I traveled to Israel for the first time in the fall of 1990, after Saddam Hussein’s attack on Kuwait and before the emirate was liberated by an international coalition. The ARD correspondent Friedrich Schreiber showed me a protective mask that Israeli households keep in stock in the event of an Iraqi attack with Scud missiles and poison gas. And a syringe for the antidote. That’s when I learned what being on the alert means in Israel.

Later I visited the Golan Heights with a war veteran. I learned how close the Jordan and the Mediterranean are, where enemies of Israel want to chase an entire people because the land is theirs – from the river to the sea. That’s when I understood a little about what it means to constantly feel threatened.

I experienced the Israeli army and its integration into society. I have seen what the unconditional desire for self-defense can do. The Israelis are proud of their army, aware of their dependence on external help and ironic about both at the same time. A joke goes like this: The notoriously cash-strapped government comes up with the idea of ​​attacking America in order to lose the war and become the 51st US state. All the ministers like the idea until one asks: “What if we win?”

I’m not naive about this country: right-wing extremist government, settlement policy. Nevertheless, I have respect for Israel.

Even now? The army has been taking action against Hamas in Gaza for six months. More than 30,000 Palestinians are said to have been killed, terrorists and civilians. It is the longest war Israel has ever fought and the one with the highest number of casualties. Last week, Israeli forces used three missiles from a drone to kill seven workers at an international aid agency, a further escalation in a war over which the army itself appears to be losing control. Is there anything to learn from this? Or is that just a source of despair?

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