The Israeli body preparing for war

Israeli body training starts from early childhood. Here is a chilling example of an Israeli kindergarten education. This is an image of a presentation at a kindergarten in Holon.

The teacher has created a linear flowchart connecting who she considers to be Jew-haters throughout the ages. As shown by Anderson in Imagined Communities, the teacher imagines our collective as having continuity since biblical times and believes its associated myths to our day without any doubt. The "we," whom the haters had so wanted to kill, are Jews mainly in Israel, but it can be extended to all Jews as the Jewish state claims to represent all Jews, even those who insist and emphasize that they aren’t Zionists, or others who are anti-Zionists.

The photo cuts out part of the presentation. But it's possible to understand the remaining part, as every Israeli learns the following: almost everyone hates us, so we must have a strong state with a strong army that will face any threat with a strong and decisive force. This creates an inevitable cycle of fear. We are afraid of the threats. So, we arm ourselves infinitely and act hard against any threat, which—in turn—maintains or increases the threats against us and proves that everyone is against us, which requires strengthening our military and striking hard every threat and so on.

Violence always needs more violence and this cycle does not guarantee security of course. There’s no room for talk about peace in this cycle. However, with so much power at least one expects some confidence. Well, it’s enough to see the horror and violence with which Israelis respond to non-violent activities against the state and its borders in order to understand that sense of security is very low in Israel. The Israeli violence is reflected in everyday life. We are harsh and intolerant of each other. We resort to violence and racist talkbacks and more.

At the non-formal education level, such as summer camps, nationalist indoctrination gets especially creative shapes. I do not remember exactly what age we were when we went to summer camp of the kibbutzim youth movement in which we had an unforgettable experience. One night at the camp we were awakened at two o'clock. We were hundreds of teens. We carried wooden boards in various sizes and different kinds of tools and went on a journey of few miles to an unknown destination. When we got there, within a few hours, we set up a camp surrounded by a wall and a tower in the center, a replica of the "Wall and Tower" of the early days of Zionism. It was exciting and very effective. We thought we felt exactly the same as those true pioneers did, decades ago, when they established walled settlements with viewing towers at the center to guard the settlers.

The Israeli education system functions as pre-army preparatory course almost from early childhood. When Zeev Degani, headmaster of Gymnasia Herzliya high-school in Tel Aviv, stood up against the military propaganda activities at his school, he faced a massive attack. News Dailies cried out against his “injustice.” Within the school, the parents committee tried to dismiss him by raising false claims about his past public activities. Degani's behavior marked an option of civil resistance that is of utmost importance.

Preparation for the army takes a variety of didactic forms. Toward the last Israeli Independence Day a battle heritage lesson (Moreshet Krav) was held at the afternoon daycare programs that my son Noam (7.5 years) attends. When I came to take him home at the end of the day he was very upset. He reported in writing about the troubling events that have happened to him. This is what he wrote:

We had a lesson by Moriya about the people who sacrificed their lives to defend the state. She told us about someone who reportedly jumped on a grenade and died. When I said that he committed suicide, S (the afternoon daycare programs instructor) told me that I was retarded and fucked up because she saw the deed as an act of heroism and I did not.

The instructor denied she had told him he was fucked and stupid. She said that Moriya told us about a battle in which a grenade was suddenly thrown at Israeli soldiers. One of them jumped on the grenade. My son jumped up and said he committed suicide. So Moriya said "no," and that this soldier wanted to shield his friends through his own body and took the grenade explosion. "So he did kill himself," my son insisted loudly again. S, The instructor, told me she said to him that he was not behaving nicely and "tonight, at the Memorial Day siren, he would have to stand still twice the time and his parents must explain to him why."

That evening, when the siren blew, Noam was with me. I could feel his sense of liberation, during those nationalist seconds, when he came to me while I was washing the dishes and asked "don't you stand still?"


English editing: Lubna A. Hammad

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