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15.05.2015

20 factors of Israel’s military experience that Ukraine needs

Until the children of Ukrainian politicians and generals go to the frontline themselves, the state’s attitude to the situation will not change

Recently, Israel announced the possibility of supplying weapons to Ukraine. Experts called this announcement a political reaction to Russia’s plan to deliver weapons to Israel’s enemy, Iran. The Israeli side has yet to follow through with this, but it has already realized a number of projects of humanitarian aid to Ukraine. The statements from both sides about applying the Israeli experience of warfare and providing technical assistance have yet to be put into practice.

In order to clarify the situation, Jewishnews.com.ua contacted a specialist on Israeli military technology, who is currently working in Ukraine as a volunteer and military consultant. He wished to remain anonymous. He was born in Ukraine, and left for Israel as a child, where he has had a successful military career. He explained the difference between the readiness of the two Armies in 20 factors.


1. Even before the beginning of independence, the Jews worked on the development and construction of their defensive capability, while in its first days of independence Ukraine destroyed its defensive power.


Developed, well-equipped western armies constantly carry out military operations (France, the UK, Australia, Canada, the USA and even Russia). Modern Russia has some experience of warfare, which was mainly acquired in the North Caucasus (local anti-terrorist operations). When the Georgian troops clashed with the Russian army, they suffered losses. The Russian army, over one-million-strong, fought against a country with a population of 3 million, with a very small and practically weaponless army.

In Ukraine the situation is much worse than in Georgia. When Maidan began, there was no trained, equipped and battle-ready army at all. There were only police divisions which tried to deal with the street protests.
The army is now involved in the present conflict. Whether western sources admit this or not, I can state that today the Ukrainian army and volunteer divisions are clashing with well-trained armed forces, including from the Russian Federation (at the invisible level of instructors or separate special forces divisions). But apart from a fighting spirit, the Ukrainian army has nothing to show for itself at all.

2. If operations move to an active phase and Russia sends its military units into active warfare, then Ukraine will have nothing to oppose them with.

After a year of military operations, the army is left with the same problems that it had at the start of Maidan: soldiers do not have modern clothing or special equipment for fighting in the winter, in the forest, in open spaces, or in a built-up area.

Discussions about the fact that Ukraine should look towards Israel and adopt the Israeli experience have not gone beyond the discussion stage. In order to understand the level of the catastrophic provision of Ukrainian forces, just watch television and see what the soldiers are wearing – whatever they could find: different colors, different footwear, often civilian, and civilian jackets… In 2015 they are fighting in slippers! But professional equipment and uniforms in the army primarily ensure safety.

3. In the Israeli army, uniforms have been developed for each type of troops, for each specialist.

The Israeli army is thought to train its soldiers quickly. One of the principles that we are use on the level of a military operation, whether 15 or 10,000 soldiers will take part in it, is an analysis of previous fighting.

Each analysis is constructive. The task is not to repeat mistakes. The same thing happens with equipment and uniforms – they are constantly being improved. The boots, for example, have been changed twice over the last 15 years, now I am wearing the third model. They are lighter and less slippery. Ukrainians wear whatever boots the volunteers send them!

4. Israel has a centralized system of provision, while Ukraine has the tendency of social volunteering, which is very good to see.

It’s unlikely that in the near future anything fundamental will change in the equipment of the Ukrainian army. But volunteers should pay attention to equipping the army with professional clothing. Then the Ukrainian army will stop wearing a uniform that catches fire from one match, which lets the wind in and causes soldiers to freeze in winter and sweat in summer, because it is practically made of cellophane.

We can’t talk about weaponry, these expenses are unfeasible for volunteers. But as for uniform and special equipment (ammunition vests, tents, sleeping bags, stretchers) – here, unlike the Defense Ministry, volunteers are interested in a result, they really want to help soldiers and won’t buy any old rubbish. This in its turn forces the Defense Ministry to maintain higher quality standards for uniforms.

