In The Last Lecture, Professor Randy Pausch talks about achieving one’s childhood dreams and enabling others to achieve their dreams as a method of living a fulfilled life. Thankfully, I too have achieved a lot of my childhood dreams. I moved to Israel, I became a teacher for a short time, I became a journalist, I have two wonderful dogs, I have a beautiful wife and son and I ran a theater for quite some time. All of those were childhood dreams of mine, things that throughout childhood and up until the age of 18 I dreamed of doing. But that is not what I care to write about now. What I choose to write about are things that I dreamed of never doing and how I achieved those.
As a child, I had a very modest collection of actions figures, a collection of cars, some boats, a few very small planes and even a Starship Enterprise. What I didn’t have was a motorcycle. I never really gave much thought to a motorcycle. I identified these vehicles with road warriors and biker gangs. In my child’s mind, I viewed them as unsafe vehicles for unsafe people. While the latter position can certainly be argued the first was right on the money. I never dreamed of having one nor did I ever want one. I placed the concept outside the circle of my reality and outside the circle of things that I would want in my life.
Fast forward to when I was 15 and in a summer program that was located in the Jewish town of Efrat in Judea. Throughout my childhood, I grew up rather right-wing and always understood that Arabs were not necessarily my friends. While I wouldn’t automatically believe that they were my enemy or a danger to my person and I bore no hatred for them individually or as a people, I wouldn’t go out and befriend them on a whim either. My time in Efrat was no different. While I had the opportunity to meet some Arabs, and even some Palestinians on the trip, my interaction with them was limited and I fully believed that I would never become close friends with an Arab or Palestinian.
Fast forward again to when I was 20-years-old and serving in the IDF. As a combat soldier, I pulled a 2-month stint of serving in Samaria in a pocket of Jewish towns near the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm. (It would have been four but I was released halfway through the rotation.) The time that I was serving there was during the height of the Second Intifada in the fall of 2001. During that time there were riots and protests by residents of the city, many of which were violent and numerous border police officers were injured while attempting to subdue these riots. While it was a difficult and tense time to be a soldier, I was happy to have been able to serve my country. What I knew for a fact was that I would never set foot in Umm al-Fahm without the protection of my uniform and fellow soldiers.
So there you have it, three things I never dreamed of, or rather, dreamed of never doing while I was growing up. Now I’m 36 and ironically I live in Efrat. What’s more, within the past short while I have done all of those things. Granted I did not do them on a whim, nor did I do them out of my own desire to make changes in my life. Rather, I did them all because I am a volunteer first responder and work with an amazing organization known as United Hatzalah. This organization’s raison d’etre is to save lives, anybody’s life no matter who they are or where they live. It is because of my association with United Hatzalah that I have been lucky enough to look at these childhood beliefs square in the eye and tell myself, in the words of a truly wonderful James Bond movie, to “Never Say Never Again”.
Living in Efrat, I have responded to emergencies that have involved and seen me treat Palestinians and Arabs, and in some cases, I have even been one of the people responsible for helping to save their lives.
Two weeks ago I received my motorcycle license and submitted my application to the organization to receive one of their life-saving ambucycles so that I may be able to respond to save lives of those in need of medical attention faster.
Over the past few months, I have befriended not only one Arab but many. I call these fellow first responders and life-savers my friends, my brothers and sisters in arms. Last week I had the pleasure to interview a truly wonderful person who is one of our many outstanding Muslim volunteers. Following the interview, she invited me to her home to meet her family and to eat dinner with them. You might not believe it, but she lives in the Arab town of Umm al-Fahm.
Not only did I enter the city without a uniform on, and without any military escort, but I was in the company of someone, who, in spite of our religious differences, thought and felt just like I did, that saving lives supersedes all bounds of religious or ethnic affiliation. What was even more surprising to me is that she, like many others who live there, are staunch supporters of the state of Israel.
So while my childhood self had said “never would I ever,” I am happy to say that my adult self has continually said, “Yes I will.” I intend to continue that line of thinking for many years to come thanks to the eye-opening and unifying experience that I have every single day when I go to work. I am lucky enough to work hand-in-hand with people from all different backgrounds and walks of life who share the same passions and ideals that I do. To my childhood self, I say thank you for inadvertently showing me exactly how I need to expand my own horizons. I hope that many of you readers will do the same as I did and look back and revisit the aspects of your lives when you said “Never will I ever” and challenge yourselves to now say “Perhaps today I will.”