(Oren Simcha Noah, Age 22, of Hoshaya, Israel)
They were men whose lives were cut short, and were doubtless some of the most hated people in the world, serving in the army of what is now one of the most hated countries in the world: Israel. Yet at this time of year-end reflections and media selections for “Persons of the Year,” this dissident blogger chooses a group of men whose loss I not only mourn, just as I do the loss of the far greater number of Palestinians, but who have won my total respect: the fallen soldiers of the IDF of 2014.
One need not offer a political blessing to the so-called “Operation Protective Edge,” which resulted in the deaths of nearly 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, or for that matter offer one’s blessing to the current Israeli government’s broader military defense posture – I certainly do not – in order to appreciate the contributions these beautiful fallen men have made, not only to their country, the only Jewish state in the world, but to the basic decency of modern nation-states.
When nations send their young adults off to war, and those people are killed in war, it is right, and should be normal, that the nation grieves the loss of those young lives. To do the opposite – to not grieve as a nation – is to reduce those lives to mere cannon fodder. That, in a word, is ungodly.
Sadly, that state of non-grieving – that wholesale ungodliness – is the status quo in our country; non-grieving over the loss of fallen U.S. soldiers is the new American normal for the vast majority of Americans. Most American civilians – by choice, instinct, or social instruction – just wave flags instead…
Or at least when they don’t forget altogether about the soldiers killed in the name of the United States of America. Indeed, as this article in the New York Times today describes, Americans are so emotionally detached from U.S. soldiers and their combat deaths that sometimes the friends of K.I.A. soldiers have to remind other Americans that a war is still going on. A friend of one U.S. Army sergeant killed just three weeks ago in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb told the New York Times, “The whole country has forgotten. People don’t realize we still have troops risking their lives out there.”
It is precisely that state of national non-grieving that enables those who profit from the practice of war, materially and/or career-wise, to not only start pointless wars, but perpetuate them for years and years on end.
Thus, as strongly as I disagree with the Israeli government’s military posture in this early part of the 21st Century, I admire, from the botom of my heart, the 66 Israeli soldiers who died in service to their country. My heart sinks at the sight of their handsome faces, and I thank them because I know for certain that they died, not because they loved guns and war, not because they needed a stable paycheck, not because they had no other job prospects, but simply because they loved their country. I thank their families, and Israeli society in general, for grieving, and publicly so, the loss of these beautiful young men in war. That outpouring of national grief over fallen soldiers is the way a normal, and moral, country should respond to such immense tragedy.
And so the 66 fallen Israeli soldiers are my chosen “Persons of the Year” for 2014. It was a year of war and killing on multiple fronts, and multiple human moral failures the world over. My hope and prayer is that their shared sacrifice on behalf their nation will not be counted among those human failures as we continue to blunty assess, from political left to right, what the heck is going wrong in our world.
May they, and all the other innocents who have lost their lives on both sides of Israeli-Palestinian conflict – men, women and children – rest in eternal peace.
To see the full list of names and pictures of the 2014 fallen Israeli soldiers visit: