Last week’s explosion that killed six combat engineers also wounded the singer-songwriter Idan Amedi. The 35-year-old married Fauda star and father of two could have avoided combat, having served honorably when younger.
Or, he could have joined other entertainers in the holy work of morale-boosting – the legendary David Broza has played 118 concerts for soldiers and the wounded . Beyond Amedi’s courage is his powerful, timely message, defining our war aims clearly while nurturing solidarity and mutual respect. Why can’t he be our prime minister?
Days before his wounding, Amedi released a video that moved many, far more than any politician has since October 7 – or, sadly, long before that. “After 90 days of fighting, we keep destroying the short-range missile sites, the launch sites, and the command facilities of the Hamas terrorist organization,” he said simply.
Refusing to apologize for defending himself – and us – he affirmed: “We are here to protect our children, our families, and our homes, and I want to promise you that we won’t stop until we win.”
Echoing the Israeli consensus Israel’s cabinet keeps ignoring, he proclaimed: “I join my brother reservists in calling on the politicians, all the media outlets, and everyone: Whoever doesn’t have something good to say, simply shut your mouths.”
According to that delightfully anomalous politician Chili Tropper, who also speaks with values, not venom, Amedi said from intensive care: “Forget me, I’ll be OK. What’s important is that we stay strong together.” Amedi recently left the ICU, but remains hospitalized.
Israel must maintain its unity
As this war drags on and tensions intensify, the political demons that distracted us return. I get it. This government won power by demonizing rivals – and the pre-October 6 protests surged by demonizing the government.
In “Mamshich Litz’od” (Keep Marching), inspired by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau’s Holocaust memoir, Amedi sings, “When everyone around you is falling down/How do you keep marching ahead?” That captures Israel’s current challenge, 100 days in. Soldiers, the wounded, survivors, and mourners keep asking how we keep marching – psychically, emotionally, existentially. We also must ask that question politically.
Everyone I know, every soldier I meet, doesn’t want Israel falling back – and down – into the partisan polarization these politicos produced. “We need a restart,” says Yechiel Leiter, who lost his son Moshe and also demands “new faces.”
True, today we’re cursed with snarling narcissists addled by power with no edit function. But Israel’s political culture has long fomented pilug – fragmentation and bloodletting. Social media exacerbate it – many democracies today suffer from brutalized us-versus-them politics, damning bridge-builders who compromise as weak and not click-worthy.
Hamas and Hezbollah, aided by Houthi killers, South African hypocrites, Iranian manipulators, and international dupes, keep confirming what Israel’s silenced majority always knew – we have too many enemies to view fellow Israelis as enemies, too, just because we disagree politically.
We all want to keep Israel alive. We’re willing to sacrifice ourselves, our children, to defend our homeland. Those bonds should cool our rhetoric when debating how to march ahead – and who should lead us.
So, yes, cabinet members must stop abusing our generals, interrupting their sacred work, and our prime minister should fire the next minister who treats cabinet meetings as boxing matches – or citizens as punching bags.
Meanwhile, opposition politicians should change their tone, too. They so intertwine their obsessive hostility toward Benjamin Netanyahu with contempt for their political rivals that their condescension risks reuniting Netanyahu with his now-dwindling base.
Start by changing the colors of the black-and-red hostage posters echoing 2020-2021’s “Crime Minister” campaign. Those colors make the holy pro-hostage protests – which should transcend partisanship – look anti-Bibi. Postwar, we need a march of khaki – reservists bypassing political personalities, demanding a new politics – perhaps echoing America’s No Labels movement.
We need structures encouraging uniters, not dividers. For example, as Amedi recovers with other wounded heroes with time on their hands between therapies, they should create politically diverse panels judging the most publicized political statements. The Washington Post fact-checker grants up to four “Pinocchio Noses,” measuring how blatantly American politicians lie. Israel needs soul-checker panels distributing sneers and smiles, or Voldemorts and Harrys, or hamsas and curses, branding statements as destructive or constructive.
Ideologically, let’s talk, as Idan Amedi does, about personal values, patriotism, and Zionist vision – not just stances regarding security and the economy.
We must spark Zionist-positive and Israel-positive conversations – mainstreaming the sentiments in Amedi’s songs and social media posts, quoting soldiers’ final letters and wills – rejecting October 6’s “goonatic” politics. Last Rosh Hashanah, repudiating the polarization, Amedi posted on Facebook: “I love my country. I love its people. I can’t think of better or more generous people anywhere on this globe – and I’ve traveled. I don’t care if you think I’m naive; it always trumps cynicism, pessimism, and hard-heartedness.”
Professors don’t write fan mail – but I love this guy!
When Natan Sharansky sought a successor to chair the Jewish Agency, he asked one question: “Do you love the Jewish people?” Fortunately, he found someone who did – Isaac Herzog, now President Herzog. Our future leaders must meet this bare minimum. I would add – “Do you speak lovingly, respectfully, too?” Sharansky does. Herzog does. Broza does. Yechiel Leiter does. And Idan Amedi does.
Alas, few politicians do. That’s why I wonder whether Amedi and other patriotic reservists will risk their souls – having risked their bodies – by plunging into politics, delivering the tonal and substantive changes we need, and most of us seek.
A Distinguished Scholar in North American History at McGill University currently living in Jerusalem, Gil Troy is an award-winning American presidential historian and a leading Zionist activist. He is, most recently, the editor of the new three-volume set, “Theodor Herzl: Zionist Writings,” the inaugural publication of The Library of the Jewish People ( www.theljp.org ) . Two years ago he co-authored with Natan Sharansky Never Alone: Prison, Politics and My People, was published by PublicAffairs of Hachette. Recently designated one of Algemeiner’s J-100, one of the top 100 people “positively influencing Jewish life,” Gil Troy is the author of The Zionist Ideas , an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society and a 2019 National Jewish Book Award Finalist.