Please give me some feedback. Thank you so much.
The situation I am in is so surreal. I am riding around in a soft-top Hummer on the Israeli/Egyptian border, armed to the teeth, picking up Sudanese refugees escaping from one of the worst atrocities since the Holocaust, getting dangerously close to being shot, listening to awful Israeli pop music, and eating generic brand Frosted Flakes out of the box. I am a volunteer foot soldier in a conscripted army. I am a bacon-loving American serving in the Israeli Army.
Over a year ago I arrived in Israel knowing almost no Hebrew with my closest friend or relative 6,000 miles away. I lived in a youth hostel as I battled the bureaucracy of Israeli in my struggle to enlist in the IDF. After weeks of persistent hounding and many confusing conversations in broken English I was accepted into the Israeli Army.
Basic Training was very similar to how it is portrayed in movies: that is to say, brutal and unrelentingly miserable. We spent our days being yelled at, doing push-ups, and crawling up rocky hills. We spent our nights in tents in the middle of the desert. I had to stay completely focused on whatever task was at hand due to the language barrier. Through a combination of mimicry, intuition, and whispered translations from the English-speaking Israeli soldiers, I made it through basic. In advanced training we received our “jobs”. I requested to be placed as a heavy machine gunner and because I was the only soldier in our 150-man company to do so, that was the job I was assigned. Most people don't want my job because the weapon and ammunition are ludicrously heavy and about half of the gunners are usually injured as a result. Regardless, I came to Israel for a challenge so my back had to pick up the slack.
After training was finished, we were stationed on the Isreali/Egyptian border about 15 miles south of the Gaza Strip. Our job here is to patrol the border looking for terrorists, drug smugglers, and Sudanese refugees. Terrorists are rare because we are in a relative peacetime at the moment. Drug smugglers are generally caught by special forces units or the Egyptian border police. The Sudanese are our main objective. They travel hundreds of miles over hostile land in order to escape genocide and reach the safety of Israel. As they cross the Egyptian border fence our job is made more difficult because the Egyptian border police usually open fire on anyone crossing the border. We have had a lot of close calls as we pick up the refugees. When we are finished here we will be sent to a base in the West Bank to patrol the area and arrest suspected terrorists. After that, I will complete my service and return home to the states to pursue my legal career.
The question I receive most often is “what made you want to join the Israeli Army?” My answer is different almost every time I give it. I tell them I wanted to defend the people of Israel, I wanted to challenge myself, I wanted to see the world, to experience something new, to be front row to some of the greatest conflicts of our lifetime, to gain perspective, to help people, to do something important.