I've wanted to tell you about my military service for a while now, but I never knew exactly what I want to say. However, since foreign media take a very negative, false approach towards the IDF, and more and more false accusations pop up every day, I feel I can't wait any longer and will tell you what the IDF is really like through my personal story.
(This is the second part of this story. Read the first part here.)
As you all probably know, we all must recruit when we graduate high-school ( There are no colleges in Israel, and we each start higher education studies in universities when we finish our service.) Of course there are exceptions, and people with certain physical and mental issues are being released from their service. Same goes for religious people who choose not to serve (an issue I've spoken against many times before). Those who do recruit, serve a mandatory service for two or three years. Usually girls serve two and guys three, but girls in combat or other special units also serve for three years. Once you are done with your mandatory service, you usually have the option to stay and serve extra time, either by going to officers' training course or by staying in your position (and maybe advance later on) without becoming an officer.
In the 11th grade, we go through a special "screening day" in the IDF's recruitment center. During this day we go through physical and mental tests and also answer questions in math and language. This day is meant for the army to try and find the recommended course for each one. After that, most people go through more tests and interviews for several courses and parts in the next year or two. Some parts are unique and require special skills, some are not, but all parts are important. As they told us on the first day of boot camp: take out the smallest screw and the whole building collapses.
I was lucky to get the part I got, and was blessed with new skills and amazing environment. I think that what I loved the most about what I did and the place I served in was that my opinion always mattered. My commander listened to what I said and took my notes seriously. This made me feel I was there for a reason, and that even the lowest-ranked soldier can contribute to an important process. This is not something to be taken for granted, and definitely not something that comes to mind when you hear the word "military." Some of my friends did experience the military you have in your mind, but I wasn't the only one who had a slightly different experience. I had a friend who experienced the "other side" while serving as a commander. Another served on the national radio station broadcast by soldiers and officers. I also had a friend who was a photographer for the IDF's spokesperson and another was a singer in one of the IDF's singing groups in charge of the soldiers' morale. There is a variety of roles in the IDF. You can be a scientist or a secretary or an investigator of small crimes committed by soldiers. And I believe that in spite of the perception some have of the service as a punishment, it can contribute a large part to one's resume', and reveal new skills and interests. Some even make a career out of their unique service. But the one thing that relies to all of us- is how our IDF service made us much more mature and responsible, even later on in our lives.
Another thing I can tell you about the IDF is that some services are life-changing. Mine, as great as it was, wasn't quite life- changing. But a friend of mine surely had a service as such. She was a bit shy in school, didn't have much confidence and always came in last in Physical Ed classes. Then, in her recruitment note she received a message that took her by surprise: she is going to become a commander for rookies in boot-camp. After six months of rough training, she served away from home, and for two years, became a role model for young, fresh soldiers. She became a confident person, who is not afraid to say what's on her mind, and is willing to raise her voice when needed. But most importantly, she touched lives like she never imagined before, and even now, two years later, people turn to her on the street and say: "you were my commander in boot-camp. Thank you for what you did for me." What started as a nightmare of a service for her, turned into something she'll never forget and as I am certain, will open doors for her in the future.
I hope I managed to show not everything about the IDF is fighting, and nothing is haunting down the weak. I know you might feel a bit confused, because of the contradiction of the information I just gave you and what you see on the news. But I do hope you take some of this with you, and remember it the next time you or one of your friends are about to jump to a conclusion. I wrote here everything I could think of regarding my IDF experience, but probably missed a lot.
You are more than welcome to ask me anything, here, via E-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on Israelife's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/jewishjournalisraelife
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