5. Israeli doctors not only have military training, but also special medical training for war.

They have an operating table where they can operate in the battlefield, special instruments and equipment which are very expensive. Perhaps at state level (or volunteer level), Israeli military medical specialists should be invited to hold seminars for Ukrainian military doctors.

6. Ukrainian soldiers often have to make water filters by hand, and strain the water through gauze.

Water in war zones is dirty. Today western companies solve this problem very effectively. Tablets and filters are all available on the Internet. The tablets are even used by hikers who go to regions where there is no clean water. No Israeli expertise is required to solve this problem.

7. Israeli field kitchens are not very developed, we have dry rations.

Unlike Ukraine, where the soldiers do the cooking themselves, over campfires, with food provided by volunteer aid. Sometimes during warfare soldiers in Israel try to cook something in captured houses, but they usually encounter a problem: the Arab population does not keep canned goods, and fresh products quickly spoil, because there is no electricity during wartime.

In Israel, before soldiers go on a military operation in Israel, they often get hot food in containers (a bit like airline food) – with meat and potatoes, in thermal containers. We are well looked after.

8. Dry rations in the Israeli army are selected by specialists.

In the Ukrainian army, soldiers often cook the food thatvolunteers bring them over campfires. The Israeli ration includes tuna fish, tinned meat, corn, dried fruit, chocolate, even candy, halva, and sometimes jam. This ration has great advantages. If you eat bread with tuna fish or tinned meat, you digest the food well, and you don’t have to go to the toilet often, just once every two days. During warfare this is important.

9. In the Israeli army soldiers can generally count on warm clothing, while in Ukraine they keep warm as best they can.

We have waterproof insulated suits which we sleep in during cold weather, they can withstand low temperatures. Although in Israel there are tents for 20-25 people, with stoves that use diesel fuel. In Ukraine there are small stoves, blankets, warm civilian items gathered by volunteers for soldiers, piece by piece, as best they could…
In Ukraine there are already companies that manufacture these suits, and they are even warmer than the Israeli ones. Volunteers bought them, and thus saved many soldiers in the ATO zone from hyperthermia. I’m sure that over time the number of these companies will increase. The experience of adopting Israel special equipment for soldiers has been successful in Ukraine. Everything is manufactured in Ukraine based on Israeli models and Israeli standards, using high-quality materials that stop the soldiers from getting wet or cold, and enable them to move quickly, without wasting time on sewing up holes, and generally allow them to function quite professionally during military operations, without distracting their attention on problems of clothing and equipment.

10. Some Ukrainian recruits have been issued underpants from the Second World War! There are no other supplies in the country.

They buy this all on tenders, and on the principle of buying up cheaply, in bulk. The Ukrainian army has a problem with underwear, and everything that is worn under the uniform. The items that soldiers are given from the Defense Ministry stores are no longer used anywhere else! In the West there is thermal underwear – civilian and military models. It’s wonderful – it’s light, thin, warm, prevents chafing, and is sewn from modern materials. I highly recommend it as a person with many years of experience.

Socks are another matter. The state issues Ukrainian soldiers with two pairs. That’s ridiculous! Soldiers who go on a military operation need at least 5-6 pairs. They must regularly change their socks so their feet don’t chafe until they bleed and they don’t get blisters.

11. According to the state standard, in the Ukrainian army a uniform can be replaced after half a year.

In Israel, a soldier hands over his dirty uniform to the supply service, and in exchange, while it’s being washed, he gets another uniform of the right size. Soldiers also have at least two sets of uniforms – one for themselves, one in reserve.
Of course, some people believe that the Soviet troops went so far in the war and triumphed only because of the number of people who they sacrificed – when defenseless civilians were thrown into battle, and used as human shields. That’s also a method, in principle. If you sacrifice half the population in Donbass, that’s also a method. You can also win a war in this way. But nowadays the human race flies planes and drives cars. In the year 2015, it’s completely unnecessary to be a hero and till a field with a plough.

