When I told my family my wife and I were planning on going on Shlichut, at first they were mad. How can I leave for a year they asked in an agitated tone, how can I tear the family apart? My family, needless to say, is a close family who enjoys every moment together. After their anger subsided and the true emotion of longing was expressed, they only wanted to know the answer to the simple question of why?

My family made aliyah to Israel when I was a young boy. I don’t really remember anything at all from America, all that I have left is my English which my sister insisted that we speak at home.

In operation “Tzuk Eytan”, Protective edge, I led my troops in to Gaza and came out nine days later a different person. We returned to the preparation areas across the border in to Israel and were stunned. While we were busy in Gaza, Am Yisrael, the nation of Israel, was busy outside. We were showered with incredible love from all four corners of our country and all four corners of the earth. The Nation was united. I remember thinking if we would just have united earlier we would not have needed this enemy to remind us that as a nation we are one. We received gifts, goodies, Ice pops, iPhones everything we could imagine, it all just came pouring in. Gifts from the FIDF, presents from random Jews around the world, and it just didn’t stop. This huge hug, this shower of love, left a mark on my heart. People who did not even know me were giving me presents, free showers, warm meals, hugs, kisses, why? All because we are all part of one small nation.

I decided that I want to dedicate my life to the unity of this great nation. Because when we are united no enemy can stand against us, and on a deeper level, no enemy will need to rise against us in order to remind us that we are one.

I thought a lot about how I can be a part of this great ideal that I set my sight to. Then I remembered something that happened to me a year before Gaza. In my officer’s training course I remember one night during a grueling week of navigating, my cousin in America messages me to say hi. He asks me what I am up to, so I tell him I am learning the map by heart in order to be sent out alone in the middle of the night, to walk 30 km, to climb up mountains and find randomly designated points, only to do it again the next day and the day after. He nonchalantly answered: “cool, I am at the pizza store with my girlfriend.” I hiked with his message ringing through my head all night. I was slapped in the face for a moment when I realized how big this ocean that divides the Jewish nation, Am Yisrael.

This chasm that separates us is huge, and it is only getting bigger with time. I immediately understood my place to contribute. My part in unifying Am Yisrael will start with connecting to the Jews abroad. We will take a “gap year” (as the year in Israel after high school is called) in order to close and bridge the gap. There is a whole huge part of my nation who I am not in touch with, who know little about Israel and Israelis. We decided as soon as my wife finished her five years of service as an intelligence officer, to sign up through the Jewish Agency to the Shlichut program.

Am Yisrael, the Jewish nation, for too long has been divided only to unite in times of need. Why Shlichut? Because if we can be united as one, starting with knowing each other, accepting each other, then finally loving each other, maybe then we will take one step forward to healing this fractured world as a “Kingdom of Priests and a Holy nation”.