Picture if you will a Friday night in the middle of the summer months. School is on vacation, the weather is beautiful, the ocean water is crashing against the shoreline producing an enchanting noise for all to hear, and you are standing outside a nightclub with a group of your closest friends. As the line shortly presses forward, you and your friends stand there dressed for the night in your flashy clothing, exchanging jokes, and just enjoying the freedom and joy that comes along with your teenage years. Finally, your turn has come to pay the entrance and receive your entrance slip for the club when all of a sudden, a white light engulfs your surroundings, and a horrific noise penetrates the sound waves for kilometers on all sides. The scene turns hot, and the ground and walls turn red with blood. Your eyes slowly open only to see one of your friends, with whom only moments ago you were laughing and joking is lying on the ground never to laugh and joke again.
Unfortunately, this is only part of what it is to grow up in Israel. In order to begin to fathom the reality of what it is to grow up in Israel, one must comprehend that Israelis are born into not only a country but also rather a land that has turned into a brutal war zone. The only problem with this war zone is that it is not as predictable as one that encompasses tanks or F-16s. This war zone is one in which every person around is the possible bearer of the weapon that will end your life.
When you are riding a bus from your home to arrive at your school grounds, you wonder at every stop whether the person who just stepped on with the backpack is not carrying educational books but rather the “books” of terrorism. When you step outside of your house to meet your friends down the street, you wonder if you will encounter a car bomb or a suicidal gunman on the way.
To say that the worries that one is plagued with living in Israel are different of those living in other Western countries is an overwhelming understatement. However, the difference in concerns brings about a striking difference in mentality. I believe Nikki P. put it best when she said, “I mean you just try to keep going about your day. Of course you have to be a little careful but I mean you can’t stop your life.” You cannot stop living your life in Israel due to the threat of a terrorist attack because there are nearly fifty threats of potential attacks throughout the country on a daily basis. As if that were not enough to turn someone’s hair gray with stress, a mini-war has been brewing for nearly five years. To the north, Israelis are plagued with Syrian-supported Hezballah who openly boast about the thousands of missiles they have aimed at northern Israel. Further east we have the Iranians proclaiming their thirst for the destruction of Israel with one hand while they slowly piece together a nuclear bomb with the other.
Such a small country with all but six million people and we are faced with the brink of destruction every second and every minute of every passing day. So who’s going to protect Israel? Yes, another difficulty to daunt the youth of Israel.
Regardless of their denial, it has become a commonly accepted fact that Israel possesses an impressive nuclear arsenal. However, the tip of the spear for the security of our country that is no bigger then Rhode Island remains in the hands of the Israeli youth.
The IDF (Israeli Defense Force) is mainly compromised of young boys and girls aged 18-21. True, in the United States and Canada perhaps these ages do not appear so “young.” Between the ages of 18 and 21, most North Americans are away at college, in their lectures, and striving to become what it is they grew up dreaming about. However, an 18-year-old from Israel unfortunately has quite the alternative reality. At 18, one is drafted to serve the country and fight for its freedom. No classrooms, no dorms, no books: just guns, bombs, and a daily reality that these upcoming minutes could very well be your last.
Then again, that reality of living what could be your final minutes is a reality that Israelis learn at a very young age. You learn quickly to enjoy every day as if it is your last. You learn quickly that every morning when you wake up, to thank whomever it is you believe in for opening your eyes that morning. You learn quickly that material things are not the most important things in this world but rather seeing your parents and friends healthy and happy every day is what truly encompasses the importance of our lives.
No matter how I describe what it is to grow up in Israel, nothing could ever be as clear of an understanding as coming to Israel, standing outside a café, and looking into someone’s eyes wondering if you are looking into the eyes of the grim reaper.
At 18 years old, unlike those in most countries, I am not putting all my energy into choosing the colleges that I’m applying to as my high school career slowly ticks away. Rather, I sit here in front of my computer contemplating whether I shall continues my studies abroad or whether I too shall put on a uniform and serve my country like those before me who have served. I could very well go on with my studies and by the age of 22 begin my working career. However, as I look outside and wonder if today is the last day I will spend with my family and friends, I can’t help but feel a sense of patriotism and a desire to serve the country I have grown up to love.
By: Eric Dadoun