Years ago I saw with my own eyes the sister of an IDF soldier, who disappeared and was apparently kidnapped by a terror group, leaping onto the defense minister’s desk, and in the presence of six senior IDF officers bitterly crying: “Bring back my brother, bring back my brother.”
This could not have happened in any other country in the world for a very simple reason: In any other country, the sister would not even make it to the defense minister’s office, let alone the prime minister’s office. At most, she would have met with some senior officer who would have sent her back home with nothing.
It would be interesting to look into the roots of the Jewish-Israeli custom to show such great sensitivity to the bodies of war casualties and the lives of MIAs and abducted troops. It would also be interesting to ask why the IDF sacrifices the lives of soldiers and commanders – and this has happened in Israel’s wars – in order to rescue the bodies of soldiers from the battle scene.
For example: 82 soldiers and officers, amongst the best fighters the people of Israel ever had, were once sent deep into Lebanon in order to abduct Sheikh Mustafa Dirani, who maybe, maybe, knew something about the fate of missing Airman Ron Arad. Did anyone ever think about what would happen, what would be the public’s response in Israel, had the two helicopters that transported those 82 fighters to the scene of the operation crashed?
If that had happened, what would the people who today say that the State of Israel is doing nothing in the face of abductions say then? (Several years later, two IDF choppers collided and 73 fighters died. Do you remember the response? The depression? The questions that emerged?)
In any other country in the world, or almost any other country, abducted soldiers, and certainly MIAs, are addressed indifferently, and in many cases viewed as if they were casualties: In most countries there is no chance for blackmail or some kind of negotiations (although in recent years the attitude to those abducted by terror groups has changed, and efforts are undertaken to free them.)
There is plenty of diplomatic and military power in the refusal to bargain; as if the government says to the kidnappers: We don’t care, do whatever you want, you won’t get a thing from us.
All of Israel’s prime ministers and defense ministers over the years always decided and acted in complete contradiction to what their mind was saying and to the State of Israel’s national interest. This interest, had they acted upon it, would have dictated a tough and uncompromising stance: Dear kidnappers, go to hell!
Yet it is not the mind that dictates the actions of any prime minister and defense minister. It is the heart, the Jewish heart, which does it. For this we pay a terrible, heavy, and intolerable price, yet this is what makes us different from all other peoples and armies. This is what makes us very special, and very Jewish.