Realization of a destiny

"Part of the reason I wanted to join the army is because I know I have a lot to contribute and I know that I can do this."

Avi Nudkis 521 (photo credit: courtesy)
Avi Nudkis 521
(photo credit: courtesy)
‘When I went to sign up for the army, I told them, ‘Who cares how old I am? I can still do the job,’’ says Avi Nudkis, who was well past draft age, even for new immigrants, when he signed up last year. “I told them that I have lots of life experience in all different areas. I have qualifications in computers, as a paramedic, a lifeguard and I have done many things in my life.”
For Nudkis, the inspiration to leave his family in Chicago and join the IDF came after learning about his greatgrandfather’s contribution to the British army’s Jewish unit, the Royal Fusiliers, in 1919.
“Even though he did not talk much about his experiences, his story is something that has always stayed with me,” he explains, adding that he has visited Israel many times with his family but it was only when he came on a 2008 Birthright trip that he reconnected with the country and realized that his destiny could be here.
“I decided at that point that it would never get any easier for me to come here, and when I went back to the US I started making plans to come back here again,” says Nudkis, who made aliya in the summer of 2009.
“I went straight to the army in September to sign up, but they told me I was too old,” he recalls, describing how he insisted that he be allowed to volunteer. “I was 26 years old and I had a very low medical profile because of my age, but I appealed and challenged the profile score. I managed to improve it and they agreed to draft me for six months.
“Right now I am waiting to be assigned to a unit, but I hope to go to the paratroopers and serve properly,” says Nudkis, who was interviewed on the evening before joining that unit for a special exercise. “I have been waiting so long to do this and finally I’m getting to do what I came for. When I got my uniform I can’t describe the feeling, it was such a wonderful and awesome feeling.”
Asked whether he is worried that joining a combat unit could be dangerous, Nudkis answers: “Part of the reason I wanted to join the army is because I know I have a lot to contribute and I know that I can do this. I am very well equipped to deal with the stresses and if I am able to, I should just do it.
“How can I expect soldiers in Israel to protect this country and put themselves in the line of fire if I am not willing to do it myself? I see it as my duty to join the ranks and protect the Jewish people too.”