1706432072 Reservists Israels secret weapon and most vulnerable

Reservists, Israel’s “secret weapon” and most vulnerable

Reservists Israels secret weapon and most vulnerable

Crying breaks the silence in the military section of the Herzliya Cemetery north of Tel Aviv. Hundreds of people – many in uniform, others draped in the national flag – said their final goodbyes this Wednesday to Mark Kononovich, one of the 21 Israeli reservists killed in Gaza on Monday, most notably when a grenade was thrown by a Palestinian militiaman met one of them. the buildings they wanted to demolish and these collapsed. It was the deadliest day in the nearly four months of war, with a total of 24 dead, so the pain of losing a loved one or comrade in arms is interspersed with shouts of victory at the funeral to lift spirits.

Yehuda Bach, the commander of the 261st Brigade in which Kononovich served, spoke up: “On October 7th [día del ataque de Hamás que dejó unos 1.200 muertos y más de 200 secuestrados], the enemy felt we were weak, but didn't know that we had a secret weapon: the reservists. Thousands of people have left their homes out of responsibility for the State of Israel and its future.”

This “secret weapon” now represents the majority of men and women deployed by Israel, particularly to guard the borders with Lebanon and Syria, where skirmishes occur daily. These are not the 170,000 active military personnel, but an additional 465,000 men and women between the ages of 21 and 49 who have completed military service and can be called up overnight in the event of a war or natural disaster. This time Israel has called up around 360,000 soldiers, the largest mobilization in half a century since the Yom Kippur War (1973). The delay in the massive mobilization of reservists by then Prime Minister Golda Meir, despite information from the secret services about an impending attack from Syria and Egypt, almost cost her defeat.

Amid the shock of another surprise attack on October 7, the deadliest day for Israel in its 75-year history, some reservists put on their uniforms and showed up at the barracks. Others – at least 550,000 Israeli adults live abroad – hastily returned. The three main national airlines increased their flights, consulates (or private citizens at airport counters in the United States) paid for the tickets, and the army sent transport planes to some European cities.

Three weeks before that day, 35-year-old Kononovich had become a father for the fourth time, but he also insisted on taking part. He had the rank of sergeant major. When he took off his stripes, he was living with his wife in Herzliya and heading a Justice Ministry unit to protect people at risk.

Friends and family tearfully recalled at the funeral how they had tried to persuade him not to return to Gaza on his last vacation. “I told him, 'Stay, apologize, think about your kids.' He replied: “We all want to stay at home, in a safe place, but if we make all the excuses and don't go, we won't have an army. And then we won't have a state,” said his wife Orel. “I told him, 'Stop, don't come back.' “I will stay until the end [136] “Hostages in Gaza,” he answered me,” recalled his best friend Aviad Dadon, draped in the Israeli flag.

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Less preparation

His case exemplifies the situation of reservists. They are not professional soldiers and therefore stop studying or working when they put on the uniform. Their preparation is less and in fact has been a matter of debate for years, including as a possible cause of their share of casualties. Nor are they drafted into compulsory service immediately after puberty (compulsory service begins at 18 and lasts 32 months for men and 24 months for women), and in practice, due to various exceptions, only half of the population completes it.

They are Israelis – almost all Jews and mostly men – who have mostly found a home due to their age and in a very family-oriented society. The reservation is valid up to age 40 for regular soldiers, up to age 45 for officers and up to age 49 for those performing duties such as nursing, mechanics or driving heavy equipment.

The reserve was established after the war following the establishment of the State of Israel (1948-1949). It was a response to the economic impossibility of maintaining such a large army and the need to mobilize large numbers of troops in a very short period of time in a country then surrounded by enemies. The chief of staff who designed it, Yigael Yadin, used to call them “soldiers on 11-month leave.” The description no longer matches that. The country has reformed and streamlined the uniform so that it is de facto voluntary (and in some cases de jure), although on paper it is still compulsory and in theory the uniform must be worn for a few days each year. In 1985, reservists served an estimated 10 million days. In 2018 there were already two million. The Institute for National Security Studies research center estimates that only 6% of those who complete military service complete at least 20 days in the following three days per year.

“It has declined because mobilization is a sensitive issue, having a family and other factors such as economic or preparation factors. But if they are well-equipped and trained, their recruitment is very important,” explains Yagil Levy, a political science professor at the Open University of Israel who specializes in military sociology.

Levy also emphasizes that they are allowing rotations in a war that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu predicts will continue for “many months.” Her death, he adds, is viewed socially as “the most painful” because it comes at an age when both children and parents are mourning him, but it has not provoked protests, as in previous cases, because “a great “The majority of the population justifies the war and sees them as part of this sacrifice.” So far, 222 soldiers have lost their lives. The list of names on the army website shows that more than half were reservists.

The mobilization was so broad and the internal unanimity around the war is so clear (50.8% of the Jewish majority think the use of force in Gaza is appropriate and 43.4% think it is inadequate, according to an Index poll conducted this month of Peace). According to a study by Tel Aviv University, population profiles are diverse.

This is shown by the case of the 21 reservists killed on Monday. On the one hand, there are the stories of personal improvement that the national media loves to highlight. Like that of Cydrick Garin, the son of non-Jewish Filipino immigrants, whose father was only allowed to return to the country for a funeral. Garin, 32, dropped out of school as a child to help his mother, who did not speak Hebrew, and was arrested as a teenager for his criminal activities in the drug world. Or the Bedouin Ahmad Abu Latif, who was exempt from military service and posted a viral message on social networks after October 7th about the pride of volunteer work.

Other fallen people are more closely associated with religious nationalism, the spearhead of the settler movement, which interprets the struggle with the Palestinians in biblical terms. Like Israel Sokol from the northern West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron, whose father Yehosha recalled at the funeral how his son complained that the government was preventing the army from operating without restrictions in Gaza. Or Elkana Yehuda Sfez, 25 years old and resident in Kiriat Arba, the settlement near the city of Hebron where the right-wing extremist minister for national security, Itamar Ben Gvir, lives.

The expert Levy assures that these profiles are increasingly present. Not only because of the right wing of Israeli society over the last two decades, but also because voluntary service in the reserve gives more exposure to people with religious and right-wing backgrounds and less to the elites and urban middle classes. The latter are generally more secular and liberal, have better jobs and more experience in areas such as intelligence or cybersecurity.

Economic hole

The mobilization of the reservists has also left a gap of tens of thousands of workers and students. The 360,000 conscripts represent 8% of the workforce. In Tel Aviv or Jerusalem you often see closed shops or new faces, especially in the shops where men between the ages of 21 and 45 used to work. The high-tech sector is running halfway. In fact, tens of thousands have already been demobilized.

The impact on the economy is difficult to estimate because it is unknown how long the mobilization will last. Every month it deprives the state treasury of around 1.2 billion euros and lost work leaves a hole estimated at 393 million euros. Employers must continue to pay wages during the absence. The law prevents them from forcing them to return, although this does not always happen.

At the peak of recruitment, 30% of those enrolled in universities were in the reserves. Today they are at 10%, and several centers have stopped studying these days to offer recovery courses to returning reservists, the Haaretz newspaper reports. A video of a young man studying with his cell phone in a military vehicle in Gaza can be seen on the social network TikTok.

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