Why Do We Still Believe In the IDF?

Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Even after everything went wrong, and so many people died, we still trust the IDF. Why?

This is a segment from The “IDF: Inspiring Despite Failing?” Edition.


And now it is time for our second discussion.

So Linda, given all that, why is it that we still believe in the IDF despite everything?

That’s a very good question.

You know, whatever faults were revealed in the IDF on October 7th and however terrible the cost of these faults turned out to be, public faith in the army, which has traditionally been very high, is greater now than it was before the war, rising in one poll from 85% in the summer to 87% a month into the war.

Faith in the police increased much more, rising from 35% in the summer to 59% a month into the war.

And faith in the generals who command the army went up from 51.5% in the summer to 65.5% a month into the war.

Faith in the soldiers of the IDF was a very high 92% in the summer and it still rose a smidge, just 93% during the war.

Now this is kind of a remarkable thing.

Faith in the ruling government tumbled in the week after October 7th and never really recovered.

The leaders of the army, the police, and the intelligence communities have all said they bear responsibility for the massacres on Simchat Torah.

And some have implied that when the fighting is over, they may resign for their failures.

And yet public approval and appreciation of the army may be as high as it has been at any time since the Yom Kippur War.

And this is at a time when almost every morning brings terrible news of soldiers killed the day before.

Allison, what explains this?

Why after its biggest failure in 50 years, is the IDF more popular and seemingly more trusted than it has been in 50 years? – Well, the army is us.

It’s a people’s army.

It’s our fathers, our brothers, our sons.

I don’t think that people can really fathom existing here, living here at all without that kind of deep personal trust and investment in the ability of the army.

I mean, it’s almost an existential point.

I think if you don’t believe in the army or you don’t believe in its whatever good intentions, I mean, we’ve just listed its actual failures, but that it’s doing its best, that it’s basically good, that it’s basically competent.

Just conceptually, it’s impossible for me to just imagine the society being and functioning without that fundamental belief in the IDF.

So I guess it’s because we have to, is maybe the short answer.

And I’m not saying that there aren’t a lot of resources devoted towards trying to deepen that belief and deepen that connection.

I learned a lot when my elder daughter served in the IDF spokesman’s office, which you would think would be primarily focused on making Israel’s case to the greater world and abroad.

And it is so not.

I saw in her work that it is dedicated to making the society and the parents of soldiers and everybody in Israel feel connected to, attached and believe in the army itself.

So it’s not that there’s not real attempts to make sure that that belief is there and when it’s shaken, it resuscitates.

But wow, a people’s army in which everyone goes, it’s super fundamental.

You have to believe in it.

Otherwise, I don’t see how you can really function. – That’s really beautifully put, Allison.

And it goes away to explain how after a disaster like this, even if the disaster was partly caused by the army, you need to believe in the army even more.

And all the more so when they call up 360,000 reservists.

So everyone knows a bunch of people whose lives are being risked and certainly turned over by the army right now.

And so either you have faith in this institution or it’s really, really hard just to go on from day to day to wake up in the morning.

I would also add that though it’s been a little bit subtle, the reaction of the army has been one that I think has made it a lot easier to have faith in it.

I mean, the saying we made mistakes, maybe we need to– – We take responsibility. – We take responsibility.

Maybe I, the IDF chief of staff will need to resign.

Maybe the heads of intelligence will need to resign.

Right now we have a war to fight, but we’re not forgetting that.

We’re going to appoint a committee to investigate this even during the war because it’s so important that we know where we went wrong.

And that never failing to say, you people sitting at home around the Shabbat dinner table who are dumbstruck by the terrible failures of the army, we see exactly what you see and you’re not wrong.

We see that you’re right and we will try to do whatever we can do to make it better.

And that goes an enormous way.

And of course, I think it helps a little bit more that the politicians, I mean, mostly Netanyahu, but all around Netanyahu, the politicians have been so terrible about exactly that point.

And so then it makes the army stand out even more.

It’s like, oh, this is the leadership that we need if we’re going to go forward.

This is the only kind of leadership we can trust.

And it turns out to be the very, very army, the very same army that let us down so terribly, three months ago.

Linda, what do you think? – So I think, first of all, Israel is a country of Jewish mothers and every Jewish mother thinks that her child is the best and the brightest and the most amazing.

So I think that’s part of it.

I think also, if we look at Israeli politics over the 75 years, the army is sort of the gateway into politics.

We trust our military leaders often more than we trust our politicians, certainly right now.

And in fact, the polls show that if the election were held today, it’s Benny Gantz, who’s a former chief of staff and a member of the war cabinet who would be elected prime minister.

But I think also just sort of building on what Allison said, there’s this deep connection between the people and the army.

