As mentioned in previous posts, my son was blocked from serving in combat, where the dynamic and the attitudes are different than in non-combat units.
If you're English-speaking, you probably hear almost entirely about the experience of combat units in the IDF.
However, that is not the majority of the IDF—far from it.
My son's experiences paint another part of the picture...
"Are You Retarded?"
- “Are you stupid?”
- “Are you some kind of idiot?”
- “Are you retarded?”
- “Are you crazy?”
The above inquiries were then followed by one of the following:
- “What are you doing HERE?”
- “Why on earth did you join the army?”
- “Why didn’t you just go to America instead of enlisting? Are you retarded?”
- “I never would’ve enlisted if I had American citizenship. I’d have gone straight to America. What were you thinking?”
I mean, he got this ALL THE TIME.
What Happened to "The Hope of 2000 Years"?
Can you imagine an American soldier being told by his fellow soldiers, “You have Canadian citizenship? Are you stupid—what are you doing in the Marines? You could be in Ontario!”
Okay, it’s not really the same because the US military is volunteer while the IDF is mandatory.
But my point is the sheer disloyalty of such a statement. Not to mention the appalling lack of morale it implies.
And this might sound naive, but I asked my son if a soldier could get court-martialed for saying such traitorous things, like insulting a fellow soldier for enlisting & even encouraging a fellow soldier to leave the country altogether. Especially since Israel isn't Canada and not located in Candy Land. We have a serious security situation both within our borders and outside our borders. Considering Israel's reality, it just sounds traitorous.
Furthermore, this attitude displays a shocking lack of Zionist principle.
Why are your fellow soldiers in the ISRAELI army telling you to leave the great Zionist enterprise and make your fortunes in another country?
Why does your display of Zionism and patriotism cause your fellow soldiers and citizens to question your intelligence and sanity?
Isn’t this what you’re supposed to do—enlist in the IDF? Live in Medinat Yisrael?
My Moroccan-born Israeli-bred husband also found it hard to believe.
“I think it’s the kind of people he’s serving with,” said my husband. “These people are a certain type.”
My husband is right to an extent. These kinds of comments are heard far less within combat units. (Although a boy serving in tzanchanim/paratroopers heard these comments, but only infrequently. I think that might be because tzanchanim attract a different type of combat soldier than, say, Golani.)
And while IDF recruits cannot decide what position they receive, they can state a preference.
Many of the people serving in non-essential jobnik positions are Left-leaning or just not particularly idealistic and wish to finish up their service in the least demanding way. Others just feel they have better things to do.
For example, one of the shavua-shavua guys came from a wealthy family and showed up to base in his Audi. During his off-base week, he attended law school. During his copious free time on the base, he studied his textbooks to keep up with his classes.
But I think it’s also generational, which is why my husband and I found it so shocking. I don’t think most young Israelis held that attitude when we were that age.
In other words, I think this is a new thing.
The Israeli iGen. (Or Generation Z.)
Still the Oddball...
Furthermore, he found that he could use this attitude to his advantage.
When a new commanding officer tried to intimidate my son, my son bellowed something like, “WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? I DON'T NEED TO TAKE THIS KIND OF GARBAGE FROM YOU BUNCH OF LOSERS! I’VE GOT AMERICAN CITIZENSHIP—I DON’T EVEN NEED TO BE HERE! GO AHEAD AND DO WHATEVER YOU WANT—I CAN JUST GO TO AMERICA ANY TIME I WANT!”
“Wow,” said the commanding officer. “Really? You’ve got American citizenship?” He mulled that over, then added, “So what are you doing here? Why’d you enlist? Are you retarded or something?”
(Just for knowing, my son wasn't out of control when he bellowed like that. He pinned the officer as a bully to whom, if you show a good offense, backs down right away. Case in point: The officer responded non-aggressively and my son was not disciplined for insubordination.)
What I think clinched it for my son was a combination of 2 incidents:
Not the Pilot & the Career Officer Too!
“Really?” said the pilot, who sported a kippah & tzitzit. “So what are you doing HERE?”
“You’re religious and a pilot, and you say that?” said my son. (Air force pilots are considered very prestigious in Israel. And the truth is, being an IAF pilot takes tremendous dedication and other important qualities.)
The pilot said, “You know, I’m doing this because I figure that if I have to serve my country, then I might as well go all the way—you know?” Then he shook his head. “But if I had American citizenship? I don’t think I’d stay here. American citizenship is a real opportunity that I don’t think I could pass up.”
I’m assuming that most IAF (Israeli Air Force) pilots don’t feel this way, but it’s interesting that this one did, and a religious one at that.
At one base, my son was interacting with a high-ranking officer who’d made a career out of the IDF. He served on a permanent lifelong basis.
But when he discovered my son had US citizenship, he grew pensive.
Finally, he said, “You know, if I’m here anyway and I don’t have any other choice, I decided to make the army my life. But if I had the chance to leave it all and make it in America like you?” He shook his head. “I don’t think I would be here. I don’t think I would’ve enlisted like you did. I don't think I would be here at all.”
Am I the only one who finds this absolutely bizarre? I mean, a high-ranking career officer? Really?
Ah, So NOW He's a Smart Boy!
So after a very short stint in the IDF’s Keleh 6 prison up North (a story for another post) and a bit of confrontation with a commanding officer, my son was discharged.
“I’m going to America,” he informed me. “There’s no future here."
Once officially discharged, his phone didn’t stop ringing. Israeli businesses located in the US track down discharged soldiers to offer them jobs in the US.
Because my son has US citizenship, he was especially in demand because an American citizen is much easier for them to hire (no wrangling work visas and other bureaucratic legalities).
Gratified, he enjoyed their pursuit. "I'll be probably be in Texas by the end of the month," he gloated.
(Baruch Hashem, that was over a year ago and he’s still here with a job he enjoys. Ha!)
A few months after his discharge, he attended the wedding of one of the guys he’d served with.
It’s a cute story because this guy entered the army secular. But because of Chabad, he finished it frum. Another girl with whom this guy had gone to school since kindergarten also did teshuvah, and they re-connected and got engaged.
So the wedding consisted of all their old classmates, who were still secular and clearly remembered all the silly things these two had done since kindergarten. Plus, their secular army buddies.
But it was an enjoyable wedding nonetheless and a lovely Kiddush Hashem.
Anyway, my son ran into quite a lot of people he’d served with and they all told him the same thing: “You got yourself discharged early? Good for you! I wish I’d had the guts to do that! You’re so smart!”
If you've read the other 2 posts, you'll understand how incredibly ironic this conclusion is.