Since the outbreak of the war, many videos of IDF soldiers have moved many people and managed to bring a smile to their faces. Now the fighters behind the videos are talking about their new status as network stars, about the surprise at the number of views, and the desire to make the people of Israel happy.
Osher Beniso (20), a fighter in the rescue and rescue brigade, last week did a routine shift at the entry gate at the Ofakim base where she serves. In the middle of the day, she opened the gate for singer David Broza, who had come to perform for the base’s soldiers, and had a small talk with him.
“David said that when he finished the performance he would come to sing for us at the gate, and indeed when he finished, he kept his promise and came to the gate,” Osher recalls.
“David asked who knew how to sing and play, and I told him that I know how to play the piano and sing since the age of 10 and he invited me to sing with him. When he started playing the song You’ve Got A Friend by Carole King, I recognized the song because I’d been singing it in a choir in Netanya for several years, and I started singing along. Suddenly he asked me to stop and suggested we film it. My friend Rachel took the phone and took a video of us.”
The performance of the soldier with Broza accompanying her on guitar, became viral but Beniso only discovered this later. “I didn’t notice that the video went viral until the next morning,” she reveals.
IDF reserve Infantry and Merkava Tank soldiers train in a military exercise in the Golan Heights on October 23, 2023 (credit: MICHAEL GILADI/FLASH90)
“I woke up to a flood of messages on Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook and I also saw that Yehuda Ader, the CEO of the ‘Rimon’ school, uploaded a video of the performance and I was completely shocked. It felt like a dream come true. That moment I sang with David was magical for me. All my life my dream was to be a singer and I also sing in a choir, I knew I wanted to do it, but when I chose to serve as a fighter I knew it would be difficult and challenging for me to do it during my military service, so singing with David reminded me how much I love to sing and how important and burning it is in me.”
Beniso was informed that Adar had chosen to grant her a scholarship to study music at Rimon for three years. “It’s a dream come true, I still can’t digest everything that happened to me,” she says. “David also called me and said: ‘Did you see how our video caught on in the network?’. He was really charming and encouraged me and supported me. I won. It’s joy mixed with sadness because we are in a very difficult time, but precisely in moments like this, in order to excite and make the people of Israel happy, we need to do everything to strengthen each other.”
A tip for building a couple
Niv Israeli (26), a fighter in the Egoz unit, opened a TikTok account in the last two weeks and uploaded a video of himself giving a tip to girlfriends of fighters sitting at home, asking them to just inform them that they are fine, and testifies that it helps them to be more calm and focused in combat. The video went viral and garnered hundreds of thousands of views and thousands of shares within a few hours, to the surprise of an Israeli who, until before the war, had never thought about TikTok.
“In general, I don’t deal with Tiktok too much, even though I’m a marketer by profession, but when the war broke out, I felt the need to convey to viewers and followers on social networks what really strengthens me because no one really understands our angle, the soldiers,” he explains.
“I decided to talk about all kinds of topics, including ones that upset me. This video resulted from a conversation with my partner and she told me that what I told her strengthened her, and gave her the strength to continue and not be sad. She suggested that I tell everyone what I told her.”
Did you think it would catch on like this?
“No, I thought it was a pretty dumb video. As a marketing person, it was very insulting to me that I created the most authentic video and also touched many more people, without planning. After that, I decided to upload more videos of our life in the reserve company. My goal is to strengthen the public, to show that we are fine and in a good atmosphere, and to create a hug between the fighters and those at home.”
The next video he uploaded, which has so far garnered tens of thousands of views, shows his company members drying their uniforms with balls instead of clothespegs: “This is what we do in practice and I thought that this funny vibe could also catch on online – and that’s what happened.”
How do you explain the virality?
“In the end, what unites people is a common enemy, and notice how this entire nation united in one moment as if there had not been a rift a few days before. With all the problems all together, and the same works in videos too – how do you want to touch as many people as possible? Present something that we are all fighting together and we are all fighting to get back to normal and not let the enemy destroy it for us, so people who share feel exactly what we feel on the ground and this is the reason in my opinion.”
Noam Tsuriely (28), formerly the national champion in youth athletics and now a musician, singer, rapper, and pianist, just before the war launched his debut album “Words for Music and Vision”, but just before further performances to promote the album the war broke out and as a soldier in the Dovdvan unit, he was directly drafted into the army and is now in the field.
“By and large, music has always been and will be a part of who I am, and even when I chose a decade ago to enlist in the Dovdvan unit, the commanders very quickly discovered my writing abilities and used to assign me to write songs about things related to the army, and it was really part of my part in the regular service,” he says.
“I would always take a familiar tune and write new words on it. Now, when we joined the reserve, my life completely turned around and I ‘returned’ to being a total warrior. When the album came out I swore that every Thursday I would perform – and because of the war many performances were canceled so I performed in front of the company and the regiment.”
“In the last few days, my friends asked me to write a new song. One of the nights Hanan ben-Ari was supposed to perform for us, but because we came back late from an operation it didn’t come to fruition, so I wrote the song ‘Reserves’ based on Hanan’s hit ‘If You Want’. An hour before my performance, I sat on the sidelines and wrote what I felt and what we, the reservists as well as the people of Israel, needed to hear, and still do it with humor.”
“I went on stage with the song and it was uploaded to Tiktok and became viral on Tiktok, Facebook, and other social media. Suddenly I started getting a lot of comments and more people, who were exposed to me through the video, started getting to know my music and bombarding me with comments about songs from the album. It is exciting”.
