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What a Canadian soldier reminded me about the IDF

Canada and Israel both have proud, moral military histories

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Canadian Armed Forces' soldiers stand at attention

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In James A. Michener’s historical novel, The Source, American philanthropist Paul Zodman visits the Israeli archaeological dig he is funding. After seeing the discoveries, visiting a kibbutz, watching a Bible competition, and attending a forest commemoration in honour of British military officer Orde Wingate, he remarks that he saw something he will never forget:

“An Israeli soldier. For two thousand years whenever we Jews saw a soldier, it could only mean bad news. Because the soldier couldn’t be Jewish. He had to be an enemy. It’s no small thing to see a Jewish soldier, standing on his own soil, protecting them.”

As a Syrian, this was something I could relate to, even though the soldiers of my own country were of my own religion. No Arab ever wants to cross path with soldiers, from any Arab army. All my life, a military uniform had always been an ominous sight.

So it was with some curiosity that I visited the Canadian Armed Forces exhibit at the Canadian National Exhibition in 2018. On display was military hardware and camouflage. But what fascinated me was an artillery piece, gleaming as if it had never seen a day of war. Standing next to it was a young Asian-Canadian soldier, very straight, looking more intellectual than any Syrian soldier ever could.

“Just out of curiosity,” I asked him, “how much damage could one of these do?”

“Well, hard to explain,” he said, “I’ve only ever fired them, I’ve never been on the receiving end.”

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And I hope you never do, I thought to myself, having been on the receiving end myself of Syrian army artillery back in my hometown of Homs.

I asked him a lot of questions, because for the first time in my life, I was having a normal conversation with a person in military uniform. Someone who posed neither a threat to me, nor my loved ones.

At the end of the conversation, I asked him what motivated him to take up the challenges of a military life.

Israeli Defence Force soldier with a patch of the Flag of Israel

“Someone once said that a real soldier doesn’t fight because of his hatred of what’s in front of him, but because he wants to protect what’s behind him.”

It was in that instant, that I finally understood something that had baffled me for a while. Jewish Canadian friends of mine had children who, after high-school or university, would go to Israel to serve in the Israeli Defence Forces. One friend’s son had served in the famed Nahal brigade, whose graduation ritual consists of a 400 km march. Another had spent an extra year in the IDF after becoming an officer.

It was only then that I understood what motivated these young people, what motivates anyone who signs up in an all-volunteer military such as the CAF. The Canadian soldier and his colleagues at the exhibition were serving out of love, dedication, and a desire to protect that which they loved. In the Syrian army, the best postings were ones where an officer could make money out of smuggling.

A military consisting of service men and women motivated by love of their people will always be a more effective and moral fighting force than one motivated by conquest and loot.

And by any objective measure, the IDF is one of, if not the, most moral army in the world.

While the Syrian army was blasting Syrian cities, the IDF provided medical aid to over 12,000 Syrians in need. Millions of dollars were spent by the Israeli government and private citizens to help outfit makeshift hospitals inside Syria itself.

It was to Israel that Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland appealed for help to extract members of the White Helmets, the Syrian Civil Defence group who, if caught by the Assad regime’s army advancing on the areas near the Golan, would face certain death.

Facts matter. And the undeniable fact is that, if the Syrian army had been half as moral as the IDF, not a single Syrian would have become a refugee.

Ever since that day at the exhibition, I have taken an interest in the history of the Canadian army. On my bookshelf are Pierre Berton’s Vimy, Terry Copp’s Cinderella Army, and Ellin Bessner’s Double Threat, a history of the 17,000 Jewish-Canadians who served in World War II. Canada and Israel both have proud military histories and reputations as moral armies.

If only the same could have been said of Syria…

Aboud Dandachi is a former Syrian refugee who arrived in Canada in 2017 through the Canadian Refugee Resettlement Program. He has been published, interviewed and cited on Syrian issues in numerous outlets, including the BBC, NPR and the Israeli and Turkish press. He has been published on Tablet Magazine and the CJN. Follow him on Twitter at @abouddandachi

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Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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