This is the eleventh in a series of stories told by former IDF soldiers about their time in service and life in Israel, brought to you by StandWithUs and Jspace.com. Anat is one of the 13 soldiers on StandWithUs’ 6th annual “Israeli Soldiers Stories” tour, which had two legs in 2014: February 16-March 1 and March 30-April 14. Email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Learn more here: http://www.standwithus.com/campaigns/soldiers/
At the age of 18, Anat suddenly found herself in the middle of combat. In 2009, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, it’s fight against Hamas in Gaza. But Anat did not fight on the ground or in the air; she fought a different battle, the one for public opinion. Anat was facing the international media. A few month earlier, she was a volunteer in a boarding school for at-risk youth. Before that, she was in summer camp with the Israeli Scouts, exploring Israel by foot. Suddenly, the press corps was in front of her….and they had questions.
1. What unit did you serve with in the IDF and why did you serve there?
I served in the spokesperson’s unit. It’s role is to represent the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the local and international media, and liaison between the IDF and the outside world. I chose it because I know how much influence the media has. I know that Israel has a bad image in the world, but I live here and I know how wonderful my country is and how moral the IDF is. Israel is often not portrayed accurately in the international media, so I wanted to show the world the truth about us.
2. Can you share some anecdotes or stories about active duty that illustrate what life was like?
The spokesperson unit was very challenging and there was never a dull moment. I was dispatched as the spokesperson of the paratrooper’s brigade when Operation Cast Lead commenced. Suddenly I found myself in the middle of everything, attending all the meetings held by the high-ranked officers as they planned the entrance into the Gaza strip. The brigade commander wanted me fully apprised, so I could properly respond to reporters’ questions with the most accurate information.
We received many requests from international media to enter the Gaza Strip. We facilitated their entry and a meeting with the commander of the paratrooper’s brigade. Accompanying them, I was one of a few girls that entered Gaza during the operation. The beach and the sea there were beautiful and I felt sad that we don’t live in peace.
Part of my job was to facilitate that the army photographers join the combat soldiers and take pictures that reflect the real battle. We later released these to the press. Every photographer that came out of the combat area gave me his pictures and each time, I was shocked. Hamas had hidden weapons everywhere! In houses, in yards, even in the mosques- their holy places. We even found a bag from UNICEF,which was probably intended to be a school bag for a child in need, and it was full of explosives.
As soon as Cast Lead ended, there were many allegations by reporters and it was my job to answer questions involving the Paratrooper Brigade. A reporter from the New York Times asked for a statement regarding an incident where the IDF shot towards a tractor carrying civilians to the hospital while they were waving white flags. I immediately inquired from the company commander who was on the scene what really happened. Yes, there had indeed been a shooting, but the “civilians” were armed and had concealed weapons behind the white flags. I told that to the reporter but unfortunately, most of his article was still biased.
3. What motivated you to speak about your experiences on this tour?
After army service, I traveled a lot around the world. Many people were surprised that I’m Israeli and they described all the bad things they thought and heard about Israel and Israelis. It frustrated me and I tried to describe them the Israel that I know and love. I think that “Israeli Soldiers Stories” delegation is an opportunity to continue spreading the word and to correct misunderstandings about Israel.
4. What message do you want people to take away from your story?
It is really important for me that people understand that the situation ( the conflict) is complicated and the media often portrays only part of the story. We are dealing with terror organizations whose goal is to wipe Israel off the map and they aim to kill Israeli civilians and use their own people as human shields. In contrast, the IDF puts a great deal of effort to avoid harming civilians even when it means putting our people in danger.
I want people to know that I truly want peace. I strive for it and I know the Palestinian people want it too. I really hope that one day we can find a solution and live side-by-side without war.
.ORG-Connection: StandWithUs is dedicated to informing the public about Israel and to combating the extremism and anti-Semitism that often distorts the issues.