chapter  12
26 Pages

From zero to hero: Masculinity in Jewish nationalism


In late 1994, a year after the signing of the Oslo Accords, one of Israel’s major newspapers, Yediot Achronot, carried a lead story entitled “[W]e used to be men, now we are zero” (November 11, 1994). This story concerned members of an elite military unit who had deserted their post because they were so disappointed by the turn that their military service had taken, once Israel began training soldiers for peacekeeping missions after pulling out of the Gaza Strip and beginning its withdrawal from the West Bank. No longer were these young men able to perform the tasks which had motivated them to join this elite unit, during the days of the Intifada, and for which they had trained to be, in their own words, “killers” who enforced Israeli military rule among Palestinians (Shachor 1994:6).1 Now instead, as a result of the Oslo Accords, the soldiers said, they were being assigned to guard daycare centers in Jewish settlements. “What started as an attempt ‘to be a man,’ turned into an addiction for ‘action’” (Shachor 1994:6), said one of the deserting soldiers in an attempt to justify his unit’s act. These soldiers ran from duty, as they said in the article, because in peace missions there is no “action,” no glory, no “rush.”