I spent my three-year military service in the mid-1970s in an IDF that was still reeling from the failures of the Yom Kippur War. I remember how in my first year or so the failures permeated everything we did, from the form our training took to the less than minimal number of hours we slept under the command of a traumatized company commander to the ethos of our sergeants who had seen the war as fresh recruits in a dazed army. The entire structure around us was committed to getting over the trauma, learning from the mistakes, and returning to the confidence of an army that knew what it was doing.
(And no, we had nothing to do with the Palestinians. In those days the Palestinian men worked in Israel and the IDF wasn't called upon to dominate them in any active way. The first Intifada was more than a decade away, and the "brutal Israeli occupation" some people so love to speak about was not yet a figment of anyone's imagination. Seen through the perspective of the present decade, it was a time of peace, or at least, a time of calm).
The stories Achikam tells me about his service often remind me of that period. He went in a year after the debacle of the 2nd Lebanon War, and joined a reeling army - but one committed to getting over it. As this article demonstrates, the reeling is over, and the recuperation is in full swing.
The changes are, of course, much deeper than merely the number of days each unit now dedicates to training. The 1990s were the decade of complacency: peace was on its way, and the need for such an expensive army had passed, we foolishly told ourselves as we slashed the military budget year after year. The beginning of this decade was the Palestinian era of the IDF: faced with an entire nation committed to terror tactics, Israel had to forge a method of beating waves of terrorists eager to die killing Jews. The pundits all told us it couldn't be done, and the pundits were all wrong, but the price was that we forgot the other enemies, and the IDF forgot how to operate as an army and concentrated (brilliantly) on counter guerrilla warfare. The war against Hezbullah served as a waking call.