'I came back because I promised I would'

NY intern leaves job to fight in Lebanon.

"I promised my friends in my army unit that if anything ever happened, I'd come running back," said Avi, who made aliya five years ago but returned to America last year to complete his MBA at a New York university. When he made that promise a couple of years ago, he did not expect a situation to arise in which he would have to keep his word. Avi was interning at an investment banking firm in New York for the summer when he received notice that his artillery unit had been called up for reserve duty. "My friends from the unit contacted me in the States to inform me what happened," he said. "They told me it was time for me to keep my promise that I had made to them." "I came because it important and because it is what I believe in," Avi said, despite his hesitation at leaving his job. Avi took the first flight back he could, went to his cousin's house briefly to change and reported immediately to his unit. He has been stationed in the North for a week, and he hoped he was not there for too much longer. "The conditions are kind of difficult, let's just say we are very in touch with Mother Nature," he said. "The only way for us to shower is by pouring jerricans of water over our heads." When asked about the overall atmosphere among the soldiers, Avi responded that "of course there are moments of extreme seriousness when there are mortars and rockets being shot above us, but at the same time we are trying to keep busy." He admitted to giving latenight English lessons to help the time pass and keep his fellow soldiers entertained. Being called up for reserve duty was not part Raffi Poch's summer plans either. Poch, 24, and a fifth-year student at Bar-Ilan University made aliya four years ago, and served in Mahal for nine months with his yeshiva, Sha'alvim. When his phone rang on Saturday night notifying him to report to his base on Monday morning, he was in shock. "Honestly, I was very surprised. I didn't think they would call us because we weren't connected at all to the Northern Command," he said. He admitted that he was nervous, especially since his unit was told it would be traveling north shortly. When asked if he knew how long the service would be, he said his officers told them to prepare for about a month of service, depending on various factors. "We are all a little bit on edge, but at the same time there is a lot of joking around on the base. We are trying to have a good time despite the situation," Poch noted. Poch said reserve duty is always a culture shock to him, being that there are many types of people with varying religious beliefs. He is disappointed because he will be missing a trip to Greece where he was to be involved in a research project. Nonetheless, he understands the importance of his duty and will serve proudly.