You should take the right attitude to the task at hand. You shouldn’t sell your country for bribes and cutbacks, you shouldn’t dress soldiers any old way, but for once and for all you should take things seriously, and dress soldiers in clothes in which they can defend their country. At least approximately in the same way that this task is approached in Israel.

12. The uniform of Ukrainian soldiers simply does not measure up to the tasks at hand!

You could compare a soldier to a diver who is given a parachute instead of an aqualung. You can call both of these things equipment. But one is completely unsuitable for the other. If soldier are sent to war in the winter in non-waterproof clothing, even if they are very hardy and healthy, they will still fall ill and will not be able to keep fighting. They are people, they’re not made of iron. Yes, there’s adrenalin in the war and people don’t fall ill so easily, so they won’t fall ill after 24 hours, but after 48. If soldier don’t have clothing that is designed for fighting in hot weather, if it is practically made of plastic and rubber materials, they will simply suffer heat stroke during movement, marching and running in attack. They will pass out. This isn’t an issue of comfort. This is the year 2015. As we saying that we can achieve the task at hand with this equipment? In principle, how can you wear summer clothing in winter and rubber clothing in summer; how can you wear a non-waterproof jacket in the snow or rain, when you have to spend the night in the forest, in the open air, in unheated buildings, where there is no electricity or stoves.

Let us remember that Germany, which had the most progressive and best-equipped army, got bogged down in its attack on the Soviet Union because their equipment was not suitable for a harsh winter. They counted on a blitzkrieg, that by winter it would all be over. Their summer lubricant for automatic weapons did not withstand the frost. Their weapons got jammed and their soldiers froze to death. It wasn’t that the German soldiers were uncomfortable, they simply froze and died. Their weapons often simply did not function. But if they had prepared properly, the outcome could have been different.

13. Until the children of Ukrainian politicians and generals go to the frontline themselves, the state’s attitude to the situation will not change.

In Ukraine there hasn’t been a war since 1945. It’s sad to see how the state treats soldiers, the dead, the injured, those who are recruited, and those who volunteer to fight. Ukraine lacks this element in society, but in Israel the children of generals and politicians eagerly join military divisions. The people’s attitude to the situation will only change if the war drags on, and there is a feeling in society that there are soldiers and defenders, and a special attitude towards them.
My words may resemble the slogans of the Great Patriotic War. Israel gives the lions’ share of its budget to maintain defense, because a people who survived the Holocaust cannot let themselves take a risk again, and this is embedded in the DNA of every Israeli.

Israel is mistaken in nurturing a patriotism that is inseparable from the national spirit. The desire to serve in military units is directly connected with the battle for survival. As soon as life settles down in Israel, and two to three years go by without any conflicts, we start to think that war is behind us, and that “we live in a new Middle East” (as former president Shimon Peres said) – the popularity of serving in military units starts to decrease drastically. But as soon as another armed conflict starts, in one or two months the army reports: “There is an incredible upsurge in activity, we are forced to announce a competition for selection to infantry divisions”.

14. The coordination of the Ukrainian army’s actions in the ATO zone is incompetent.

Any military command should allow soldiers to rest, so that they can return to carry out military tasks in a suitable condition. We see that there is a problem with rotation, when soldiers are kept on the front line for half a year, which is the consequence of general disorganization and unprofessionalism. The leadership simply forgot about someone, or had other things to worry about. To avoid hassle, they simply say: “You can stay there a bit longer”. I can criticize the military leadership for weeks, months and years, but it won’t change the situation.

15. People are called up without selection, and people without training are accepted.

In Israel they examine you first, then they teach you to fight properly… Ukrainians get it wrong: protesting at Maidan and going to the frontline are two big differences, as they say in Odessa. The youthful Maidan romanticism that “We are going to fight, we will reach Moscow” vanishes when an untrained person ends up in a trench and experiences their fight battle. But then it’s too late… People cannot be trained if no one trains them. That’s axiomatic! People who haven’t had military training cannot be prepared for real military operations at the age of 16, or 18, or 20. In Ukraine there is no training at state level, like there is in Israel, and nothing is being done to make this happen!

