Breaking the Silence on the Path to Reconciliation for Israeli Soldiers

Israeli army soldiers take part in training at the Urban Warfare Training Centre (UWTC) in Tse'elim camp in southern Israel o
Israeli army soldiers take part in training at the Urban Warfare Training Centre (UWTC) in Tse'elim camp in southern Israel on May 21, 2015. The UWTC is designed to train combat units for urban warfare by replicating a real urban environment and simulating a variety of battlefield scenarios. AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

On the day that my son, David, was killed, he had the Code of Ethics issued by the Israeli army in his pocket. Like David, the young Israeli soldiers of Breaking the Silence, men and women, some of whom were serving in the most elite units in the IDF, were called up for compulsory service when they turned 18. What maturity have these boys and girls attained straight from the classroom to another world totally unfamiliar, filled with decisions far beyond their maturity with fears and challenges they never imagined? Yes, they were filled with the glory of serving and protecting their homes and being heroes. Yet, what did they know of the daily life of serving in the occupied territories and of what it is to be a soldier facing a civilian population and the hidden dangers of a knife, a gun or a stone which might kill? Some of the decisions they made as officers and soldiers and some of the orders they carried out, given by their superiors, led them to acts of extreme violence and cruelty. Of course peer pressure plays an important part in their behavior. Mostly they came from normative backgrounds and never dreamed that they would find themselves in situations of fear, anger or temptation to take revenge and to ignore the code of ethics and moral behavior. What does a person who has served three of four years, in the case of an officer, feel when finally they give back their guns at the end of their service knowing that they will have to serve in the reserves for many years to come? Some run away to India or South America to escape from the harsh reality of witnessing the daily life of millions of Palestinians whose freedom of movement and privacy was curbed by acts they performed. They run away to escape from what they did in anger and hate, under orders, or not. Some, however, are filled with regret and conscience and do not know how to cure that feeling, They want to admit what they did in the hope that it will bring them some solace. They hope that their admission will come as a warning to other soldiers not to lose their humanity. How can this be a bad thing? Surely the military should take notice of these people of conscience and appreciate and investigate the evidence they give. If we are the most moral army in the world and I am not the one to judge, then surely this would be the right course of action. If the evidence is found to be correct it would prevent others from behaving in a manner which does not fit the Code of Ethics. Those who break the silence should be rewarded, not punished. If we are to have a lasting peace, it is clear that it will have to be accompanied by a reconciliation process, and maybe some of the evidence gathered by Breaking the Silence can be a part of the process. We will require evidence from both sides. This process will include, admission of crimes by both sides, restitution and also an apology given for the wrong-doings of both the Israeli and the Palestinian nations. One would hope that in a country boasting its democracy, freedom of speech and the right to an opinion not in a consensus would be allowed.