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A call to action for Israeli-Americans
By NATAN HAROSH
04/12/2013
I’ll still most likely donate some money because it does matter, but I want to do more: I want to be there.
 
I am an American-Israeli citizen. This is a fact I’m very proud of, and I love my heritage and the culture that goes with it. My father’s family lives in Israel and I visit often, almost every year.

Whenever I’m there I see soldiers everywhere, and I’ve heard my father’s stories and talked to my family about their service.

As I got older I started going to Israel by myself and started to make friends my own age, and as we got older I started to get ready for college, while they got ready to enter the military.

The draft in Israel is a very big deal and surrounds the politics there. I’ve talked to friends about their thoughts on entering the IDF and most look forward to it; they see it as an honor to serve their country. As an Israeli-American I’ve thought about taking time off from college and going over to serve to do my part to help the country I love. To give support to my friends and family as well as protect my family and fellow Israeli citizens not in the IDF.

I first had this thought after doing a study-abroad trip my senior year of high school on a two-month program. That was when I heard all of my Israeli friends talking about what units they wanted to get into, whereas the Americans on my trip were talking about what colleges they wanted to get into. It’s such a different lifestyle as a teenager in Israel.

This sparked the interest of myself and a few of my American friends on the trip, so we talked to our group councilor about the IDF and he taught us about specific units that we might want to get into, as well as the various support units.

I brought this up with my parents and my dad was happy for me either way, whether I went to college or to the IDF he would be proud, he said. My mom was against me going to the army because she didn’t want me in danger. She also knew that if I didn’t go to college right away I most likely wouldn’t go at all; I’d probably end up staying in Israel or Europe for a while and then just working at home.

In Israel they have a rule that if you’re an only child or if an immediate family member has been killed in the IDF your parents have a say in what units you can be in. My parents wouldn’t have allowed me to be in a combat unit and I didn’t really know many support units so I decided to go to school first.

People also say that there is enough people there being drafted that I didn’t need to volunteer. This may be true, but my feeling is they can always use extra people. Another way I could personally be there to contribute would be volunteering with Magen David Adom. I have a couple friends who have done this and they love it.

I wouldn’t be in any immediate danger and I would still be able to live in Israel and help directly. I have a friend who recently did this and he loved it. He posts stories every now and then and it sounds like something only certain people would be able to do (you go through EMS training and Advanced First Responder training).

What you do is volunteer with ambulance personnel and take shifts driving through the cities helping with medical emergencies. If you don’t like blood or the stress would be too much you could volunteer with people who go around and rebuild buildings that have been destroyed in attacks.

These aren’t necessarily with organizations but just a community going to cities with high attack rates and helping fix it. If you want to be in the IDF but don’t want to be in a unit that could be deployed, you could become a “jobnik.”

These are the people who have desk jobs or are military musicians (they go around raising money for the military by doing concerts or play for the soldiers for entertainment). All of these are good alternatives to an infantry path in the IDF, while still being in Israel and making a difference with your own two hands.

I might do one of these, or I might do all three if the opportunity arises, but if you can’t make that kind of commitment donation is always a good choice as well – they wouldn’t be able to any of these things without financial support.

Jewish organizations ask for donations for Magen David Adom or for IDF and I could always do that. It isn’t the same though for me – I’m still helping Israel, but I want it to be more personal than just signing a check. I want to put my all into it if I do.

I’ll still most likely donate some money because it does matter, but I want to do more: I want to be there.

A few of my friends have done either a volunteer program or joined the IDF for some period of time, and I know more non-Israeli-Americans who have done this, and to me that doesn’t make sense.

All Jews should love Israel, it’s a safe haven to be with other Jews, but Israeli- Americans who know their heritage and who have family there should be even more drawn to the idea. I feel like we have a duty to help in any way possible.

If you don’t feel comfortable moving to Israel donate money, if you can manage to take a few months off of school or work, volunteer for an organization.

There is so much that needs to be done there and the American-Israeli community can help greatly.

The author is an Israeli-American citizen and Conservative Jew, he is in college at the University of Tampa currently studying biology.
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