IDF holds surprise drill near Gaza.
(photo credit: IDF)
Many of the people I serve with in the Israel Defense Forces have asked me why I didn’t join the US Army. The answer is that I might have.
I believe my whole preoccupation with problems on a global scale and political issues in general stems from being an 11-year-old boy living in New York on September 11, 2001. It was the perfect age to process and absorb events happening around me, to have questions and no preconceived answers.
When the United States went to war against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan, I was proud.
As a New Yorker I wanted payback.
When the US went to war against Saddam Hussein (allegedly to prevent WMDs from being completed), as an American, I wanted to join the Marines and do my part for America. I was too young, just 14 years old.
My interest in the world made me pay more attention to my place in it. Where I came from and who I am became important subjects for study. After all, how could I come to understand the world if I didn’t understand myself and my place in it? The fact that I am Jewish colored quite a lot of my history, my story.
Eventually, my desire to make the world better came together with my Jewish identity. So I combined my desire to fight terrorism with my belief that it is of vital importance to preserve a democratic Jewish state for the safety of the long persecuted Jewish people.
Some would say that I am displaying the symptoms of “dual loyalty,” the implication being that somehow my ties to defending Israel preclude complete loyalty to the United States of America, and vice versa. This is a damning accusation that touches not only on one’s patriotism but the whole of one’s personal convictions. So the answer, too, will come from a very personal place.
Ever since I joined the IDF, I wanted to delve very deeply into this question. Those who are guilty of prejudice against the Jewish people will point at me as an example of the enemy within the United States. The one whom turns his back on America to fight for another land. They might make me, and those like me, out to be one of those individuals that travel abroad to join radical groups like Islamic State.
But such people see it wrong. It’s true, I served in the armed forces of another country. But this country happens to be the United States’ closest friend in a region full of enemies. In fact, Israel is one of America’s closest allies. I don’t harm American interests, as Islamic State does, I help advance American interests in a very tough region.
I live the War on Terror daily, both on base and at home. It is the same war America is fighting. Our enemies are the same, and our strategic interests are the same as well.
So, in expanding the roots of my heritage I have not in any way burned the ties that bind me to the country that brought my family the peace of liberty, money for my schooling, and the opportunity to be ourselves.
I love being an American.
The freedom and liberties the name entails make it like no other place in the world. I believe they are what makes us quintessentially American. My decision to help the United States’ closest ally in the darkest region of the world was nothing more than an exercise of my beautiful American freedom to contribute to the good of this world in my own way.
In no way have I aided those who would harm the US or its interests, nor have I aided those who would aid such people. The opposite, I’ve done nothing but harm to those who would harm Americans. Israel may be thousands of miles away, but its enemies are the same bastards who hate and do harm to America and to Americans.
I remember watching the Twin Towers fall and I remember watching the Palestinians dance in Gaza and Ramallah and give out candy to children. They celebrated the deaths of 3,000 Americans that day.
Meanwhile, in Israel can be found the only memorial to the World Trade Center outside the US.
Those I risk my life to keep from carrying out their twisted desires to harm civilians are the same type of people I’d be risking my life to stop had I become a US serviceman. If not them, certainly their allies.
And every once in a while troops from the US come to Israel to train with us. They come from all sorts of branches of the military to meet their counterparts in Israel, to learn what we have to teach about the war on terror and to share their own hard-learned lessons. We admire each other.
Yes, I’ve chosen an Israeli military service. But if the US ever institutes a draft, I remain a Brooklyn boy.
The idea that my warm connection to America and Israel is a harmful dual loyalty is like saying my love for both my father and mother is somehow harmful to them. All it means is that I want the best for both of them. And where I see one stumble, there I will go to break the fall.
I am not only a soldier, I am a young man with dreams. Those dreams include ideas to help Americans in their daily life, to give back to the country that raised me, and that I love.The writer is a sergeant in a combat unit in the IDF, originally from Brooklyn, New York.