Immigrant plans to enlist in Israeli army after graduation

Immigrant+plans+to+enlist+in+Israeli+army+after+graduation

Hagar Gov-Ari

A view of the Wailing Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. Photo by Hagar Gov-Ari.
A view of the Wailing Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem
Photo by Hagar Gov-Ari

My parents say I can’t get a tattoo until I am of the age to make sound decisions on such permanent matters.
“You’re just too young to know what you want,” they say.
What I feel they fail to see is that at this age, we are already forced into making huge permanent life decisions. What we do today, tomorrow and the next day will affect the rest of our lives in some way. We go to school; we build up a resume, and we head to the college of our choosing; time to pave the path of the rest of our lives.
What many people, myself included, often fail to see, is this path has already been started. Every decision we make shapes who we are and who we will become. When we were three and decided to share a toy with our annoying brother, or when we were 10 and we spit on our best friend because she called us stupid, and even when we went to that party at 16 instead of studying because our friends were encouraging us; we make decisions every day. We make mistakes every day. It is what we do with these decisions, how we learn from our potential mistakes and the actions we take to pave a more impactful path, that is the huge life decision.
Against my parents’ better judgment,  I decided my next step after graduation is to join the Israeli military.
While I don’t know what my calling is,  I do believe there is much to be said for taking leaps. I strive to be a part of something larger than myself by taking the biggest leap I’ve had to decide on thus far. To serve as a part of a team which hopes to make a change, and to make the most of my abilities to give back to the one thing which I believe plays a huge role in every teen’s life: their familial culture.
Growing up, being an Israeli-Jewish immigrant was a burden. At basketball games when all my teammates would eat McDonald’s during halftime, I would eat pita bread and hummus because McDonalds was “unnecessary.” During the magical holiday seasons in the winter, when all my friends came to school with their new Christmas gifts, I would come back with a fake smile. And when my friends would go out on Friday nights to the movies, I would call and say I can’t make it because I was “stuck at home, welcoming the Sabbath with my family.”

As a spoiled, selfish kid, I never understood what role these “burdens” played in shaping the person I am today, and the person I want to be. Instead of wheels on the bus, I grew up to Shlomo Artzi, an Israeli male vocalist. Instead of Christmas, I’d spend holidays watching my mother slave over the festive Hanukkah meals while humming her favorite holiday tunes. And instead of Saturday football games, I heard my father and brother scream at the television while their hometown soccer team lost yet again.

For the longest time I didn’t make the connection. This culture and place that I resented for the barrier it put between myself and my surroundings made up who I was. Israel is my birthplace. Hebrew is my language, falafel is my food, its my religion, my culture. My relatives never flew in for the holidays; my parents weren’t familiar with American lingo, and I was in a constant struggle, finding the balance between being a real American, and being true to my Israeli roots- the true definition of being an immigrant.

It took me most of my childhood to come to this conclusion.

But once I came to this realization, I began to understand what it was I had been looking for my whole childhood: a  strong connection to both cultures. I grew up in the United States mostly, but I was born Israeli, born Jewish and born into a culture which I find aggressive, different, but mostly one which I identified with.

In Israel this summer, I had the epiphany of my short life. This foreign country, this language, these people—they’re all like me and my parents and their parents before them and before them. They ate the same foods, peed in the same sea and prayed the same prayers. So I realized the only way to maintain and protect what is mine is to enlist in the Israeli military. I want to serve a small part in the preservation of the beautiful country, the ancient language, the unique culture that gave so much to my parents, and especially to me.

While two years could not even begin to repay my country for shaping me into a proud Jewish and identity-certain high schooler, I hope that the donation of 2 critical years of my youth will in fact make a difference, and make an impact on someone somewhere. The amazing thing about the military is that an individual isn’t the key. It is the unit, the squad, the whole which makes such a prominent impact.

The military in is a part of Israeli adolescents. You grow up preparing for it, hearing stories from parents and older siblings. It has immersed into the Israeli culture. Every 18-year-old knows that they aren’t going directly to college, they all must enlist. But for me, this isn’t a standard stepping stone. While I am an Israeli, I am more so an American. I have the opportunity to go to college after high school like everyone else. But I believe that anyone who has been impacted by a force, small or large in their lives, should do their bidding and return the favor.

Making life’s path meaningful is all one can ask for at 18.

By Hagar Gov-Ari