Message from Israel – from Naff
It’s about time I wrote something….
My name is Naff. I made aliyah what seems like a lifetime ago, but really was in July 2014. This is the first time I’m actually writing, so please bear with me.
Those who know me know that I am drafting to the IDF in about four months. If you asked my friends they would say I’m excited… but I’ll tell you that it’s a real mix of feelings – the feeling of I just want to get my army service over with, the feeling of wanting more free time, the feeling of pride and patriotism. But what draftees won’t tell you is that the hardest feeling of all is the fear of what will happen in the next three years. The “will I get the unit I want?” , the times it’s hard to sleep and you wonder “what happens if I don’t make it to the the end of my service?” In a lot of ways I am dreading it like the first day at a new school – Will I make friends? Will people like me? Will I be with good guys? It’s hard to actually admit it but I am scared, literally scared, not knowing what comes next.
This is why I think the best decision I ever made was to go to Mechina (Go Keshet!!!) for the year before I draft. When I made aliyah it was during Operation Protective Edge. I had been in the country for literally two hours and experienced my first Azakah (Code Red) and got out of the car to see and feel the missiles being taken out by the Iron Dome. That second I realized that this is actually real, it’s not just on the news anymore, this is now my life.
That first month in Israel I saw war and real life collide., You’d think if your country was at war it wouldn’t feel normal. And that made me sad that war was normal. Then I started Mechina and that was a shock to the system. Living with Israelis for the first time was interesting especially when my Hebrew was so bad.
As I was was occupied with all the new things in my life the war never really left my mind. It sort of went on the back burner. Then the war was over, everyone was so happy and sad at the same time. Happy for the end but sad for our losses. Life went back to normal. Then my rabbi came in and told us that a soldier from a moshav down the road died from his injuries sustained in the fighting in Gaza and there was a bus to the funeral for those who wanted to pay their respects to a hero. I got on the bus not really knowing what to expect. I’ll tell you I’ve never cried for someone I didn’t know but I cried for Sergeant Shalev Sachar. Hearing his father talk, not really understanding his words because my Hebrew was still so basic, but the emotion in his voice was so strong, seeing his brother cry uncontrollably, his sister being held up and crying. But his mother shocked me. She stood there, not crying, talking about her son, almost calm, not blaming the army nor cursing the enemy, rather saying how her son loved his country, how everyone loved him and he will be missed by everyone he ever knew. This experience was eye opening. I suddenly realized that real people die. Not just names and numbers in the paper or smiling faces on TV but actual people like me and my buddies. Every time I feel like making aliyah was a mistake or this program is too hard I go back to the feeling I had that day – not the anger nor the sadness but the unity of the nation, seeing the religious and non-religious holding each other and crying their eyes out.
It’s been a crazy eight months making friendships that will last a lifetime. I’ve never been happier. I’ve never been more sure that what I’m doing is the right thing – no matter how hard it is it’s right. Getting ready for the army physically is the easiest thing – just run a couple of times a week and do some pushups. It’s the spiritual and mental aspects that are tougher. But there is only so much that you can learn in a classroom. I have 4 more months until it’s out of the pan and into the fire. I know that I’ll never be actually ready until it happens.
It helps to know I’m not alone. It’s really comforting to know the actual adults (aka parents) are just a phone call away. My family (even those who aren’t related by blood – yes, you, Benji!!!), the staff at the mechina , Mike and the Lone Soldier Center, and the Israelis who when they hear chayal boded (lone soldier) they say “kol hakavod!! Can I help you? Do you need a place for Shabbat?”
I want to take the opportunity to thank the people who are making the journey with me, whether it was gate crashing at the Lishkat Hagius to get our Tzav Rishon, watching me pick up a unexploded tank round from the ground (in my defence I didn’t know what it was ) or telling me repeatedly the way to say something in Hebrew. The people who put up with me bothering them when I have minor crisis and bringing me back to reality, to dealing with my questions of trying to understand why.
…………that’s it for a while. I’m gonna go see if I can find something to eat….. Thanks Ima for letting me use your blog to post my thoughts.