply hurt that in the States you are being shown only one side of the coin.
Politically, people are moving much more to the right. Tough measures are needed to deal with the problem. Terrorists are murderers, and you cannot give in to them. [Prime Minister] Shamir knows the PLO and Arafat very well. He knows you can’t give in to them—never. If the Palestinian people would sit down and negotiate with us in good faith—no conditions, no guarantees—maybe something could be worked out. But unless this happens, I don’t see any hope. So, most people feel, we must be strong.
Things are also hard economically. As you know, many Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza have jobs in Israel. They are an important part of the work force. When they strike or refuse to work their jobs regularly, it creates a bad situation.
IMG: Would you say that the Arab population is also polarizing on the right?
SABRA: Yes, of course. At first, it wasn’t that way. People involved on the Arab side were young, no more than in their 20’s. These were kids not old enough to remember how they were treated under Jordanian rule, only Israeli occupation. They wanted to be free. I suppose I would feel the same way. Their fathers had longer memories and didn’t cooperate in the beginning. But as the uprising went on, the PLO got stronger and stronger and used the uprising for violence and anything that would upset life in Israel. If an Arab didn’t want to cooperate with the PLO, he might find himself getting stabbed. Failure to participate in demonstrations may mean his house would be burned. Many died because they may have cooperated with the Israeli army or government or refused to take part in the demonstrations.
IMG: How are the Israeli soldiers who are serving on the West Bank and in Gaza reacting?
SABRA: It’s a cat and mouse game all the time. Tease the cat, run away. We have all the power, but there is little you can do. You can only protect yourself when you are in physical danger of being killed or hurt. They know this, so soldiers are in constant danger. Someone might come from behind, and you find a knife in your back.
Many of our soldiers are getting hurt. And, again, I don’t see the media saying much about this. I myself have been seriously injured. I was in a wheelchair for two months. Another time I was badly burned. Hundreds of our soldiers have had the same thing happen to them. These men also have kids and pregnant wives. Sure, Arabs are suffering, but so are we. Why don’t you hear about it?
The emotional strain soldiers are under is terrible. For example, there was a soldier who saw a man throwing a fire bomb from a roof. He had only a second or two to do something, so he shot toward the roof with rubber bullets. One of the bullets hit a nine-month-old baby and injured it.
The press picked up on it: “An Israeli soldier shoots a nine-month-old baby.” They didn’t bother to ask why a man who was trying to kill our soldiers would have his baby with him, or why its mother would be there in such a situation.
Don’t you think we felt sorry for the baby? Of course, we felt sorry for her. We have kids too. She shouldn’t get hurt. But she shouldn’t have been there. Why does her father want to kill soldiers?
How do you think the soldier felt when he learned he had shot a baby? It was a terrible thing for him. He did not want to hurt an innocent human being.
So that’s the situation, and soldiers are depressed because they don’t want to hurt people; they don’t want to kill; they don’t want to go to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But they know, too, what is at stake. It is the survival of Israel; so they do what they must do.
IMG: How do believers who serve in the army feel about the situation?
SABRA: The Bible tells us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” The objective of the prayer is not just so an Arab will sit down with a Jew, or that human beings can bring about peace. We pray for the peace of Jerusalem because we know the only way to peace is the coming of the Messiah—there is no solution outside His coming.
Until He comes, we feel we must do our duty toward the country. The Bible says we are to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God. As an Israeli citizen, we need to be in the army. It is not a pleasure to be there—no one likes going with a gun. But we go because we feel we must serve.
But I must say that it is very hard to be objective toward others [Arabs] in this kind of situation. I don’t agree with the way the army sometimes does things. But I am Jewish; I have been in the army. It hurts me to feel that I can’t be more objective toward those on the other side; but, right now, it is a very difficult thing for me to do.
IMG: Do you find that this kind of atmosphere affords believers a better opportunity to share their faith?
SABRA: People want peace in Israel. They want to live in peace. They are tired of seeing wars. I don’t believe there is one family in Israel that hasn’t had someone in their family killed or hurt in the army. So people are hungry for peace.
Because of this, some people want to hear about the Lord. Today in Israel people are much more open to hearing about the Lord.
Most people in Israel don’t own a Bible. They don’t know the Bible. Oh, they may know who King David was, or Solomon, but they don’t know the Bible.
So, when things are bad for them, and they are open to hear what a believer has to say, you can start from the beginning, tell them what the Bible says, and give them the gospel.
We can tell them there is hope in the Messiah—that through Him peace will come.