The only way to be a man
Israel summer 1989. I just graduated with highest honor from the Israeli army officer’s school. I was a first lieutenant, eager to prove to myself, and the rest of the world, that I can do what I have been trained for: being a real brave man.
I was stationed in a boot camp for new recruits in an isolated spot near one of Israel’s hostile borders. One of my duties was to brief the patrol guards and then spending the rest of the night walking from one post to another inspecting them.
As the sun set we lowered the Israeli flag and I briefed the soldiers about the risks and action required from them should they be attacked. As an education officer, I talk to the soldiers’ heart and soul and not merely to their “automatic soldier brain”.
I elaborated that that our vicinity was mentioned in the bible as an ancient Jewish settlement. I reminded them that the Holocaust Memorial Day was forthcoming and that a Jewish democratic state is THE guarantee against future Holocaust.
I articulated that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and that we all pray for peace with our Arab neighbors yet must be prepared to defend our freedom. The 70 soldiers were obviously quite surprised by this motivation speech but responded well by asking questions. Their commanders: the sergeants, were visibly frustrated. They didn’t like it when the privates were asking questions.
After the briefing, I saw two sergeant screaming at one of the privates. “What seems to be the problem sergeants” I intervened. “Sir” he said “this private wants to change his guarding post tonight because”… and then he chuckled “the little boy is scared”. The other sergeant snorted as well. I did not. “The private is absolutely right I said to the amazement of all 3 of them”. “What is your name private” I continued. “Ben sir” he answered. “Well private Ben” I said. I have walked at night among all the guarding posts and, to me, they are all equally scary. Moving you form one post to another will not overcome your fear; understand?” Yes sir” he replied. “Tell you what” I said, “tonight. I will come visit you and guard the post with you. “Will you sir?” “you bet” I said. I did, and even got them hot tea. After I patrolled the fence with Ben for 10 minutes he said “Sir, I have overcome my fear with you, you can go help the other privates, they are scared too… but were too scared even to admit it at your briefing”.
I believe in the power to lead by setting an example and being a role model. Ignoring questions and fears may be the military way of doing business, but it does not work… even in the military.
Frankly the only way to be a real man… is not to… I mean not being a chauvinist.
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