On Tuesday, or maybe it was Wednesday, October 2 or 3, some 1,500 Paratroopers Brigade officers gathered with their wives and girlfriends on the lawn at Kfar HaMaccabiah in Ramat-Gan. The atmosphere was celebratory. Veteran soldiers and new recruits met and patted each other on the back. It was great.
Evening came, and the IDF chief of staff, who also attended the event, asked not to address the soldiers, as "nothing is going on, and I have nothing to say." I was in charge of the evening's program as part of my reserve duty. "You have to say a few words," I told the chief of staff. "Talk about how our long arm will sever the enemy's arm."
"You are the long arm that will sever the enemy's arm," he said and walked off the stage as the paratroopers cheered.
The celebration took place in the first days of October 1973, and the chief of staff was David "Dado" Elazar. Three or four days later Israel was already engaged in the fierce and bloody battles of the Yom Kippur War, and Dado, as army chief, had to invest in that war the lives of some of those soldiers who were part of Israel's "long arm" – the same soldiers from the party in Ramat-Gan. For many of the paratroopers, that was the last party of their lives. Less than a week later they were dead.
Another example: July 12, 2006 was just another ordinary day in the life of Ehud Olmert as prime minister. In the late morning hours he was informed of an attack by Hezbollah along the border with Lebanon during which eight IDF soldiers were killed and two others were kidnapped. A few hours later, the State of Israel found itself involved up to the neck in a war, the results of which are disputed to this day.
Prepare for the worst
I'm using these examples, and there are many more, to drive home the point that in Micronesia, and perhaps even in Switzerland and Luxemburg, one can predict what the future will hold. An error committed in one of these countries will not necessarily lead to the loss of life or loss of sovereignty and independence.
But this is not true for this turbulent region of the Middle East, certainly not in the past year or two. We, the Israelis, do not live on the edge of a volcano; we are inside the volcano, nearly touching the boiling lava that threatens our lives here. And outside, just a few meters from the boiling lava, birds are chirping, the water level of Lake Kinneret is rising and people are wondering which dress Ninet Tayeb will wear on her wedding day.
In this region even the wise cannot accurately predict the future. Therefore, we must all be prepared for the worst – that the religious Muslim world around us will overcome its internal disputes and rise up against the State of Israel, which it views as a "bone stuck in the throat"; as an arrogant, unnecessary country. This forecast borders on the apocalyptic, but we do not have the luxury of believing in the coming of the messiah or think that it enough to sing "Utzu Etza Vetufar" (meaning, "contrive a scheme and it will be foiled ").
In Israel, as opposed to many other countries, we do not know what tomorrow – or even today - will bring. We think we are voting for a solution to one small problem, and tomorrow we will find ourselves being led by someone who has to solve huge problems related to our very existence.