Why I chose the Canteen over the Pina Colada

It has been almost a year already since I made the life-changing decision to leave my comfortable life in Miami behind and embark on a new and unfamiliar path: Making aliyah and joining the Israel Defense Forces. In a surprisingly large number of ways, such a move is comparable to the path of becoming an entrepreneur. Everyone knows about the path, and everyone would love to take it. However few possess the internal drive and will to actually follow through with such a path. Quite honestly, having been here for eleven months, I can see precisely why that is. Especially for a twenty-year-old Jew like me who came from a comfortable life and well-off family.

Do not get me wrong! Life in Israel is far from what you might think it is by watching CNN every evening. The people are far more welcoming than in most of America, the food is better in every single way, and for the most part, this country lacks the materialistic drive that has become a societal pandemic in the United States. However, no nation is without its faults, and Israel is no exception. The bureaucracy here is enough to give even the most patient people a migraine, the mailing system here is… well let’s put it this way, you will not be seeing your package from Amazon Prime arriving within forty-eight hours, or forty-eight days for that matter. Most of all though, even though the average salary is lower here than in America, the average cost of living is higher. While living in Israel can be rewarding and meaningful, it can in very few ways be considered easy. So why did I make the move? I know full well that my life would be much easier had I just stayed in America and went to college. I could be drinking a pina colada on South Beach right now. Instead, I am sitting next to my tank, chugging down a canteen of water in the blazing heat of the Negev Desert in a fireproof tank suit. Yet despite all these hardships, I would never consider trading my current life in this country and service to the State of Israel for the comfortable American life that I left and four years of college, and here is my attempt to answer the question of why.

For thousands of years, my ancestors have been exiled from this country. Denied the right to live or even enter the land that our forefathers were promised would be our homeland. As a result, we lived elsewhere around the world, subjected to massacres, persecution, and virulent anti-semitism. Even with the Nazis gone, Roman Empire dissolved, and the Soviet Union collapsed, anti-semitic attacks have been on the rise in every corner of the globe. The truth is undeniable; the Jewish people need a homeland that they can be safe from this persecution, and today, we finally have one. While I cannot speak for everyone, I believe that the time for the Jewish people to come home is long overdue.

When I look into the eyes of the little children in my extended family here, I am reminded of the horrifying reality that a mere seventy-five years ago in Europe, these same children would have been marched into gas chambers to be murdered for no other reason than that they are Jewish. Even today in our own homeland, the Jewish people cannot fully escape their enemies.

To our north, we have Hezbollah, an enemy tens-of-thousands strong which, at the orders of their Mullah commanders in Tehran, are ready to launch over one hundred thousand rockets at Israel’s cities.

To our east, we have Iran, a terrorist state whose leaders daily openly call for the destruction of Israel, and are gradually moving towards developing a nuclear weapon capable of doing precisely that.

To our south, we have Hamas, a ruthless enemy who for decades, has terrorized civilians living in the south of Israel with rockets, terror tunnels, and more recently, incendiary kites meant to burn them and their crops.

To our west lies the Mediterranean Sea, the body of water in which all of these enemies wish to push us.

What is stopping them are what is, in comparison to the numbers of our enemies, a handful of brave men and women such as myself who stand ready on our borders to lay down our lives to ensure everyone else can sleep soundly at night. Contrary to what listening to CNN every evening might make you believe, I do not wake up every morning hoping I get the chance to take part in slaughtering our enemies. I hope the only time I ever have to fire my weapon is in training. I am not the sadistic and ruthless child murderer that the mainstream media implies I am. Having to take the life of another human being is not a decision I would happily brag about having to carry out. I hope I can wake up one morning soon to a news headline reading “Arab nations and Palestinians agree to a permanent cessation of hostilities with Israel.” I pray that the day where we can live in peace and harmony with our neighbors comes soon.

Unfortunately, while Ideals are peaceful, the reality today is not could not be farther from it. That promise of lasting peace has not come yet and does not appear to be happening for quite some time. Almost none of those same Arabs and Palestinians that I hope to be able to live alongside someday share my dream of living side-by-side in peace. So until then, I live in a country surrounded by bloodthirsty animals who would love nothing more than to lead my family and me into a gas chamber, just as we would have been seventy-five years ago.

Edmund Burke once said that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I refuse to be one of those “good men who do nothing,” and I am proud to be part of the force that ensures a repeat of the Holocaust indeed never happens again. So while I hope I never have to go to war in defense of my nation, I stand ready and willing to do so until the day comes where I no longer need to.

About the Author
Benjamin Jaffe currently lives in Jerusalem and is a nursing student at Machon Lev College.
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