The Jewish holiday of Sukkot is possibly best known for the custom surrounding the four species: the etrog (citron), lulav (palm frond), hadas (myrtle) and aravah (willow). Each of these plants holds special symbolic properties for the holiday and for the Jewish People. We introduce you to them with an IDF (Zahal) perspective that brings those symbolic properties to life.
The 13th Century Sefer Hachinuch provides the following analysis of the symbolism of the Four Species of Sukkot: ”Etrog (citron) refers to the heart, the place of understanding and wisdom. Lulav (palm frond) refers to the backbone, uprightness. Hadas (myrtle) corresponds to the eyes, enlightenment. Aravah (willow) represents the mouth.”
Just as these four properties represent a human being’s complete faculties – the IDF (Zahal) too would fail to function without any one of its heart, eyes, backbone or mouth.
Etrog – The Heart
The IDF (Zahal) has fought hard over the past 65 years for the independence of the State of
Israel, and the freedom and safety of its people. While we rejoice in our victories, we never lose sight of the great cost in human life at which expense they have come.
Second Lieutenant Ofer from the 7th Armored Brigade is one of the soldiers who sees to it that those soldiers who gave their lives in defense of the State are not forgotten. As an IDF (Zahal) casualty officer, she builds relationships with the bereaved families of fallen soldiers and ensures that they know that their sacrifices were not in vain.
The fighters on land, air and sea will always be the IDF (Zahal)’s long arms, but it is soldiers like 2nd Lt. Ofer who are its true heart.
Lulav – the Backbone
The IDF (Zahal)’s Education and Youth Corps – as old as the IDF (Zahal) itself – is the only
organization of its kind in the world. Its role is to foster national values and leadership among soldiers and to carry out the IDF (Zahal)’s moral mission in Israeli society. Its soldiers act as education officers throughout every unit, run museums, help to absorb new immigrants and integrate minorities.
In times of hardship and violence, the Education Corps’ soldiers play a vital role in bolstering civil resilience and morale – Israel’s true backbone.
During Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, when a swarm of terrorist rockets filled the skies, hundreds of soldiers from the Education Corps including youth counselors, soldier-teachers, and community educators rushed to Israel’s southern communities to provide support to the civilians there.
The Education Corps also helped prepare soldiers in the field. “We made sure that every soldier being deployed for operational combat activity would go through values and ethics training regarding the sense of duty and the need to fight. We also explained the morality of combat,” Chief Education Officer Brigadier General Eli Shermeister explained.
“We found it to be important, impactful, and essential to the success of the mission. The army knows how to fight and also how to raise and discuss ethical dilemmas.”
Education Corps military bands also traveled to perform for the troops and for civilians in bomb shelters in Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip.
The military bands are a deep part of the Israeli national ethos.
“The army bands are a strong and deep part of the Israeli national ethos,” Brig. Gen Shermeister noted. “It warms the heart and strengthens the connection between soldiers in their regular service and the reservists, and between Israeli society and the army. They strengthen our resilience.”
Hadas (myrtle) – the Eyes
The IDF (Zahal)’s physical might is built on its astonishing firepower capabilities and the
talented fighters who wield them. But they would mean nothing if it weren’t for the IDF (Zahal)’s eyes – the intelligence soldiers who are always observing, watching the borders and the enemy, learning their ways and thwarting their attempts to strike.
Major Shai Barda, deputy commander of the Gaza Division’s Nesher Battalion, says that the battalion’s six companies work day and night implementing the most advanced technology, including surveillance balloons that soar up to 300m in the sky, to prevent threats from Gaza and to keep the local communities safe.
An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle used for monitoring the enemy.
“It’s very unique to serve along the Gaza border,” Maj. Barda says, “we see some kind of activity along the border every day.” The activity he’s referring to is terrorist attempts to infiltrate Israeli territory and carry out attacks.
Company Commander Major Orian Pundak adds that not even the most advanced technology can replace human eyes – a fact her soldiers know too well.
“No machine will be able to determine whether a shepherd who crosses every day is planting an explosive. You need the person behind the machine, who will operate with understanding and exercise judgement,” she said. “We need to remain alert to every minor change in the field – to always think about where the next attack will come from or where they will try to infiltrate. We are always prepared for the next incident, there is no time for rest.”
Maj. Pundak made it clear that for the IDF (Zahal)’s eyes know that they can never blink.
“When you are stationed at an observation post, you are responsible for ensuring that the civilians in their homes can live in quiet. It is a great responsibility but also privilege to say: I have defended my state.”
Aravah (willow) – The Mouth
Dani M., 21, made aliya (immigrated to Israel) from Argentina in 2012 with the
dream of serving in the IDF (Zahal) and doing her part to protect the Jewish homeland. When she arrived, she had little idea about the role that she would be sought out to fill and the sheer magnitude of its importance.
Dani found herself being interviewed for a spot in the IDF (Zahal) Spokesperson’s International Interactive Media team. Today, she serves on the team of three native Spanish speakers who are the online voice of the IDF (Zahal) to the entire Spanish speaking world. Dani says she never dreamed of the responsibility that she has today. By operating the IDF (Zahal)’s official website, Twitter account and social network platforms, she is the person to announce the IDF (Zahal)’s activities to the Spanish world.
Dani M. speaks for the IDF (Zahal) to the entire Spanish world.
“To be the voice of such a large, influential and important institution as the army is primarily a giant responsibility,” she says. “We represent each and every one of our soldiers and officers to an audience that does not necessarily know what is the sole purpose of a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces: Defend your state, your home and your family.”