While I was a law student at UC Law San Francisco in California, I converted to both Reform Judaism with Rabbi Herbert Morris and Orthodox Judaism with Rabbi Abner Weiss.
I underwent my bris (ritual circumcision) at Chabad House in Berkeley with rabbi and mohel Chanan Feld. I then moved to Jerusalem to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
When I first go to the IDF enlistment center in Jerusalem, the officer in charge explains to me that I am too old to enlist in the Israeli army. So, I immediately send a letter to then-IDF chief of staff General Shaul Mofaz—asking for his permission to enlist.
After waiting two weeks, I receive a phone call from General Mofaz’s office informing me that I am allowed to serve in the military. Soon, I receive an official tzav giyus (enlistment order).
Over the next month I submit to an array of physical and mental tests at the enlistment center. I undergo a complete physical examination and an HIV test. I undergo a drug screening urinalysis. Then, several psychological experts interview me. This is the most invasive set of interviews I’ve ever experienced. These shrinks seem to know everything about me by the time it’s over.
I sit in a small room on the third floor of the enlistment center. I am told that I will be taking a techno-metric examination. The exam consists of matching different shapes, recognizing patterns and completing complex puzzles. Although the exam is challenging, I find the whole process enjoyable. It’s similar to the video game “Tetris”.
When my test results come back, I am told that my “profile” is 97, which is the highest physical profile in the IDF. This means I am eligible to serve in elite combat units, which is my ultimate goal.
On the morning of my official enlistment, I take a taxi to the Beit Hayal (Soldier’s House) near Sacher Park in Jerusalem. There are about eight other people waiting to enlist. After waiting in the foggy weather for about one hour, we are picked up by a bus and taken to the Tel Ha-Shomer and the “Bakum” which is the main enlistment base in the Tel Aviv area.
I am scheduled to meet with the katzin miyun (appointment/assignment officer). However, I am told that I must first complete the basic combat training and Hebrew language course (ulpan) at the Mihva Allon military base.
Within hours, I am on another bus headed to the plush Galilee region where this base is located. The base is located along picturesque green hills. From the outside, it looks like a large vacation spa. Mihva Allon is primarily an educational base similar to a military academy.
This is conclusion of part one of my new series titled “Rambo” which will describe my experiences as an American in the Israel Defense Forces. This real-life series is based on the “Rambo” films starring Sylvester Stallone. Brace yourself for an exciting thrill ride.