What Being Jewish and Attending West Point Have in Common

Last week, Dara Horn addressed the eighteen Jewish cadets about to graduate from the United States Military Academy. Herewith, an excerpt from her speech:

Compared to your peers graduating from other colleges around the country, you have all spent the last four years being extremely focused and extremely devoted. And to say something less graduation-worthy, you’ve also spent these years being extremely uncomfortable, and extremely uncool. I can’t pretend to understand your experience, but I do know the profound value of being uncool and uncomfortable—and so does every Jew who has ever lived during the last 3,000 years.

Jews have spent the past 3,000 years not being like everyone else. Uncoolness is Judaism’s brand, going back to the ancient Near East, where everyone else was worshiping a Marvel Cinematic Universe of sexy deities, and the Jews were like the losers in the school cafeteria, praying to their bossy, unsexy invisible God. And over many centuries as a minority in places around the world, Jews have made the choice over and over again to remain uncomfortable: to distinguish themselves from their neighbors in any number of ways, to cling to those distinctions and, over the course of their lives, to learn and understand what those distinctions really mean. They made that choice even when they had easier options, and even when it meant risking their lives.

Major David Frommer, the chaplain who has guided so many of you in West Point’s Jewish community, pointed out to me that Judaism has many unexpected similarities with life at West Point. Both are governed by complex rules of daily living that determine the details of what you wear, what you eat, how you talk, how you cut your hair, and how you spend every hour of every day. But military life and Jewish life are also similar in a much more fundamental way. They are both based on the ideal of obligation—or what in Judaism we call commandment.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Jews in the military, Judaism, U.S. military

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7