We see it in the news every day: a new terrorist threat is uncovered, putting security forces around the world on alert. Or a rogue nation like Iran issues another threat against Israel or the U.S. Or, in some faraway corner of the world, the drums of war begin to sound ever louder.
Yes, as we are reminded so often, the world is a dangerous place – and few places are as dangerous and volatile as the Middle East, where Israel stands as an oasis of democracy and stability in a desert of oppressive, autocratic regimes. Many of Israel’s neighbors are sworn to the Jewish state’s destruction. Because of this, Israel must maintain a strong, technologically advanced military.
For a tiny nation surrounded by hostile countries, national defense is a very serious matter. In fact, it’s as serious as life and death. Because Israel must constantly remain on guard against attacks, military service is mandatory for all Israelis — three years for men, and two for women. Serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) provides important lessons in leadership for young Israeli men and women. It is a rite of passage that tests their strength and endurance like few things can.
The men and women of the IDF and other Israeli security forces serve an absolutely critical function. They truly are the “watchmen on the walls,” guardians not just of Israel, but of democracy. They’re the fighting front line facing off against terrorists who want not only to destroy the Jewish state, but the west, and the Judeo-Christian values that form the foundation of society in Israel, the U.S., and beyond.
The heroism of the men and women who serve in the IDF and other Israel security forces like the Border Police is legendary and inspiring. They serve in the south, near Gaza, guarding the border against terrorist incursions — a job that has become even more treacherous in recent years as terrorist rocket attacks have been on the rise, and Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist groups use more insidious methods like fiery kites and balloons to sow fear and destruction.
They also serve in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people and a melting pot where Jews, Christians, and Muslims can be found intermingling. Here, security forces protect residents, worshipers of all faiths, and tourists against terrorism, a threat that is always present and that can erupt at any moment.
Recently we paid a visit to one of these brave defenders of Israel, a man who paid a terrible cost for his service, but is still able to say with complete confidence, “I would absolutely do it again. No question.”
Seventeen years ago, Roni arrived to meet his brother at a bus stop, a bustling hub of activity near Jerusalem’s Old City. It was here that everything changed. The bus stop was packed with travelers, but one immediately stood out. Though he was off duty, more than a decade as a member of Israel’s security forces had left Roni ever vigilant to unexpected threats. On this fateful day, his training allowed him to identify a terrorist on the bus — a suicide bomber. In that moment, Roni reacted without hesitation.
“I shouted, ‘terrorist!’ I grabbed him and threw him against the wall. The explosives strapped to his body went off. And I was right next to him when it happened,” says Roni. “Seven people were killed. There were more than 40 wounded. And I paid the price. I lost my legs in the blast.”
Roni was treated on site by medics, stabilized, and rushed to the hospital, where doctors performed the surgery that would save his life. He needed extensive recovery and rehabilitation. In a matter of minutes, in the flash of an explosion, in one act of hate, he lost his ability to walk, run, jump, and so much more.
And yet, Roni has no regrets. Recall his words: “I would absolutely do it again. No question.” He says this is the sworn duty of the IDF and all Israeli security forces — to defend Israel and all of her residents, even at risk of their own lives. Roni took his oath to defend Israel as a promise to her people — all of her people. “This is not a question if you’re Arab, Jewish, or Christian, any religion,” he adds. “This is Israel for everybody.”
Roni’s story has inspired future generations. His positive outlook and determination, along with his nationally and internationally recognized heroism, led two of his sons to follow in his footsteps and join Israel’s security forces. The youngest, Yonatan, serves in Jerusalem, protecting an area that includes the site of his father’s heroics and injury.
Despite knowing better than anyone the reality of the threat and the repercussions that come from terror attacks, Roni doesn’t spend his time worrying about his sons. Instead, it’s a point of honor and great pride to him that his children have chosen to protect the city, country, and people that they all so dearly love.
For Yonatan, stepping into his father’s legacy is also an honor and a source of pride. He was young when his father was injured. He remembers hearing that something had happened, and rushing to visit his father in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. “We didn’t get to see him for a while so there were all these fears. I didn’t know what was going to happen, so there were fears of what would it be like to grow up without a father. But, thank God, my father recovered,” he says. His father’s miraculous recovery and selfless lifesaving act are ever-present reminders to Yonatan that God is in charge of everything.
But this was just part of his inspiration to become one of Israel’s defenders. Yonatan says the main reason was that he would be guarding Jerusalem — the City of David, the City of Peace, God’s Holy City — along with the mosaic of people who live there. “We’re here to protect everybody. We’re here to protect the Jews, the Christians, the Muslims, everybody. That’s our mission, that’s our job,” he says.
It’s a job that the IDF and other Israeli security forces do extraordinarily well. The strength and pride of Israel’s armed forces are the strength and pride of the nation — and will ensure that the Jewish state will one day achieve its dream of a peaceful and secure future.