Some friends of mine organized something called the Hamal HaMatuk, the sweet operations room, in which people all over Israel, my guess is mostly women, are baking things for soldiers, are putting little notes inside with their names and phone numbers, are delivering those things on Thursdays.

They’re then taken to a big distribution center in Ramat Gan and distributed all over, including inside Gaza.

And the soldiers have been sending back little videos about thanking people by name and calling their WhatsApps to thank them and send these videos and saying, “Thank you for those delicious chocolate chip cookies.

We enjoyed them here in Gaza.”

And when soldiers come home, your son, my son, when they come home on leave, they’re quite spoiled in terms of any place they go, they eat for free, they get free haircuts.

My son told me that when he walked through Machane Yehuda, through the Shuk, he couldn’t walk five steps before being called into a shop to have a beer or to eat something or to do something.

And he said it was this incredible feeling that the people were really supporting him.

So I agree with Allison.

I also think there’s a sentence in Hebrew, (speaking in foreign language) that’s what there is.

And this is the army, that’s what there is.

So I think there’s no choice. – Nobody feels that way about the politicians, even though as far as it goes, that’s what there is. – That’s true. – So there’s something. – Well, the leadership, presumably you feel like if someone rises to the top and becomes chief of staff in the IDF, it definitely has a lot to do with intelligence, competence, ability to lead real things.

And unfortunately, our cynicism about politicians, we feel like it’s not so much a mark of competence and success and intelligence that you’re able to rise to the top, but often your power of persuasion and sorry, power to bullshit and populism and to say the right words at the right time.

I think there’s less of a confidence in the fact that someone who has succeeded at politics has done so because they’re the best of the best, as opposed to a person who rises to the top in the army. – And hence there’s more of a willingness to cut them slack to say, you made terrible mistakes and still we believe in you. – Right, the proximity thing with Linda just reminded me of just how much of a culture gap there is when you think of people

in the military back home in the United States, going on these tours of duty across the world to the Middle East, and they’re gone for half a year, for a year, for two years, as opposed to the Israeli culture where you literally are on the ground fighting for your life during the week and then you come home from the weekend.

And so just the proximity, the proximity to the army, the fact that our wars are fought so close to home that they’re really actually physically protecting your home, it’s super intimate.

And again, it’s very hard to separate. – I always tell people the advantage of being a journalist in Israel is you can cover the war and still be home for dinner.

8 comments on “Why Do We Still Believe In the IDF?

  1. Jill Grunewald says:

    So proud of the IDF! So proud of Israel! Hold a vote and be rid of Netanyahu and Gvir! Am Yisrael Chai! 💙🤍💙🤍🇮🇱
    Love listening to all of your stories on Sundays💝💘

    1. Melanie Jordan says:

      I made Aliyah to Israel from 1978 to 1989 from California. During that time I was in the army for two years and then went to officers training as a nurse graduate. Becoming a soldier was the peak of my connection to Israel. It creates a heart link in the same. Way a link is formed with your newborn baby. When they grow up they may misbehave but the love and support is unconditional. We are family. זה מה שיש

      1. Noah Efron says:

        I did not enjoy being in the army, and I counted the days for it to be over. Then, for years of six-weeks-a-year of reserves, I counted the days each time until it was over. But, for me too, the experience changed my connection to this place, made it stronger and, like you said, almost biological. And I was always so cheered by the decency of the people I met in the army, and how much everyone cared for one another.

        Thanks for sharing your experience, Melanie!

    2. Noah Efron says:

      Thanks for this, Jill. I am also so proud of the IDF, and feel more than ever, how precious Israel is. And thanks for the kind word! I and we really appreciate it!

  2. Jill says:

    My son in law is in the special forces…. My daughter made Aliyah in 2009. My grandchildren live there…. I’m coming to pick fruits and vegetables as soon as my 100 year old father is stable. 🇮🇱💙🤍💙😍Thank you Israel for your strength and wonder!

    1. Noah Efron says:

      I hope your son-in-law is healthy and safe, and that your daughter and their kids are doing o.k. if he is off in the army. Wonderful that you are coming!

  3. Zalman says:

    My granddaughter is in the Air Force.
    When I see the soldiers in unform all I see are children and grandchildren.
    They are putting their entire future on the line for our present.
    How could you not support them?

    Wars might be shorter and perhaps less tragic if the draft age began at 65 for all armies.
    It also might help if all the politicians were also drafted first.

    1. Noah Efron says:

      You’re right that it’s the wrong people who have to risk their lives to fight our wars. Congratulations, though, to your granddaughter – what a thing it is, to be in the only air force the Jewish people has ever had. You have so much to be proud of.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Listen on your favorite podcast app

Join our weekly newsletter

Receive Our Latest Podcast Episodes by Email

(and not a thing more)