‘Life or Death Decisions’: US-Born IDF Missile Defense Officer Takes American UN Envoy on Tour of Iron Dome
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield saw firsthand the workings of Israel’s US-funded defensive against rocket attacks on Tuesday, guided personally by a San Diego-born, aerial defense officer in the Israel Defense Forces.
“For me the visit is like a full cycle. Standing on my right side was the deputy head of the Israeli army and on my left side was the UN ambassador to America. It was like my two worlds are colliding, and I am standing as a bridge between them,” Lieutenant Tova, an aerial defense array officer in the Israeli Air Force, told The Algemeiner, while speaking under her first name. “It’s an amazing opportunity to get the chance to show to someone who hasn’t been to Israel, what is Israel, who are Israelis and what our reality looks like.”
Thomas-Greenfield this week arrived in Israel for her first stay in the country to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other senior government officials. On Tuesday, the UN envoy visited the Palmachim air force base, where she was given a tour of the American-funded Iron Dome and David’s Sling air defense systems.
“The IDF shared a look at the Iron Dome and David’s Sling systems, which our nations developed together to save the lives of innocent civilians,” Thomas-Greenfield said following the visit at the air force base. “We will replenish the Iron Dome system and support Israel’s ability to defend itself.”
In September, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a $1 billion bill to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome defense system following some opposition by a handful of progressive Democrats. Passage of the bill is now being held up in the Senate by Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, who is demanding that funding should be allocated from US aid to Afghanistan.
During the Guardian of the Walls operation in May, the Iron Dome defense system intercepted more than 90 percent of the more than 4,000 rockets fired at Israeli civilians by Hamas and other terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip.
“If you think that each rocket falling could hurt a whole family and if each family is on average five people, that’s over 20,000 people that could have been hurt and killed if the Iron Dome didn’t intercept the rockets,” said 22-year-old Tova, a lone soldier who serves as the only US-born and raised IDF commander in the control center of the Iron Dome unit.
“When there are rockets being sent into Israel, we have very few seconds or [even] split-second decisions if we want to shoot it down. We are a team of several people, but at the end I am the one who makes the life-or-death decisions,” she said.
Tova — who has been living in Kibbutz Nir Yitzhak in the Gaza envelope near the Strip since she moved to Israel by herself — said Tuesday she was satisfied that she’s able to serve close to her own home, protecting her own community.
Speaking about the UN envoy’s visit, Tova recounted that Thomas-Greenfield was “very impressed when she heard that I was 22 years old, and a bunch of other people started laughing. It’s because in America, there is no such thing as a 22-year-old who is making life or death decisions; but in Israel, it is the reality, and I think it’s actually what makes the country so special.”
IDF Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Major General Herzi Halevi commented Tuesday that Thomas-Greenfield’s visit was “another example of the deep cooperation between the IDF and the United States and of how we can deal with threats to the Middle East together, with an emphasis on the Iranian threat.”
“Iran is the main source of instability in the region, which can be seen in its involvement in Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip,” Halevi added.
The US military itself was recently reported to have tested the Iron Dome system in Guam, according to the Wall Street Journal, for possible use in countering the threat of Chinese cruise missiles.