The commander of Golani, the Israel Defense Forces brigade that suffered the heaviest losses thus far while fighting in Gaza, was himself wounded earlier this week. When he arrived in the hospital, his face was bloody. The doctors who examined him determined his condition as moderate, and recommended a battery of tests. The Colonel refused. It’s just a few scratches, he told his attending physicians. Then he got up, checked himself out, and rejoined his men.
The Colonel’s name is Ghassan Alian. He’s a Druze. That fact was hardly reported outside of Israel. It complicates, I suppose, the false dogma that what we’re seeing unfurl in Gaza these days is a vicious tribal conflict between two sides, each growing more zealous and less tolerant. If you still need any proof that this is far from true, look at Colonel Alian. He’s a senior officer in an imperfect army of an imperfect democracy, where racial tensions and class resentments and ugly prejudices exist, as they do in Kentucky and Cologne and London, but where men can rise based on merit and where the common burdens and common responsibilities, as well as the joys and the bounties, are shared by all. It’s not perfect, but, as democracies go, it works just fine. And that, particularly given the murderous climate in which Israel struggles to exist, is something to salute.
Liel Leibovitz is editor at large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One.