This introductory chapter provides an overview of Jewish involvement in the military. From the beginnings of conscription in the late 1700s until the end of the Second World War, military service was of enormous concern to Jews throughout the world. Advocates for Jewish rights presented the Jewish soldier as proof that Jews were worthy of emancipation and social acceptance. For Jewish soldiers, as for all who serve, military life could be a torment but could also be thrilling and liberating—the most memorable experience of a young man's life. However, two sets of historically contiguous events—the Holocaust and establishment of the state of Israel, on the one hand, and the 1967 Middle East war and the anti-Vietnam War movement, on the other—blotted the Jewish soldier out of Jewish collective memory.
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