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Joining the IDF

Joining the IDF

What's an American teenager like me doing signing up to the Israel army?


I'm on the bus looking out the window, passing miles and miles of desert sand. I have been in Israel for a little over nine months and I recently decided to join the few and proud and go to the Israeli army. My decision to join the army was not particularly hard (I've always wanted an M-16), but the choice of the Israeli army over the American was one that had me -– a 19-year-old American from Los Angeles studying in Israel -- thinking and debating for months.

I think the army is especially smart for many teenagers of my generation. Besides getting into shape (better than signing up to a gym and never going), I think the discipline and self control that you learn in the army is something that cannot be duplicated anywhere else. Before heading off to college, especially in today's campus environment, the more self control I have, the more likely I'll survive it with my values intact.

"But why the Israeli army? Aren't you American?" I have asked myself that question many times. I have always wanted to go to the American army; my entire life I have felt a sense of patriotism to America. It has hosted the Jews for so many years and has treated us with respect. I always thought that I should give a little back.

So I asked myself the famous question, "Am I an American Jew, or a Jewish American? Which comes first?"

I realized that my family has been Jewish a lot longer than they have been American (especially my mom, she's Canadian). My true patriotism should lie in my home country, and looking back far enough, that's Israel. It's my home and it's the home of all the Jews.

That doesn't mean I don't appreciate America and everything the country has done for us. I still love the U.S. with all my heart. But I feel that I should first give to the people that I share a connection with for thousands of years, all the way back to Abraham -- a connection that no other religion or country could ever dream about replicating.

Everyone feels connected to Gilad because he's a member of the larger family.

I am not saying everyone should pack their bags and make aliya, (in fact, after the army I'm planning on going back to Los Angeles), but I do think everyone should do whatever is in their power to help Israel and the people who live there. Because when it comes down to it, they are your real family, and they need us.

Gilad Shalit is a case in point. His kidnapping has struck a chord deep inside me and every Israeli. Everyone feels connected to him because he's a member of the larger family. If, God forbid, it were my brother who was kidnapped, could my life just go on as normal? Well in Israel, Gilad IS everyone's brother. And in the Jewish world at large, he should be everyone's brother too.

There are small ways to help. Instead of your normal Neiman Marcus jewelry, try to find some Israeli artist who can use your help. Give a dollar or two to the different charities that come collecting at your door for Israel. Feel connected to the people here; view them as an extension of your family. That means caring about their welfare and praying for them – especially Gilad and all the soldiers presently in Gaza.

And there are big ways. If you want to enroll in the army, come on over and join me; I'll help you get settled in. And we'll fight the fight for Israel and the Jewish people together.


July 8, 2006

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Visitor Comments: 42

(42) Joshua, August 18, 2017 3:53 AM

Too old to join idf what else can i do for Israel

I want to fight for God's people but im 37yo to old for the idf is there another way to help make a difference

(41) Joseph, August 14, 2013 1:18 PM

A soldier is a professional

In choosing a profession you often hear a person say: I would like to be a physician but can't stand blood, I would like to be a policeman but I would be afraid of dark hallways etc. Notice those who went into military service thought about it. Not everyone can be a soldier It is a true profession. That is why I oppose a drafted Army. The writers above clearly could. May they be safe.

(40) Anonymous, January 27, 2012 10:29 PM

amazing words.

amazing and moving. as a 25 year old in norcal, I'm going through all of this right now. I just want to get to Israel. I'm too old to volunteer as an American, but once I am a citizen it should be okay.. If you know a way I can get assistance to go asap, i would love to know..

(39) Andrew Roe, October 19, 2011 4:47 PM

Joining the IDF

Hey I am a twenty year old Jewish male convert, I am hoping to go to Israel on a birthright trip this winter, I have been looking into the US. Airforce for some years now and also other branches of the US. Military but recently i have been talking with my brother more about Israel, and what the IDF stands for, and I am thinking that when I go on this trip I am going to try and join the IDF while I am over there. I believe that Though I am converted to Judaism that Jews are as much my family as the rest of my family and I owe Israel far more than I could ever express. I was wondering if anyone had any advice for me or pointers before I arrive in Israel??

(38) BrookeSarah, August 20, 2011 9:29 AM

American or Israeli Army

I am currently having a similar issue to the one you wrote of here. I am an eighteen year old Jewish girl who has been planning on joining the U.S Army for the past two years. I know a lot about the U.S Army and have done so much research. Whoever, I feel a very strong love for Israel and am now having a slight identity crisis because I can't decide whats right for me. I am proud of my Jewish religion and culture, but am not currently fluent in Hebrew though I am trying to learn it. I would love to make Aliyah and fight for the Jewish State. I'm afraid by the time I finished college in the U.S that I would be too old to serve in the IDF, I'd be about 23 or 24. I feel that I connect more strongly with the Zionist beliefs of Israeli Jews than the beliefs of American Jews who seem to be against the Israeli government. I am not sure what to do anymore.

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