David Mizrahi woke up at his home in Ra’anana, central Israel, to the sound of an alarm. “At first, I didn’t understand. There was general confusion, my parents were crying, and we didn’t know what to do,” he says.
It was the morning of October 7, the day Hamas invaded southern Israel.
A few hours later, the 26-year-old engineering student received a message from his commanding officer. “We were all called back to the base on the same day.”
After a few days of training, Mizrahi and his unit were sent to the Gaza border. “I was supposed to take my final exam on October 8, which was really important to me, but now I don’t even think about it. After years away from the army, many reservists were no longer up to standard. “We had a few days of refresher training, whether it was shooting, physical exercises or marching,” explains Mizrahi. “But now we are operational.”
Raphaël Becache, a 24-year-old political science student at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheva, was in France on Saturday October 7. “I received a call from my commanding officer on the morning of the attacks. He asked me to be ready, and during the day, I was able to take a flight and arrive on Sunday.”
Becache, who has always been politically left-leaning and has been working for years in groups that facilitate meetings between Palestinians and Israelis, is horrified by the situation.
“The events of October 7 completely disrupted the status quo that has been in place for years. We realised that we could no longer live with Hamas by our side. We need to ensure that Hamas is eradicated,” he says.
Mizrahi, who leans more to the right, is angry with the government. “My initial emotion was immense frustration and anger at the IDF. How could we not foresee what was going to happen?”
But his initial emotion quickly turned into determination.
“We are fighting absolute evil (Hamas), and it is a blessing for us to eliminate them. I don’t question whether or not this war will corrupt my soul,” he explains, drawing parallels with the Second World War. “I don’t think the Soviets, when they were fighting the Nazis, questioned the righteousness of their action. For us, it’s the same: there is no difference for us between Hamas and Nazism.”
Becache argues: “What’s most important is the goal. Hamas’s goal is the destruction of the Jewish people. Israel’s goal is peace.”
He insists that the Israeli military does everything it can to preserve the lives of civilian populations.
“Israel warns the Gazan population to take cover or leave during each airstrike. For a week now, the Israeli army has been calling on the population to move to the south, but it should be noted that the Gazans are also prisoners of Hamas, which uses them as human shields and has prevented thousands of them from leaving.”
Mizrahi says he wants to avoid harming civilians. However, he emphasises that the security of Israel and its citizens is paramount, and the IDF’s actions in Gaza are driven by the need for self-defence rather than revenge.
Isaac Abessira, a 26-year-old law student, emphasises the absolute evil that Hamas represents for Israel today.
“We don’t come to kill civilians, but we are here to eradicate evil on earth, and today, this evil is embodied by Hamas.” Abessira is stationed outside Gaza and is waiting with his tank unit for the moment they receive the order to go in.
He points to the unity within Israeli society in general and the military in particular. “Personally, I lean more to the right, but in my unit, there are religious, non-religious, Druze, Arabs. But we have one mission: to defend our country and our land.”
For Becache, Israel is driven by three emotions today: anger, unity and determination. But unity is the prevailing emotion throughout the entire country.
He did not vote for Netanyahu’s government but explains that he had to set his activism aside.“This is not the time to settle scores, to determine who is guilty. For now, we need to be united. We will settle our accounts with the government after the war.“