From Civilian Life to War: Hundreds of Thousands of Israeli Reservists Answer Call to Fight

Israel’s response to the Hamas terrorist attacks has resulted in the largest military call-up in the country’s history. With more than 360,000 reservists mobilized, it amounts to four percent of Israel’s population

Reservists have shown no hesitation, whether at home or abroad. Within the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), it’s known as “the shift,” going from zero to 100, from civilian life to war in an instant. 

“The sea can be calm, easy, and nice, but within a minute, you can get to a storm,” said Arad Levertov, a reserve officer in Israel’s most elite special forces unit, Shayetet-13.

In 2006, he returned to combat in the Lebanon War, leaving behind his pregnant wife and a successful career to join his unit on the front lines. 

“I knew that my team was focused on the north side of Israel and within hours, you know you left. You leave everything. Get a good kiss goodbye, and you go to the war,” Levertov told CBN News.

Now, a new generation of warriors answered the call. Some responded immediately from their homes across Israel.

“Within hours, the Shayetet had troops of reserves fighting against terrorists. Within hours, like you know I’m talking about Saturday, midday. Think about it. They left their lives, they came to the base, they got the gear, they took a helicopter, and they went to fight,” Levertov said.

Others are returning as quickly as possible from abroad. 

“I jumped on the first plane I could, and I came here. It’s not easy to leave the family behind, especially because they are in the U.S., so it’s not easy. But I feel that it’s necessary,” said US-based reservist Oren Saar. 

Levertov now serves on the board of an organization known as American Friends of Israel Navy SEALS (AFINS). Since the attacks took place, they’ve raised more than $1 million to support Shayetet-13 units and their families. 

Their sister organization in Israel, the Atalef Foundation, spreads those funds where needed from supplying equipment to help the influx of soldiers to providing housing and childcare to the families left behind. 

Levertov said these groups will also be there when the war is over. 

“There is going be a lot of PTSD, obviously. People see something that you never even imagined and don’t wish to your enemies to see, and the Atalef, specifically, has a lot of programs to support PTSD, not only for the Shayetet but for the entire IDF,” Levertov said.

For now, the focus is on the battle ahead, and Levertov said each soldier fighting is clear on their mission.

“The mission is to fight terror. To fight terror and to get so we can live in security in Israel, and not only in Israel but around the world,” Levertov said. 

All Israelis must serve in the military when they turn 18 — men for 32 months, women for 24. After that, most can be called up to reserve duty until the age of 40 or older in the case of a national emergency. 

Levertov said after the Hamas attacks, 150 percent of the number called up, responded to serve. Everyone was eager to do what they could for their country.

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