Translated from Yotam’s article that appeared July 21 in Maariv.

These are tough days. As the fighting lingers on, after weeks in which we have experienced mostly substantial operational success and very impressive resilience among the Israeli population, we are now entering a new hard and painful phase in which vague information and rumors turn into actual bad news: “our soldiers are fighting in a determined and heroic way”… ”there are casualties”… “some have been killed.”

The stomach turns upside down and the heart is broken, but we have to remember – the battle still continues.

Years ago, while serving in a combat unit in the IDF, I was trained that during battle, in the face of the enemy, when a friend next to you gets hit, you should always continue to charge, fight and win. This ability to strive, to achieve engagement with the enemy, the determination to win the battle requires a unique type of resilience.

What is this resilience and determination that enables one to risk his or her life and charge forward in the face of enemy fire?

The simple truth, known to anyone who “was there,” is that we fight mostly for our friends to our right and left in the line of fire: our team, platoon and company, our friends who fight with us shoulder to shoulder. The comradeship of warriors is strengthened under the challenge of the “baptism of fire.” That baptism of fire challenge is now facing the entire Israeli society. 

Another important force in combat is the power of leadership. The commanders of the IDF lead their soldiers in the line of fire. They show the way. Their leadership casts confidence and strength. Leadership under fire necessitates them to “see” the soldiers: to assess their physical and mental condition, their determination and esprit de corps. Only those who understand and empathize with their soldiers can motivate and mobilize them to charge in the face of enemy fire, to risk their lives and to win the battle.

We have so much to take pride in: our children, our friends who fight and command during this hard time. It is hard to keep going but we have no choice. The soldiers of the IDF keep fighting for us. With all the pain and sorrow, we have the same power that moves us forward and helps us cope. We have one another, the family, the community and Am Israel. We feel we can count on each other, we share the sense of belonging and, with it, the ability to talk and share, to experience the pain of loss together, to hope for better days to come. It is these assets that help us look and go forward during the toughest moments. 

Together we hope for peaceful days, we embrace the families of the fallen, to strengthen and to become stronger by them.  

Yotam Dagan, a Wexner Israel Fellowship alum (Class 24) is a clinical psychologist who serves as the Director of Community Outreach at NATAL, Israel’s center for victims of war and terror related trauma. Upon completion of his military tenure as a Navy Seal, Yotam initiated non-profit programs helping IDF soldiers discharge and reintegrate into Israeli civil society, and a leadership program, aimed at assisting special forces veterans to take the lead in Israel’s public sector and social entrepreneurship. Yotam can be reached at