Israeli combat medic Shaul Meyron posted a video to YouTube the other day of him singing an original creation called “Sunshine.” Well, the IDF posted the video, but we’ll get to that in a second. If you haven’t seen it, you should definitely check it out. It’s the kind of catchy, acoustic guitar and harmonica camp song that all of us who grew up in the Zionist camping industry eat up.
The guy has some musical chops. Apparently he had a musical epiphany a couple years ago and ever since has been teaching himself everything he can about making and playing music. In two years he’s learned guitar, harmonica, ukelele, Irish flute and piano—all while maintaining what must be a stressful job healing wounds in the heat of battle. His voice holds up; however his (English) lyrics suffer, primarily, one has to assume, from English not being his first language. “She’s coming out of the sea / Why don’t you come here to talk to me,” aren’t necessarily lyrics that portend to a promising career.
What’s most interesting to me is that this video appeared on the official IDF YouTube channel. This video is great, and fun, and adds another brick to the “Israel are not monsters” house. But clearly it’s not just an Israeli kid posting a video in his down time. (Although, it would be better than what some Israeli soldiers do in their down time.) This is marketing. The video came accompanied with a nice article about Meyron and his musical journey, all prepackaged to show a softer, more relatable side of the Israeli army to the world.
Twenty years ago the prototypical Israeli soldier was a sabra: hard on the outside, soft on the inside. He could deliver the news to a loved one of a soldier who died in battle just with a look. Is Shaul Meyron the new type of soldier Israel wants us to see? Bob Dylan-lite? It’s an interesting predicament Israel finds itself in. For the first 50-60 years of her existence Israel needed both tough soldiers and the image of tough soldiers to fight for and earn global legitimacy. Now she seems to have it, but the pendulum has swung the other way: the Israeli army is too harsh, too tough. It’s criticized for terrorizing Palestinians while Israel’s doctors are simultaneously helping every sick and wounded person that comes through their doors—often to little or no acclaim. I guess time will tell whether this new image of the Israeli soldier will replace the old one, and whether that will do more harm or good. For now, let’s just enjoy the “Sunshine.”