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Beyond The Ordinary Tourist This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   During the summer of 1988, I experienced Israel for six weeks. I did not just visit the sights, but instead I became a living part of the country. I was in the Israeli army for five long days. During those five days I experienced life in Israel as an Israeli teenager would. I was frightened when we drove through the chain-link fence. I knew that daily life was going to be very different on the inside of that fence.

Each day my kita (group) was awakened at five o'clock by our officer (in Hebrew - a rabat). We had twenty minutes to dress in our green uniforms, to use the bathroom, brush our teeth and make our beds. Since there was not enough time, we usually just went to the bathroom. If all fifteen of us were not at the flagpole by 5: 20 a.m., we would be forced to give up some of our free time. At 5: 20 a.m. all the girls and boys, which totaled about 100, were standing at attention at the flagpole. At this point the commander would wish us a good day and lead us through a fifteen minute workout. Then we would dart off to the auditorium for prayer, which lasted fifteen minutes, one of the few times we could relax and meditate.

Before we ate, the commander would speak in Hebrew, which was translated by a seventeen-year-old girl from New York. The commander, a twenty-two year-old Israeli woman, was six feet tall and had icy blue eyes. She seemed like a combination of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.

Breakfast consisted of eggs and some other unrecognizable food, which none of us ate. After singing grace, we set out to do our planned activities until lunch. We learned to march around the base and also to clean and aim an M-16 machine gun. We played trust games and used every muscle imaginable.

At 12: 30 we lined up for lunch, a repeat of breakfast, except for a new set of mystery food. Next we cleaned our bunks and disinfected the bathrooms, which the commander inspected personally. If we did not pass inspection, our sargeant cancelled free time. Then we attended classes such as self-defense. We also attended gun classes and did more exercises. From three to four in the afternoon we had free time, if we were lucky. If we had been late in the morning this was when we made up the time by running and doing sit-ups. If we had not passed inspection we had to reclean the bunk. After free time we would again go to gun class and participate in more trust games.

After a six o'clock dinner we scrambled to the auditorium for a three-hour lecture, which ranged from the ranks in the army to different military moves the Israeli Army had performed. We then said our evening prayers and went to our bunks praising each other that we had made it through another day.

On the fifth day of this torture we were given the opportunity to fire the M-16. Then, we gave a sigh of relief because we all had made it through the Army.

As I look back, I cannot believe I survived. I had hated the exercises and the lectures, but now I am glad that I went through it. I had the same experiences every Israeli teenager has. Teenagers in America have the opportunity to become what they desire. In Israel, all teens must serve in the Army before deciding on a career. I feel very fortunate to live in the United States, because my country is not at war with its bordering countries (which want to obliterate Israel from the map). Teenagers in Israel are not afraid to fight for their homeland. They go into the army willingly and fight with all their souls. They know if they don't defend Israel, no one will.n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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