From Jewish Sentiments to Rational Exhortations

Battle Missives in the Israel Defense Forces

in Israel Studies Review
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  • 1 Dept. of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel nettagalnoor@gmail.com
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Abstract

What exhortations were given to Israeli soldiers when sent to a possible sacrifice of their lives in war? This article introduces the genre of ‘battle missives’ written by Israel Defense Force (IDF) commanders as a prism to investigate this question. Battle missives are short texts sent to soldiers on the eve of battle to mobilize them to fight and to justify the risk to their lives. I employ narrative and hermeneutic methods to analyze an original database of 289 missives written between 1948 and 2014, which reveal the changing motivations and justifications preceding combat. My findings indicate a move from ‘Jewish sentimental’ exhortations that prevailed from 1948 until 1973 toward ‘rational’ exhortations between 1982 and 2014. This study locates battle missives as key to understanding the social norms and values relating to sacrifice in war, and the ways in which military commanders adjusted the language of sacrifice to reflect major transformations in both Israeli society and the IDF.

Contributor Notes

NETTA GALNOOR is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research explores the legitimacy of wars in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in democratic nation-states, and her dissertation focuses on battle missives in Israel. E-mail: nettagalnoor@gmail.com

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