Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs
Girls of the IDF
Plus a Bit of the Thrilling History of the Founding of Israel
"The Egyptians could run to Egypt, the Syrians into Syria. The only place we could run was into the sea, and before we did that we might as well fight."
- Golda Meir, Israeli Prime Minister 1969 - 1974

Just because I can, here are the girls of the Israel Defense Forces. (*) Aren't they just heartbreakingly beautiful? And I definitely don't mean that solely in a salacious sense, as I might reasonably be suspected of.

As you will know, every Israeli must serve 2-3 years in the military from age 18. This includes women, who are allowed (along, incidentally, with gays) in all conventional forces roles, including combat roles – as well as many special forces units. This is because, as one of my characters has it, "Oh, I'm Israeli. We need, and use, everyone." And this is because Israel has been under implacable and generally unrelenting attack literally since the moment of its founding in 1948.

In 1947, the UN resolved on a Partition Plan for Palestine – one state for the Jews, and one for the Arab Palestinians. The Jews accepted it; the Palestinians – along with all the nations of the Arab league – rejected it. On 14 May 1948, Israel declared independence. On 15 May 1948, five Arab armies – from Egypt, TransJordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq (with supporting forces from Saudi-Arabia and Sudan) – declared war and marched on Israel.

Tiny groups of Jewish fighters – many of them WWII veterans and Holocaust survivors (the Jews in Palestine fought on the side of the Allies; the Palestinian Arabs were on the side of the Nazis) – force-marched all night to defend tiny, beleagured Jewish settlements. Out of a total Jewish population of 650,000, some 6,372 men and women were killed and around 15,000 wounded. But they succeeded. In March 1949, a permanent cease-fire went into effect. The Jews had won their independence.

During the fighting, 726,000 Arab Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes in Israeli-controlled territory. Rather less often noted is that, after the founding of Israel, 850,000 Jews were either expelled from Arab lands outright, or were forced to leave as a result of physical and political insecurity. Almost all were forced to abandon their property. And all of these homeless, penniless Jews were welcomed and settled by Israel.

All of the Palestinian Arab refugees were stuck in squalid camps, where they have remained for three generations. (There are now seven million of them.)

Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip. Transjordan annexed the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. Neither made any effort to create a Palestinian state there, or anywhere. Except in Jordan, Arab refugees that left Palestine were also settled in refugee camps and denied citizenship and civil rights by the Arab countries that hosted them.

And – leaving aside two more Arab wars of annihilation, murder of untold Israelis in PLO suicide bombings, cross-border raids from Lebanon, rocket attacks from Gaza, ad infinitum – that's pretty much where we are today. Oh, except that Israel captured Gaza from the Egyptians and the West Bank from Jordan in one of the wars.

This may inaugurate an "Israeli History and Culture Appreciation Month". It's thrilling stuff. Plus probably really needed about now.

  israel     middle east     women  
close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

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ARISEN : Operators, Volume I - The Fall of the Third Temple by Michael Stephen Fuchs
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