"We didn’t intend to hurt people. But what can be done? It’s war. "
Location: Upper Galilee region
Residence: A moshav in the Upper Galilee region.
The encounter: On a hike in the Galilee, we stopped in a village where we had lunch at a restaurant where “Adam” worked as a waiter. At the end of the interview, after he had told me about his experience in the last Gaza War, “Adam” realized that as a soldier he could be court-martialed for talking to a journalist without seeking permission from the army. He asked me to anonymize the interview.
What are you doing here right now?
Right now, I’m taking a cigarette break.
What is your occupation?
In the weekends, I work here as a waiter. During the week I’m in the army. I’m a soldier in an artillery unit. I still have ten months to serve. After that, I want to save some money and travel. I haven't been able to save up yet. The money I make here goes to my family. We need to live...
How do you describe your religious or national identity?
I am a completely secular Jew. I believe in God, but I don’t observe any religious rules. I don’t keep kosher or stuff like that...
Can you tell me a bit about your family?
I have two younger brothers. One brother was just drafted into the army, and my little brother is ten years younger than me. My mom is a kindergarten teacher, and... and that’s it.
My mom isn’t too happy to have three boys who have to serve in the army. Especially last summer, during Operation Protective Edge, she was really hysterical. I was right at the fence near Gaza. I didn’t have to go into Gaza, but it was hard. For a month-and-a-half, I didn’t get to go home. My mom was on the phone with me the whole time.
Where is your family from?
My father is Italian. My mom was born in Israel, but her parents came from Egypt. My brothers and I were born here and grew up in the Galilee. I’ve lived here for as long as I remember myself. It’s a small community. Everyone knows each other. It’s very peaceful and quiet. We don’t have all the stress and dangers of a big city.
What are your hopes and expectations for the future of this land?
It’ll be all right. I’m in favor of peace, of course. But I don’t think about it too much. It gives me a headache. Also the elections: I stay out of it. I don’t vote. It’s true that it’s my own future... But I just don’t have the patience: one politician says one thing; another one says something else. I don’t want to deal with it.
The relation between Arabs and Jews in the Galilee is good. Here in the north, there’s less tension. Many soldiers in my unit are Druze from around here. Also the Arabs are doing fine.* They run a lot of businesses here. We work together. One hand washes the other. We have to live together in peace. Why waste time fighting each other?
It’s true: I was fighting them last summer. But in the end, we must defend our country, don’t we?
All the criticism from abroad was hard. All those accusations that our army committed war crimes – that was hard to deal with. On the one hand, children were involved, and that is very difficult to accept. But what can be done? I don’t think we behaved like war criminals. I saw with my own eyes that people received warnings to evacuate their houses. We put up banners in the streets in Arabic telling people to evacuate. Not me personally, but other soldiers, who went into Gaza. We tried what we could.
They call us murderers... stuff like that. But... I was there. We didn’t intend to hurt people. But what can be done? It’s war. The things you see in the media: the injured and the dead children... people see them at home on TV. But you don’t see it when you’re there.
I don’t feel good knowing that children have died. But I know did everything so that my little brother – who is also a child – can sleep safely at night and doesn’t have to fear rockets from Gaza. If they fire at you, you need to fight back, right?
I know we killed people. But they were terrorists; not innocents. I didn’t see them up close, but they would tell us every time we hit a Hamas tunnel.
*This is confusing because Adam first refers to Druze as “Arabs” and then distinguishes between Druze and “Arabs.” This just shows how inconsistent such categories can be!