(photo credit: REUTERS)
Daniel Harel looks like any normal IDF staff sergeant. But one peek at his identification papers shows he’s a tad different from his fellow soldiers, as they list his place of birth as Jordan.
Harel, who serves in the Golani Reconnaissance Unit, was born in the Hashemite Kingdom where his father, Israeli Ambassador to Paraguay Zeev Harel, was stationed from 1995 to 1997.
A year after Israel and Jordan signed their historic peace treaty, and a year-and-a-half after he was sent to Jordan to help open an embassy in Amman, Zeev Harel’s wife told him she was pregnant.
“To stay there [in Amman] during the birth was very special. It was a symbol of peace that an Israeli was born in Jordan,” the Paraguayan ambassador said during an interview at his residence in the capital of Asunción in November.
“During this time there was peace between the two countries. But I was scared,” he admitted. “To open an embassy is very hard... especially in a country which not long before was an enemy.”
King Hussein of Jordan awarded the family a medal to mark Daniel’s birth as “a sign of peace; the whole event symbolized peace,” according to Harel, and the family still treasures the medal.
“We thought the peace with Jordan would be different than the peace with Egypt. We really wanted it to be warm peace, that there would be good relations,” Harel said. He added that while “there were good relations... under the surface – and it remains so today – the people weren’t happy with us. But it is better to have cold peace than no peace at all.”
Jordan is, along with Egypt, only one of two Arab countries to have signed a formal peace treaty with Israel, which it did in 1994. But relations between the neighbors took a nosedive in July, after an Israeli security guard at the Israel Embassy in Amman shot and killed two Jordanians in the ambassador’s residence.
Following the incident, and after Jerusalem brought Ambassador Einat Schlein and the entire embassy staff back to Israel, Jordan demanded that Jerusalem turn over the security officer for interrogation. Israel has refused, and Jordan has refused to allow Israel’s ambassador to return to the country.
Meanwhile, St.-Sgt. Daniel Harel has not been back to his country of birth and, with relations between Jerusalem and Amman at an all-time low, he doesn’t see a visit in the near future.
“Maybe I will travel there, but who knows,” he said.
While his father worked for the Foreign Ministry, the younger Harel lived in Jordan, Mexico and New York. He told The Jerusalem Post
that skills he acquired during all those moves have only helped him.
And while he spent most of his life abroad, it was always clear to Daniel that he would serve in an Israeli Army combat unit. He told the Post that his place of birth has not had any direct effect on his service and he doubts it will.
“I love this country and I wanted to serve,” St.-Sgt. Harel said.
“My father was a paratrooper, a platoon commander,” he said, adding that he trained very hard in order to get into Golani’s elite reconnaissance unit. “Easy isn’t my style, and I heard this was the one of toughest brigades. I was recruited and after a test for the special unit alongside some 500 people, I was chosen.”
Recent IDF data have pointed to a decline in motivation among new recruits to serve in combat roles. Those numbers are expected to continue dropping as recruits choose instead to serve in the Border Police, Air Defense and Home Front commands.
“I don’t understand why people don’t want to join combat units,” Daniel Harel said. “Whoever doesn’t recruit to a combat unit is missing out. You get life-long friends, you discover and learn new things about yourself, you get more self-confidence.”
While St.-Sgt. Harel has several times been offered to become an officer and career soldier, he sees himself following in his father’s footsteps and working for the Foreign Ministry.
“I don’t see any other type of job that suits me,” he said. “I will serve this country my entire life.”