A Soldier's Epiphany

February 16, 2011
United States, Airport
Dear Journal,

In the United States, seventeen is the age at which one may purchase M-rated video games, the age at which one can donate blood, the age at which one can watch R-rated movies without parents, and even the age at which one can receive his or her pilot licence. But for me, here in Israel, it is the last year of my innocent, harmless life.

When I was three, my family and I moved from Israel to the United States, where I grew up and went to school. If you talk to me, you would only consider me American. I only consider myself American. But being born in Israel and living my first three years there leaves me a true Israeli citizen. I mean, I haven’t been there in forever. I don’t remember it at all. So really, calling me an Israeli citizen is a stretch. Apparently, not enough of a stretch for the Israeli government... and my parents.
In case you are not aware of it, national military service is mandatory for all Israeli citizens over the age of eighteen. And I’m seventeen years and 360 days old. Five days left till I am drafted into the army. Just another boy with a gun being thrown at him to be a soldier. No choices. No voice.

If I had stayed in the United States, I would have never had to deal with any of this. But no, my parents (being the proud Israelis that they are) decided that serving in the Israeli Defense Force was part of my “heritage,” something that I was “born an Israeli citizen to do.” All that cr*p. If you ask me, I would be no help to the military anyway. You’re never a real help in a military if you don’t have your heart in it. And I’m not going to try and deny it. I have no Israeli pride. I’m perfectly content sitting my a** on a couch, watching football, and eating a hamburger. I’m an American. Not my fault. If anything, being in the U.S. army wouldn’t be so bad.

But that’s not the case. I am a puppet being controlled by my parents. Sure, they think they’re doing what’s best for me. Let me just ask this, though; how is being in the line of fire what’s best for me? I sometimes think that they just want to be able to say their own son is in the Israeli army. Or be able to fuel their own heritage pride. But it definitely has nothing to do with the well being of me.
~
Israel, Tel-Aviv
Dear Journal,

I am currently at a mall in Tel Aviv, Israel. Against my will, I flew in yesterday. And as I sit here in the food court fighting jet lag, writing in this journal, I am casually people watching- a pastime that has been mine for years. All my attention is being drawn to the teenagers walking around with their friends. It’s different, here in Israel. The boys aren’t wearing their baggy jeans, football shirts, and caps. The girls aren’t wearing their flirty skirts, frilly blouses, and barrettes. They’re not wearing clothes for fashion or to impress people. Here, in Israel, they’re wearing clothes for protection. You can easily identify who is over eighteen with a glance. They’re swimming in their green, black, and grey camouflage pants and jacket. Weighed down at the hip by assault rifles. Boys and girls who are barely eighteen- with a object that with a swift move can kill. A strange feeling of fright overcomes me when I look at them. A feeling that anywhere I go in this country a bomb is going to hit. A feeling that in five days, I’ll be one of them. But then I stare at their faces. Their faces change everything. Their young, fresh skin is tan from the desert sun exposure. Still, it looks unharmed- especially when they smile. As their lips move speaking the language of their people, they laugh. And it’s not one of those fake laughs that you can tell people use sometimes. It’s that laugh that is filled with happiness. The kind that sounds like music to a sad person's ear. However, all these youthful, innocent features are nothing compared to their eyes. Oh, their eyes. They’ve seen so much. Too much. I can tell. They’ve seen their friends wounded on the battlefield. They’ve seen a world filled with the color red. The color of hate and blood. But still, there is a glimmer of hope in those eyes. Hope for a better future. Not for them, but for their people.

It is only required for men turning eighteen to be in the Israeli army for three years. And I always knew that- but I still believed my life would be completely ruined after the military. I mean, you just don’t go back to being yourself after that. I imagined myself coming out with missing limbs, being mentally crazy and tormented by society. I believed that this was indeed, my last five days to live.

But I now see my situation much differently. Sitting here, in the ancient, yet modern, city of Tel Aviv, I no longer consider myself just American. I am Israeli-American. I no longer think being drafted into the army takes away my choices or voice. I have choices. I have a voice. I no longer am worried I will be no help in the military because of my lack of heart. I have a heart, and it will make a difference. I no longer believe my parents sent me to be in the Israeli army for themselves. They sent me for me. I no longer want my jeans and t-shirts. I want to trade them in for an Israeli camouflage uniform. I want that glimmer. I want that shine that is in each and every one of their eyes. I want to (and know I will) live my life past my eighteenth birthday. I want to be in the Israeli army.





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