A Little History
I grew up in the United States, the son of a conservative Rabbi. After graduating high school, I was accepted to Vassar College. Rather than go directly from high school to college, I deferred my college career to spend a year on the United Synagogue Youth Nativ program. As part of the Nativ program, I spent 1 semester at Hebrew University and then volunteered on Kibbutz Sa’ad. After returning to America, I longed to return to Israel, where I had begun to find out who I was as a Jew and as an adult. Ultimately, my heart led me back Israel in the summer of 1997 where I spent three months at Bar-Ilan University’s summer ulpan. I then moved to Jerusalem to study in the ulpan at Hebrew University.
At the end of 1997, I made Aliyah. As part of my Aliyah, I knew that I was going to join the Israeli Defense Forces. I spent the two years before my induction Eli military preparation yeshiva. This prepatory program was designed around a very specific world view – based in the teaching of Rav Kook. I hoped that my time there would improve my Hebrew and give me the opportunity to learn more about Judaism and Religious Zionism. It was in this atmosphere I prepared for my induction in March 2000.
I ultimately joined Maglan – a special operations unit – where I completed basic and advanced training before having to leave my team due to injury.
In early 2001, during a training exercise, I was extracting a “wounded” team member when I twisted my right ankle. I spent the next few months trying to continue my training while dealing with shooting pain and a severe deterioration in the stability of my ankle. It wasn’t until much later, after visiting several doctors, I was told that two ligaments were torn in my right ankle.
I left my team and would spend the remainder of my enlistment as a sniper instructor in the unit. In addition to helping train the snipers and sharpshooters in the unit, and as a result of the violence taking place during the Second Intifada, I also found myself working around the country as a solo sniper who could work with different teams or other units. When I was not in the field or training others, I worked to advance the unit’s sniper warfare doctrine and equipment.
During this time, I began a regiment of physical therapy in the hopes of resolving the weakness in my ankle. After several months of on and off therapy (schedule permitting), the doctor decided that surgery was the only way to stop the recurring sprains and the further deterioration of my ankle. During this time, I was still an active member of the unit and was often seen trying to run by taking two hops on my left leg and then a quick skip on my right because it would otherwise collapse under me.
I was experiencing shooting pain in my ankle as I sought not one but two additional opinions. Both doctors said that surgery was the only way to solve the problem. Putting my dream of becoming an officer in the IDF on hold, I underwent surgery in late October of 2001. The surgeon told me I would be up and running in six months.
I spent the next three months in a cast trying to take care of myself. Eventually the Kibbutz members realized that I was unable to do so and moved me into the old age home on the Kibbutz until the removal of my cast. During that time, my leg hurt tremendously and was horribly swollen, but the doctors kept reassuring me that everything was going as planned and the pain, discoloration, and swelling were normal.
They eventually had to remove the original cast due to the swelling – which was extremely painful. Then, when it was finally time to take off the cast, I almost passed out as the cast was removed. And I threw up all over the floor when the nurse removed the stitches from my ankle. The doctor and nurse were shocked. Removing the stitches was a simple process that should not have caused any pain.
Later, during a routine post-op checkup, the surgeon realized that my nervous system was not responding properly. I was suffering from intense pain at the slightest touch.
As a lone soldier, I did not have family to help me through this very traumatic, difficult, and dark period. I was released early from the army and began the tedious process of gaining recognition as a disabled IDF veteran.
Several months after the stitches were removed, and as part of my therapy, I met with a specialist, Professor Jean Jaque Vatin, at Reut Hospital in Tel Aviv Dr. Vatin diagnosed my problem as a nerve disorder that causes severe chronic pain – Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). I began an intensive regiment of outpatient therapy at the Reut CRPS clinic.
As part of my rehab, Dr. Vatin believed it was essential for me to start on the next phase of my life. He also wanted me to move from Kibbutz Sa’ad in the south, where I lived as a lone soldier. Reut hospital is in the center of Israel and the travel to therapy was extremely painful and difficult. So, under Dr. Vatin’s guidance I chose to move closer and to the started studying in Bar-Ilan University’s Political Studies department, specializing in army, strategy, and national security. I moved into an apartment next to Bar Ilan that was also closer to the CRPS clinic.
As a nerve disorder, CRPS affects the central nervous system and causes my legs to feel like they burning. Imagine for a moment standing on the surface of the sun – this gives an idea of how painful it is. Even worse, CRPS causes allodynia, pain from touch. When I have been asked to describe allodynia, my best analogy is “Imagine someone gently touching you, or a cool breeze blowing against your skin, but feeling like a blowtorch is rubbing your foot”. Every decision I make revolves around a pain/benefit assessment. How much pain will be involved and is it worth the pain. Since being diagnosed, the CRPS spread from my right foot up to above my right knee and has spread to my left leg from the knee down. It is still spreading slowly upwards.
To cope with this pain I underwent five back surgeries, including the insertion of a Spinal Cord Stimulator in my back. I am constantly in and out of therapy at the CRPS clinic, hydrotherapy, alternative therapies, in addition to experimental therapies.
As I was finishing my BA, I applied and was accepted into Bar-Ilan University’s direct PhD program as a Presidential Scholar. I have since finished my dissertation under Professor Gerald Steinberg and was hooded in June 2011. My dissertation topic was “Followership” in Response to Post-Cold War WMD Proliferation from 1989 – 2005: Britain, Australia, and Israel.
Since then my focus has changed and I have been researching power, leadership, and strategy in its many forms – from the military through business and beyond. This has included research and teaching about the power or creative process, ideas and their role in power, strategy, strategic thinking and implementation, intelligence gathering and analysis, operative decision-making, the resource-doctrine divide, objectives, goals, tactics, surprise, leadership, followership, and more.
I have taken deep dives into military strategy, tactics, and leadership. I’ve studied Design Thinking, the Business Canvas Model and the steps they use to engage strategy, and the Blue Ocean Strategy and Shift model. I’ve examined Simon SInek’s 3 stage concept, Rumelt’s Kernel of Strategy, and Boyd’s OODA cycle. I’ve learned about OKRs and KPIs. And I’ve studied and taught about multiple different leadership styles and theories that explain the leader-follower relationship in depth.
I have also spent time learning about how these same ideas are understood, impact, and manifest in other realms – in Judaism, in my family, in reality… in life.
And I’ve helped my students, friends, and several companies engage strategically and rethink how they address leadership, strategy, objectives, and operations.
What I have found, throughout this time, is that Prof. Colin Gray may have been even more correct than he imagined when he said there is a unity to all strategic experiences throughout time and space and that the nature of strategy doesn’t change.