Toward the end of the academic school year I hitched a ride with an officer from a storied Israeli combat brigade, who is getting his B.A. from Bar-Ilan University. The officer told me that he is a graduate of a well-known high school in Tel Aviv.
According to this officer, out of the 160 students who graduated with him, there are only three combat officers. Many of his former classmates weren't drafted due to incompatibility. Probably also because their principal told them that the IDF is a cruel occupying army and serving in it is immoral.
During my military service as a tank officer in Battalion 74 of the 188th Armored Brigade, no one in the battalion spoke of military service as an obligation and no one demanded a sharing of the burden. We didn't feel, even for a single moment, that we were suckers. For us it was a great privilege, like no other, to serve in the IDF, a right that Jews had been deprived of for thousands of years in the Diaspora, and that we now enjoyed.
The days in the army were difficult, the northern border was a hot zone and the atmosphere was tense. Fighting was part of the routine. No one heard of such things as six hours of sleep (which soldiers today are required to receive by law). We spent long nights on alert, sitting on our tanks under the star-filled sky, and not one of the soldiers complained about their "jobnik" friends who were serving in easier, non-combat roles, or about those who were having fun serving in one of the Nahal infantry brigade's social welfare projects on any of the kibbutzim we were guarding.
We knew very well that for every combat soldier there were at least 10 in non-combat or administrative support units, that they spent half their days in the Kirya Defense Ministry compound in Tel Aviv or other military offices, and their evenings relaxing at the numerous cafes along Tel Aviv's beach promenade. We knew that we were protecting our country and that if we didn't do so, no one else would.
After the Yom Kippur War, in which many of our friends were killed and wounded, we didn't criticize those who weren't there with us on the battlefield. In the annals of Jewish history, it is always the few who carry the torch and influence how events unfold. The majority sits in the stands, either cheering or booing.
During the War of Independence as well, many children of the privileged elite went off to England to study law and economics. Others, who were less affluent, spent the war sitting at the Casit coffee house criticizing the way the soldiers were treating the Arabs, who were waiting for Kawakji's victory over the Jews. That's how it was then and that's how it is today.
Many of those who spent most of their army service at the Azrieli shopping mall (adjacent to the Kirya), at the Glilot base or in Ramat Gan, who used their time in the army to work toward an academic degree, are the ones yelling at the top of their lungs against the inequality of the burden.
Those who have served in the Paratrooper Brigade, tanks or in the Golani (infantry) Brigade know that drafting ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students from Bnei Brak and Jerusalem won't lighten the load on their shoulders, and that the rest is just politics.