When I moved to Israel in 2002 at 17 years old, I knew that I would be drafted in to the Israeli military (IDF). At the time I was very proud of this and even looked forward to my service. I had always been taught that the IDF and its mission of protecting Israel was a holy mission and that it was an honor to join. While all Israeli men must serve for 3 years, I had the option to cut that service down to 2 years and change, but I wanted to go for 3 years because that would make everyone so proud of me. And everyone was so proud of me. When people I knew from America would visit, everyone was so impressed that I was a soldier serving in the IDF. People wanted to take their picture with me and ask me all sorts of questions. Back in the US, my parents friends would always ask about me and tell my parents how proud they must be of my service. Younger guys from my community in NJ would tell me how when they became 18 they wanted to join the IDF just like I did. I was so happy that everyone was so proud of me.
But my time in the IDF was one of the hardest of my life. I had commanders that would take advantage of my motivation and idealism and have me do work that they knew had they ordered an Israeli to do, they would refuse. I was a foreigner and did not know how to work the system like the Israelis. I found myself doing more bathroom cleaning duties and guard duty than my friends. My already low pay was cut because all sorts of "technical" reasons. My time in the IDF was very depressing and full of disillusion.
In the summer of 2006, Israel went to war with Hezbollah forces in Lebanon. My unit happened to be close to the border when the war started doing maneuvers and we were immediately re positioned to take part. This was an extremely scary time for me. At random hours of the day missiles would rain down on me and my friends. There was no bomb shelter and more often than not, not even an armored vehicle near by to take cover in. You just had to hope the missiles wouldn't hit you.
At one point, my commander asked for a volunteer to go into Lebanon. Why a volunteer? Because the vehicle to be used to enter enemy territory was not armored and the standing order was that all vehicles crossing the border must be armored. I immediately volunteered. This was extremely scary but I already had a number of friends that had been killed and this seemed like the right thing to do. I thought that if I would come back alive, everyone would be so proud of me.
Today, there is a lot of talk about the possibility of a war with Iran. Once again, missiles would rain down and I (and millions of other Israeli citizens) would have to face that fear again. To be very honest, I don't think I could do it again. Back in 2006, the idea of sacrificing my life for Israel was something I could except, but not any more. Had I died back in 2006, would that have done anything for Israel? No. Would this country be in a better a place than it is now? No. Would it be any safer? No. What did my friends deaths contribute or change? Nothing.
At one point I thought my new fear of death is because I no longer believe in an afterlife. But that is not the reason. And to be honest, I always believed a lot more in Hell than I ever did in Heaven (I will probably write a post about that at some point). If I really think about what scares me now that didn't exist 6 years ago, it is my plans for my future. This is the first time in my life when I am working towards and dreaming of a future that I believe I could be happy in. My old "dream" of finding a woman to marry and having kids was not so hard to sacrifice. But now, finally at 27 years old, I am on a path that will make ME happy and ME proud, as apposed to family, teachers, community etc. Back than, my life and future had very little meaning to me. But now that it does have meaning, why should I have to throw it away?