Military training in Israel involves preparing a soldier for real action as much as possible – all elements of training are close to real events. “A thinking soldier is a dead soldier” I say to cadets. If you’ve learned the doctrine in theory (I’m being fired on from above, so I have to sit down for a while, think and remember what we were taught in class), at that moment you’re already a corpse. A soldier in a war acts on an instinctive level.

16. In Ukraine a soldier has meager social guarantees, if at all.

Often these people cannot receive the appropriate status of soldiers for a long time. In Israel a reserve soldier who goes to serve for 2-3 weeks or a month cannot be fired from work during this time, or for some time afterwards. A soldier receives a salary from the army equivalent to the salary that he receives at work. Not from the employer, but from the state. A soldier has insurance. If he is an invalid he will receive compensation for life, a pension, plus special rehabilitation centers and free treatment. The privileges will also apply to his family. The military commission usually treats soldiers humanely who they have been injured during military service.

In the Israeli society and state, no one will let soldiers, invalids and veterans have their privileges reduced. On the contrary, the list of privileges is growing, and financing of these programs is constantly increasing. In Ukraine, I believe, the very structures are lacking that are supposed to help injured and demobilized soldiers, and furthermore one cannot feel any wish to help them. And volunteers themselves cannot afford these expenses.

17. In Israel, if a person joins the army voluntarily, they are officially registered, otherwise they will not be issued weapons.

In Ukraine volunteers are sometimes sent straight to the frontline. It is very difficult to prove that you were actually there, should the need arise. In Israel this situation is simply impossible!

18. In Israel they know about every soldier, but Ukraine is not even interested in identifying corpses.

We constantly inform relatives about what happens to Israeli soldiers and where they are located. Every soldier has an iron tag with a personal number, name and surname engraved in it. The tags hang around their neck. Another tag is broken in two and put in the boots, there is a special inner pouch for this. When we fly in planes, these tags are also placed in the pockets of pants and shirts. So if necessary, the remains can be identified. In the Ukrainian army, although thousands of soldiers have already been killed and there are huge problems in identifying the bodies, this system has not yet been introduced. But the price of the issue is really just a few cents. If the Ukrainian Defense Ministry doesn’t have the money to organize a serious computer system, then you can simply use Excel to enter tens of thousands of soldiers and issue each one with a tag. But this is not being done, which can only show the state’s attitude towards their own citizens, and the fact that generals do not take care of their soldiers.

19. Psychological rehabilitation and post-traumatic work in Israel is highly developed.

This is lacking in Ukraine at present. Many people who return from the ATO are simply in an unfit state – after experiencing many months of military operations, they cannot adapt to civilian life. Some time goes by, the dust settles, and people recover. But psychological traumas may remain with them all their lives, and they may pass them on to their children in the way that they raise them.

Society develops, and people have greater demands. When I was enlisted, it seemed fantastic to think that parents could call up the commander of their son while he was doing service. Today if soldiers have problems, parents often ring the commander on his mobile phone, and ask him to deal with the situation. The same applies in other spheres: if in the past post-traumatic syndrome was practically not treated, today society demands that the Defense Ministry pay attention to this.

20. Will the balance of forces be changed by Israel supplying weapons to Ukraine?

I am certain that Ukraine will not receive weaponry from Israel that is capable of changing the balance of forces. Russia will not allow the situation to change fundamentally, and Israel will simply not take this risk. It may take revenge on Russia for delivering the S-300 to Iran, but this will mainly be about PR. It may deliver drones, precision weaponry, night vision devices, but nothing more than this. If Israel were prepared to retrain the Ukrainian army and give it modern equipment, this could advance Ukraine. But Israel is unlikely to be prepared to take such fundamental steps, as Russia has a lot more besides the S-300 that it could sell to Iran and other neighbors of ours.

However, Ukrainian volunteer organizations may well work on providing new uniforms and equipment for the army. And the spontaneous volunteer movement may stimulate real army reforms.

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