Along with the music videos, Tsuriely also uploaded videos to TikTok that became viral about himself and his bandmates, the most prominent of which was the “mustache challenge” that swept the country.
“Every crazy thing needs someone to dare to start it, so I put our guys with the mustache on Tiktok and suddenly it’s everywhere,” he says. “When someone does it and surprise – it sweeps people away.”
Eli Levy (33), a fitness trainer by day and a fighter in the Negev Brigade in the reserves, broke the internet a week ago when he uploaded to the special Tiktok account he opened for the reserves (“Armyreserves”) a video of him going into action with “Cpl Rachel” on his backpack – coffee, tea and cookies, and claims “to have something to offer”.
The video very quickly became a social media hysteria with millions of views on the various platforms. “I decided to upload all kinds of nonsense to this Tiktok because I saw all the people of Israel under stress and we are fighting,” says Levy. “Because the story of Rachel Edri from Ofakim became a talking point, I thought of making a funny video. I was debating whether to upload it because we are in a very tense and painful time, but I thought that in order to raise morale we also need something like this. We should be busy fighting and less concerned with pain, even though it hurts us all, and it exploded.”
Did you think it would blow up like this?
“Not really no. My friends even told me not to upload it because it wasn’t appropriate, but only on my TikTok did it reach a million and a half views and later it exploded all over social media. I received a wave of responses from people who said that the video made them happy and it really strengthened me. It was crazy. I didn’t believe that such a stupid video, pardon the pun, would make an entire country happy in a time of sadness. It made my heart feel good and since then I decided to upload videos to make the people of Israel happy because the people of Israel are alive.”
Adu Alon (26) and Yosef Goldschmidt (26), fighters who served regularly in the Golani and now in a mixed battalion in the reserves, are far from the whole social networking thing, and according to them, except for glancing at Facebook once every few months – their activity on the networks is zero. When the war broke out, the two decided to upload a video of themselves explaining in exaggeration what they lacked in the unit – from pizzas to Assaf Granit, from diesel to Teslas – and it was quickly shared on every possible social media.
“It’s hard for me to publish things in public and even respond to people on Facebook, but one day Yosef and I were sitting in the north in the reserves somewhere, I was with Tefillin and I had a general idea to shoot a video, so we shot all kinds of sketches to build a kind of script about the fact that we saw so many donations everywhere, nonsense that people write about reservists looking for pampered things and it made me laugh, so I thought it should be taken to an extreme,” says Alon.
“Yosef edited the video a bit and I uploaded it to Facebook when the last post I uploaded before that was in 2010. After that, we had a shooting incident and I wasn’t online for a few hours. When I opened my cell phone – my WhatsApp and Facebook crashed from so many messages. Suddenly I found out that the video had reached people abroad and my sisters and family informed me that Hanoch Daum and Shani Cohen also published it and it became hysterical.”
“The first time, in a long time, that I logged into Facebook was to see the comments on this video,” adds Goldschmidt. “Adu uploaded the video to Facebook and I sent it to my friends on WhatsApp and on both of these fronts, it probably caught on like wildfire. In no way did I imagine that it would catch on like this. It was intended Mainly for friends.”
How did you feel about its publication?
Alon: “I don’t know, it’s still weird. I received dozens of messages from girls who flirted with me, but it’s irrelevant because I’m religious and they’re all secular and 19 years old, but it’s strange that suddenly people stop me at the gate and want a selfie. Even a married couple wanted Yosef and me to take a video for them.”
Goldschmidt: “It got out of proportion and I received messages from people from the Chabad house in Vietnam, from the Jewish community in Vienna, etc. We stopped following all the buzz because we didn’t know enough about the social media platforms to understand. So, our sisters, who are more knowledgeable than us on social media, keep us updated.”
Will there be a sequel?
Goldschmidt: “We were debating about this because it is difficult to exceed the expectations that were built after this video, but because of the amazing responses we received, including a response from a friend who studied with us in yeshiva and whose brother-in-law fell to our sorrow and said that we made the mourners laugh, we understood the importance of this nonsense we did, and it gave us direction for a follow-up video Because if it makes someone happy – then why not?”.
Alon: “Basically my instinct was no, but when you get responses from people who tell you that the video made them smile for the first time in five days, you understand that such a video is important. We will think about it and do not rule out uploading another video.”
Every Israeli knows the unforgettable scene from the movie “Stolen Father” in which Chico, who is Yehuda Barkan, reunites with his son, Ben, at the airport after not seeing each other for a long time. This week this scene was given a spontaneous IDF version as Amir, a fighter in a reserve battalion from the northern division, was photographed coming to visit his son Ilai in the kindergarten, and his son recognized his father and jumped on him with shouts of enthusiasm.
The video was shared on all networks and went viral with millions of views.
“On the cursed Saturday of October 7th, I went to the reserve and last Thursday, after 13 days, we went on a 24-hour retreat, and I managed to fix the cell phone and take Ilai out of kindergarten,” says Amir. “When I came to pick up Ilai, one of the kindergarten teachers said she had to take pictures and I didn’t even realize she was filming. I entered the kindergarten and Ilai’s reaction completely surprised me, he ran to me and gave me a crazy hug with a twinkle in his eyes.”
When did you realize you were viral?
“I’m really not a media person. I have Facebook and I am quietly active there without too much posting or commenting, and my wife told me that the video has over four million views and it warmed my heart to see that this thing reached so many people, a personal family moment of reunification with my son. My phone didn’t stop ringing and it proved to me how exciting and embracing this nation is.”
Translated by Yuval Barnea.
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