I am a Jew. Given that, I have special responsibilities and privileges. It is not a zealous ideology, but rather a spiritual and unbreakable connection to all other Jews.
I admit that I do not adhere to all the mitzvot that my religion commands of me; instead, I explore my connection to Judaism through my people.
I know I am welcome at any Shabbat dinner anywhere — despite politics, wealth or nationality — based on my community’s shared values and history. I have met incredible people that I would never have met without our singular mutual connection, and in every corner of the globe, I will always have a home that will welcome me.
Human connection is a value I have learned to cherish. And nowhere do I feel embraced by an entire community more than in the Land of Israel.
In America, I do not feel a sense of national identity and do not know what unity truly means. But when I stand on Israel’s soil, I can feel the presence of all who came before me. I feel the presence of my ancestors who died defending the Temples. I feel the strength of the Biblical figures who wrestled with angels and killed giants. I feel the yearning of my great-grandmother who stood under the gates of Auschwitz. I feel the joy of my grandmother who fought in the War of Independence as one of the first women to enlist in Israel’s army. I feel the rebellious nature of my mother, who fled to the haven of Israel against her parents’ desires.
And above all else, I feel at home. I know that, beyond my birthright, I am a Jew in my soul. I am eternally thankful that I have a country that represents me and my beliefs, the State of Israel.
Israel is located in a complicated region with hostile neighbors, and requires all its citizens to serve in the armed forces. Although there is conflict on Israel’s borders, I will always be able to seek refuge inside of them. And with this bond that I have with the country, I feel eternally indebted, and beyond that, I feel inspired to serve.
That is why I have enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces.
I do not enlist to attack the enemies in front of me, but rather, for all that is behind me. I enlist to fight no enemy, just protect my own. In Israel’s army, I know I might have to defend, die or even kill. However, most of all, I am enlisting to understand. Understand my people, my culture and my home.
It pains me to have to leave my place of birth to follow my future path; however, it is the step I am endowed by my Creator to take.
Although my enlistment may appear political, I hope you can understand that for 2,000 years, my ancestors did not have the privilege of defending our sovereign nation. I am wary of those who conflate criticism of Israel and criticism of Jews, and I hope you understand the difference.
I will miss the awe of the Golden Gate Bridge, July 4 fireworks and Thanksgiving dinners. But I am eager for the ice cream on the beaches of Tel Aviv, the Diasporatexture of the Kotel and the flags that flood the streets on Israeli Independence Day.
I hope that my journey for the next three years and beyond will rid me of the shackles of the diaspora, of the wandering Jew, of a stateless outcast and of a victimized people. I have learned not to be an observer and sit idly by as evil grows. I will fight for justice and peace, despite the oxymoron. I enlist with the truest intentions and ask for your support and prayers on my uncharted journey ahead.