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On Becoming A Chayal From Cedarhurst

By Gavi Nelson

So here I am at 3:52 a.m., going through my Facebook news feed and looking at posts from September, when I took the jump and made aliyah, after spending a year in Yeshivat Hakotel and a summer in Camp Stone.

I didn’t grow up going to Israel on family vacations; before my year in Israel, I went once, for my bar mitzvah in 2006. So much has happened since then! My life is not as I envisioned it two years ago. I am not an art major in a secular college. I didn’t join some collegiate a cappella group. I don’t currently find myself studying for upcoming finals. Rather, I am acclimating to a country—a country that seems so foreign, yet still it is mine. This place is my homeland.

Today, I called an American customer-service company to help out with an order I was trying to place. They were nice, kind, and helpful. In the same day, I dealt with Israeli bureaucracy, which was essentially the opposite of the American customer-service experience I had. Yet this annoying bureaucracy is mine. It’s my mess, my people.

I am signing up for the army. My tzav rishon (initial testing) is on Sunday. No English 101 final for me, but rather a test that allows me to serve my country, to defend my people. This is something that my grandparents could have only dreamed of. Yet my grandmother asks how I could leave my family. Her parents had to leave their families in Europe against their wills, for fear of persecution, but here I am leaving mine on my own free will.

But is it really as simple as that? I am not just here for fun, for some “chavaya” (experience). I am here to answer a call, one that many others have heard, and taken. I am following in the footsteps of all those ahead of me. Israel is here. It is ours. Yes, I choose to be a part of it, but could I really choose otherwise? Could I really choose to live somewhere else?

This is a country for our people, Am Yisrael. How can I not defend our people, when just decades ago we were defenseless? Can I ignore that call? This is not just some civic duty that you do by rote. This is not something I am being forced to do, yet I am no volunteer.

I think most olim would agree that their aliyah was not based on a rational understanding that Israel will be better for them. Sometimes, practically, it is quite worse. But this is no sacrifice. We came here because of our beliefs, because of what we stand for. We may have made that choice based on our own free will, yet it goes so much deeper than that. It goes down to our very core as a people, as a nation.

Just a thought from the occasional insomniac. v

Gavi Nelson grew up in Cedarhurst and is a graduate of DRS High School (class of 2012).

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Posted by on January 2, 2014. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.