Soldiers in Khan Yunis, in January. “On the reddening battlefields and in our verdant fields, a national and pioneering renewal awakened in us” wrote the Chief Education Officer. — Photo: Rami Shloush

When your country depends on a culture of death

Thanks to the Gaza war, it turns out, Israeli “national life” has reawakened ■ Give thanks to war because its mercy endureth for ever; so long as it doesn’t end

The Palestine Project
4 min readFeb 11, 2024


By Or Kashti • Translated by Sol Salbe

About three months ago, Captain Amichai Friedman, the Nahal Brigade training base’s Rabbi, revealed an uncensored stream of consciousness. If you ignore the deceased, the abductees and the wounded, he explained to soldiers in the south in a video that went viral, “I am left with perhaps the happiest month of my life since I was born, because we have reached a point where the people of Israel have reached the next level, made it to the next grade. We’re finally figuring out who we are.” According to Friedman, this clarification inevitably leads to a return to the “promised land,” including Gaza and Lebanon.

It’s so easy, especially to a secular mind, to dismiss the blessing that Friedman found in death and destruction as delusory, but recently the Chief Education Officer [CEO], Brigadier-General Ofir Levius, published his own hymn of praise for the war. Thanks to the war, it turns out, “national life” has reawakened.

“On the reddening battlefields and in our verdant fields, a national and pioneering renewal awakened in us,” Levius turned lyrical, “the fatigue we felt from the paucity of our righteousness of our path and the force of the creeping habit was replaced by youthful boldness. Old people pace like youths… We have shed the dwindling spirit and added an invigorating force into life.” For the local politruk, the war “straightened the nation’s back removing the dividing hump”. That division has been replaced with sovereignty of those who rise up. This kitsch apparently wasn’t enough for Levius, so he went on to the next level: Jewish destiny — which must be “recognised and accepted as a right” — is based on “sacrifice, pain and suffering.” These are the “constructions materials our life’s destiny.” The war, the CEO concluded, will lead to “renewal and national vitality even when the fighting ends.” Unlike Captain Friedman, Brigadier General Levius is not religious, he does not wear a kippah. It’s possible to be Messianic even without it.

Ten days ago, these comments were posted on the Education Corps website, under the category “Moral Competence.” It seems that the war has provided Levius a new field for expression, encompassing collections of poems (including stylised revenge) that the Education Corps publishes in cooperation with the religious journal “Mashiv HaRuach [The Spirit Restorer]) “Cut me into pieces / To renew the covenant of the pieces / To guard our border,” [an allusion to God’s promise of the land to Abraham] he wrote at the beginning of one of the recent pamphlets.

The message that emerges from this Blood Ball must not be mistaken. According to the note written by the CEO, it is only thanks to the war that Israel, discounting the Arab citizens of course, be able to reinvent itself. It’s a bit of a shame about all the dead and wounded, but at least they served a lofty, necessary purpose: an opportunity to erase the problems of the past –fatigue of staying on course, apathy and internal divisions. The fountain of youth that was once again discovered is more important. On October 7 we were lifeless, ever since then we came back to life. Moreover, it is impossible to escape the CEO’s version of Jewish fate, which is enslaved to an endless sequence of bereavement. There is no point in trying to change it. Condemned to a life of battles and cemeteries. There is not a shred of personal responsibility. Nor is there any point in proposing, for example, a political solution. Give thanks to war because its mercy endureth for ever; so long as it doesn’t end.

Levius’ comments are a less religious version of Friedman’s nationalist fantasies (The latter was punished with a month-long suspension primarily for being caught on video). It is difficult to decide which is worse: the fact that the IDF leadership does not understand what is wrong with an official note that sanctifies war, or that no one thought to comment on its content because the perception has already taken root and now seems natural and necessary. What’s wrong with a little motivation based on death? Such a spiritual climate allows for videos of soldiers celebrating revenge against the Palestinians and calling for a return to Gush Katif. The Education Corps will not act against them — those who talk about “renewing national life” thanks to the war have other plans.