By Max Fruchter
Our course of action often seems predictable—a typical Five Towns boy who graduated from a local high school, went to Israel, and may return for shanah bet or go to college, probably Queens or YU. How often do you hear of someone who is not returning to yeshiva or enrolling in college?
This past Sunday, I wished goodbye to a close friend of mine, Max Cohen. Together with friends and family, we gathered in his backyard for an extraordinary farewell. Blue and white tables, Israeli flags, and aliyah/Tzahal signs covered the entire area. Hebrew music was playing and there was plenty of food. It was clear how much planning must have gone into organizing such a successful event—a sign of how strongly Max’s parents stand behind his decision. It is rare to find parents who are so supportive and encouraging of this choice. Despite the obvious concerns that trouble any parent whose child wishes to join the army, Max’s parents understand how much making aliyah and serving our country means to him. As a close friend, I have seen on quite a few occasions how proud his parents are of him. In contrast, other friends of mine who have contemplated joining the army have had great difficulty in getting their parents on board.
On that memorable Sunday evening in Max’s backyard, family and friends gathered to spend an evening together before he leaves for mechinah (a prep yeshiva for the Israeli army), and ultimately the army, in one week. HAFTR High School rebbeim, friends from Florida, cousins from upstate, and everyone else came to see Max.
Over the course of the evening, I began to look back on our past year together. The year we spent in yeshiva was a meaningful one, to say the least, and impacted us each in different ways. For Max, this year only confirmed what he has always believed in and wanted to do—make aliyah and join the army.
Many times during our year together in yeshiva, people would inquire as to our plans for next year. Upon telling them of my enrollment in the Macaulay Honors College program at Queens College, they always congratulated me and wished me the best of luck. Yet when Max informed them of his dream to join the army, they always responded with a noticeable degree of bewilderment. Invariably, questions followed about how he came to make that decision, whether his parents supported him from the start or just recently gave in, etc.
Max’s story highlights a significant phenomenon regarding the “Year in Israel”—every person is affected differently. For some people, the year means switching from some other college to YU in order to learn more, while for others it may mean enrolling in a part-time yeshiva outside of their secular academic studies. For Max, it meant an even greater love for Torah, Judaism, and the land of Israel; a love he displays through his decision to join the Israeli army.
Each person is different and has to make the decision that is best for him. I feel confident saying that Max’s choice to join the army is a unique one which should be greatly admired—a choice that converts his love of the Jewish people into action for the Jewish people. The Mishebeirach recited each Shabbos for the Tzahal will take on a new personal meaning for me as I will always be sure to daven for the safety and well-being of Meir Binyamin ben Avraham Moshe HaKohen. ϖ
Max Fruchter is a graduate of DRS Yeshiva High School in the Five Towns and spent the past school year in a yeshiva in Jerusalem.