Israel and the Fallen Soldier

This session addresses the complicated sentiments that the Israeli people felt about Israeli soldiers who fought and died during the 1948 War of Independence and the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

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The heaviest price of Israel's wars and conflicts has been the loss of life.
The image of the Israeli soldier changes along with the events and wars occurring in Israel. After the War of Independence In 1948, the soldier is illustrated as a victor bringing independence to the state. After the Yom Kippur War in 1973, the soldier is no longer depicted as the hero because he has been defeated.



  1. We will now look at two poems from two different time periods that deal with the topic of fallen soldiers.
  2. Give out copies of A Silver Platter by Natan Alterman. Ask one camper to read the poem out loud. Ask the group for comments or lines that stand out to them. Ask:
  • What is the vision of the soldier in this poem?
  • When do you think it takes place?
  • Why do you think they call themselves the "silver platter?"
  • What do you make of the line: "Thus they will say and fall back in shadows And the rest will be told In the chronicles of Israel?"
  1. When appropriate, you can fill in some of the background of the poem (after giving them a chance to respond to the questions):
  • Natan Alterman was a poet who was born in Warsaw and moved to Tel Aviv with his family in 1925, when he was 15 years old.
  • He wrote the poem during Israel's War of Independence in 1948.
  • For him, the "silver platter" refers to a comment popularized by Israeli President Chaim Weizmann and attributed to him on December 15, 1947, soon after the UN decision to partition Palestine: "The state will not be given to the Jewish people on a silver platter."
  1. Ask the campers what they think of Alterman's version of Weizmann's statement. Are the Israeli soldiers the "silver platter" that are responsible for the state being created?
  2. Explain that we will now be looking at a more contemporary vision of the Israeli soldier. This song was written by 18-year-old Reuven Politi who was killed during the Yom Kippur War a few weeks after he wrote the poem. He was a fighter in the Egoz reconnaissance platoon, which went out on an ambush mission in the Golan Heights that day. Reuven replaced a soldier friend of his who was delayed reaching his platoon.
  3. Have one camper read the poem. Ask the group the following questions:
  • How is the image of the soldier different in this poem?
  • Why do you think the soldier here keeps talking directly to his parents?
  • What are the lines that especially speak to you?
  • What does the difference between the two poems say about the difference between how Israeli soldiers are seen in 1948 vs. in 1973?
  1. If necessary, fill in the campers' understanding of what Israel was like during the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
  2. Bring the group back together and do a quick debrief. Ask the group if there were things that surprised them about other people's thinking or their own.

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