Three Years in Hebron: A First-Person Account From The Field

Staff Sgt. Eden Cohen knows Hebron better than most. He served as a soldier on the ground in the city, and in the IDF’s local operations room, where he helped direct missions from afar. After three years in the field, he shares his unique perspective on the challenges of serving in a divided city.

Staff Sgt. Eden Cohen, 21, began his service in the IDF as a combat soldier in the Kfir Infantry Brigade, serving primarily in Hebron. He then got the chance to serve in the operations room of the Yehuda region, managing forces as they carried out local missions.  “During my service, I got to see things from the perspective of a soldier in the operation room, and not just as a combat soldier,” Eden says. “This gave me a broader perspective and an understanding of how forces are organized.”

Three Years in Hebron: A First-Person Account From The Field

IDF soldier Eden Cohen helps a Palestinian man in Hebron

Hebron is a city divided between Palestinians and Jews. “On the surface, the area seems quiet,” Eden says. “But we know that at any moment everything can explode. At funerals, for example, which are the largest events that occur in the city, you can really feel a Hamas presence amongst the participants.”

In Hebron, Jewish and Palestinian residents live in extremely close proximity to one another. “This means that there is a lot of conflict,” Eden says. “Our soldiers are ready for this. We all go through significant mental preparations before we take up this position.” He stresses that political opinions do not affect the way the soldiers operate. “We are here to represent the IDF. Only when you are on the ground do you understand how difficult the situation is, and how high emotions run here.”

Three Years in Hebron: A First-Person Account From The Field

Staff Sgt. Cohen with the brigade commander

Losing a fellow soldier

There is one event Eden especially remembers: the murder of a fellow soldier, Sgt. Gal Kobi. “We were in the middle of dispersing a violent riot when we suddenly heard about Gal. We rushed to the scene and found him lying on the ground. The Brigade Commander told us to start searching the area. We went from house to house until around 5:00 AM.”

“The thing I remember most from the incident is the feeling of how strong our soldiers are,” Eden says as he recalls the painful experience. The soldiers’ commanders instructed all forces, except the medical team, not to deal with the fallen soldier, but to immediately search for the terrorist. “While the soldiers searched the area, they continued to treat the residents courteously and acted professionally.”

“This event strengthened my feelings toward the military I serve in and the people who serve with me. They’re only 18 or 21, but they are the ones who protect a whole country.”

“You meet people who you wouldn’t have met otherwise,” Eden says of his service. “You find your best friends here.”

Three Years in Hebron: A First-Person Account From The Field