A 32 year-old Israeli who had been pursuing agriculture went into the reserves here after October 7 and in the weeks that immediately followed came to realize his true calling was in serving the nation’s security and the security of others—felt a sense of purpose and belonging vitally important to him—and believes he will be changing his career path once this war is over. A young religious man who has been studying in yeshiva for a very long time and believed he would continue to do so is instead planning on joining the military to join in the fight.
Everywhere you turn here in Israel, people are reevaluating. They are reevaluating everything.
They are reevaluating their political stances. Leftists are expressing regret for what they now see as a kind of foolish utopianism in their view of Gaza and the Palestinians. Rightists who believed the Left could not be trusted with the nation’s security speak of their sense of betrayal and dismay, because the parties and leaders they voted for and worked to elect—parties and leaders who promised they were the only ones in the country who could deal with Israel’s safety from a position of strength—failed utterly to fulfill this first and most significant promise.
They are reevaluating their cultural stances. Anti-Zionist or non-Zionist haredim (the ne plus ultra of the ultra-Orthodox) are abandoning the separation from the state that has been their guiding political philosophy for seven decades and signing up by the thousands to join the military—which they need not do, as they have been exempted from service since the beginning.
And as the examples I began with indicate, Israelis are reevaluating their own personal paths. October 7 was a moment of horrifying clarity. Things that seemed desperately important on the day before, like the fight over “judicial reform” that dominated the country’s politics over the preceding ten months, simply evaporated as dividing lines. The house had caught fire, and arguing over which of the children got which room was suddenly beside the point.
It didn’t matter what kind of Jew you were, or what kind of politics you believed in, or which party you aligned with. Hamas didn’t care. They are Jew-killers, and they draw no distinctions. If Peter Beinart had been standing there, waving them in to Nir Oz, they would have cut his head off as fast and with as much glee as they would have cut off Bibi Netanyahu’s. The kibbutzim Hamas attacked were targeted in part because they were kumbaya-my-Lord places that employed Gazans as part of an effort to practice coexistence. The Gazans the kibbutzim hired then reported back to Hamas, drew up plans, figured out where the kibbutzim stored their guns and their protection, and then used all that information to slaughter the people who so wanted to live in peace that they signed their own death warrants to do so.
One of the great witticisms in history comes from Samuel Johnson: “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” Like all memorable witticisms, the idea it expresses is actually a deeply earnest one. Israel is not the same place it was on October 6, and never will be again, and the same is true of individual Israelis, who must now decide how to live the rest of their lives to ensure that they reckon with the preciousness of those lives. And that they take the full measure of the time they have. And for the politicians on all sides, it’s time to stop being provincial, pandering, selfish, narcissistic sociopaths and do what the young man changing his career is determined to do, which is, to serve.