Though I''ve been in Israel for nearly nine years with kids who have come of age in that time, I have yet to deal with the thrill – and the stress – of a child going into the army. That may be the case, but that is not to say that I am disconnected. Hardly. With my friends’ kids, my kids’ friends, and now my daughter’s boyfriend in the army, the IDF is a very real, very personal part of my life; and most Israelis’, I might add, since army service is compulsory. It is therefore always inspiring when young people choose to make Aliyah at a time in their lives where they automatically obligate themselves to an army they could have easily avoided serving in. The story of one such young man I recently met inspired me to write this article. Hayim Ani grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, the product of a somewhat unconventional upbringing. With his mother running a sheep farm just outside the city, and he being homeschooled along with one of his three sisters for all of high school. Hayim, a guitar player, composer and singer, always dreamed big and lived bigger. While still in his teens, Hayim had already put out two CDs with his band Point Valid. Hayim put his music career on hold to spend his ‘gap year’ in Israel. This turned out to be a turning point in his life.Falling in love with Israel was easy. Making the decision to make Aliyah and enlist in the army might have been difficult for one made of different stuff than Hayim. But he not only took it in stride, he embraced the decision. While everyone told Hayim that as a new Oleh he would never get into an elite unit in the army, Hayim took that as a challenge – and made it his mission to succeed. As they say, ‘mission accomplished.’ Having made Aliyah in 2009, this month Hayim drafted into the army in the elite ‘Sayeret Egoz,’ an elite special-forces unit of the IDF that specializes in guerilla and anti-guerilla warfare among other things. All this may be very impressive, but the reason I chose to write about Hayim is the last thing he chose to do before heading off to his uber-macho duties as a special-forces IDF soldier. Hayim chose to write and record one last song. He even managed to shoot a very impressive music video - all in one night – literally just before going into the army. Most moving about it was his motivation: Hayim was concerned with how IDF soldiers are so often painted in a negative light by the world’s media, and he hoped that he can use this project as a way of showing the world the more human side of the IDF. Whether or not he succeeds in that lofty task, he certainly shows the human side of Hayim Ani.See the video here:
(And if, like me, you are dying to know how in the world they made the video, this blog post by director Micah Smith explains it all: http://shooteast.com/blog/)Laura Ben-David is the author of numerous articles and the book, MOVING UP: An Aliyah Journal, a memoir of her move to Israel. She has done public speaking about Israel and Aliyah all over the United States and Israel. Contact her at email@example.com or follow her tweets at @laurabendavd.