...My question to you is, first, whether some of your goals have been met so far, and second, if you logically see your other goals being fulfilled in the future. I know these are very loaded questions, and I understand that you have very limited time these days, so don't worry if it takes you a while to respond. Basically, I'm asking the impressions of your first half-year of the army, and any advice that goes with it...
Excerpt from a letter I received several weeks ago
Two months ago, when the stage of training I have just completed was only getting under way, my ma"k (the squad commander who is a soldier's direct superior) asked me in a scheduled discussion about my goals. For someone who finds himself in uniform largely for overarching ideological/personal reasons, I was surprised to find that I did not have a neat list of goals to share with him. What I do have, and what I told him, were about the themes that drew me to this land and compelled me to enlist.
When I sketched out my decision to make aliyah last summer, the words I shared drew upon these same themes. I spoke of wanting to live and serve in Israel in order to tap into my emotional connection to the land, of wanting to contribute to building the Jewish vehicle of social change, that at times benighted communal project known as the Jewish state of Israel. I sought a way of life whose unfamiliar challenges and communal focus would provide me with a renewed personal drive while likewise integrating me into what loomed as a foreign language and culture. Such were my themes, the stars and stripes that have led me to my current training as a commando in the Israeli Air Force.
Most of my fellow volunteer soldiers from overseas enlisted with similar goals. I am convinced that our personalities, more than where we drafted and what we have seen in uniform, would largely inform whether our goals have been fulfilled. Optimist that I am, I see myself as having made headway on all of my goals. My connection to the land and people has deepened and become ever more informed and appreciative. I remain convinced that my service is contributing towards transforming Israel for the better, both in the impact it has on me and the largely symbolic impression it has on society at large. My Hebrew remains a work in progress yet my comfort level in arid deserts and urban dens across Israel is far better than what I could have imagined a year ago.
And what has happened to a renewed drive, the purity of purpose I proposed I would rekindle through aliyah and enlistment? What I have found, must be said, is a new passion within the narrow confines of a soldier's life. A drive to excel in drills and relax on weekends, to burrow ever deeper into the growing abyss that is military life. I have not forgotten that the purpose I sought was tied to loftier goals, ideals I wished to pursue that would make more of an impact than the thud of a bullet into a sodden cardboard target. The hope is that the finely tuned focus I am developing in the army will remain with me, blossoming in more fruitful directions for the day when I can set my uniform aside.
The short answer to the questions I received would be as follows. I remain motivated and on track of my goals within the admittedly pedestrian reality that is life as an Israeli soldier. I have seen enough peers who may answer otherwise, however, to caution that enlisting is not the best solution for every young (male) Zionist. Soak up stories, ask more questions, and of course keep coming back to check out whatever I can share in this space.
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