Why You’re Really Drafting to the IDF
On the face of it, drafting to the IDF as a lone combat soldier seems like a simple enough concept: drop everything, embrace anything.
Oh you’ll do it. You won’t be intimidated. Because for you, realizing a dream is worth the risk.
But while planning is everything, plans mean nothing. You’ll have a fixed idea of how you want things to end up, a skeleton sketch of desired outcomes. And then you’ll see how things work out here, more often than not in ways you didn’t expect.
You’ll show up to the induction office all gung-ho. You might as well pin a ‘future-defender-of-the-homeland’ badge onto your shirt because you’ll feel like you’re the modern reincarnation of David Ben Gurion. But they won’t even know what to do with you when you get there.
“What are you stupid?” You’ll be told. “My cousin Lior live in LA, make a million dollars a year and kusiot appear out of thin air when he snap his fingers. Why you also no want to live like dis?!?!?”
You are certified crazy. They’ll think you’re nuts for pressing pause on your life, hopping on a one-way flight and signing up for a program that’s never been easy for anyone, ever.
Most people at the bakum are there to get out of the army. You’ve conveniently decided you’re an exception to that rule. You’re going to get in and you’ll do whatever it takes to see that through. Ma hishtagata?
You’ll be told you have no chance of getting in on time (HA) That the draft is full (Sure it is) That ‘ein li koach l’hitasek b’ze hayom’ (Mhhmm…yes… tell me more about things that are objectively true and not based on your reaction to how your Nes Cafe tasted this morning) That they only have room in the only unit you swore you’d never go to (YAWN).
Most people spend their immediate post-aliyah days hanging out on the beach in TLV, slowly acclimating to a new culture and life—but nooooo, you’ve decided that NO really means YES, that bureaucratic red tape can be cut, that you’re not leaving this office until this gets done, STAT.
Why don’t they get it? Should I be playing hard to get? Like the more you don’t want it the more they want you to want it and will do whatever you need to get it.
You: I AM WILLING TO DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO SERVE THIS COUNTRY.
Jobnik drafting team: Mmmmmm. Not gonna happen. Send a fax. Or better, don’t.
You: K, I’m not drafting.
Jobnik drafting team: No! Wait! SIGN HERE!!!!!
But then the drafting works itself out and it all starts for real. You’re not in Kansas anymore. Once you get on that bus to your unit there’s no turning back.
But tiragah, ach sheli hayakar, you’ll get it. You’ll learn on the go, as you go. You’ll think on your feet and pivot if, and when, the going gets tough.
You’ll master a litany of unfamiliar commands and codes. You’ll build an extended vocab of slang that would horrify your Israeli Savta. You’ll gain a true perspective on what the Israeli army really is Vs. how it appeared at your school-wide Israeli Independence Day presentations.
You’ll start thinking in abbreviations. You’ll start having vivid dreams about eating hamburgers. You’ll have nightmares about tuna. Calling your friends child names at every hour of the day won’t be weird. In fact, you better start doing it, YA TAMBAL.
You’ll miss your family. Your close friends. Free will. Your non-dictated life. Acting on orders is your new normal. Remember when you could decide, “I wanna do that today” and then actually do whatever that is? LMAO.
You’ll freeze your beitzim off. You’ll be thunderstruck at how much sweat your body can produce.
You will be amazed at your newfound dexterity with cutting vegetables.
You will shudder at the word ‘mediach.’
You’ll understand how it’s possible to fall asleep with your head banging against the bus window. On the shoulder of the confused stranger sitting next to you. On the armrest. On command. In any position. At any time.
You’ll be totally desensitized to all forms of male communal showering. If you accidentally touch butts with someone in a crowded shower room tho…that’s still gonna be hella awkward. (NEVER HAPPENED)
You’ll strongly advise gas masks be put on before you remove your boots.
Hanging out < Passing out
You’ll be horrified that your non-army friends still haven’t showed up 10 seconds after the time you set to meet them.
And then there will come a point in your service, lone-soldier-to-be, where you’ll wonder why on earth you made this decision. Doubts will surface hard. You’ll question your motivations, how much of a ‘step forward’ this really is. What if it’s a big step backward?
You’re in a system now where there’s someone to catch your fall—but what will you do in the real world after it’s all over? The idealism that once drove you can only carry you for so long before realism punches you in the gut.
You’ll get super shavuz. You’ll be so damn tired. You’d love nothing more than to hear your girlfriend’s voice. You’ll want to go back in time.
You could be padding your résumé or boarding down sand dunes in Peru—but you’re stuck here shivering in a guard post in nowhere AF, Israel with no one in sight to switch you.
So honestly ask yourself, you strapping specimen of Jewish testosterone: why am I really joining the IDF?
Are you in it for the bragging rights?
Plan on impressing the cute mashakit that you met on your Birthright bus?
On a scale of one to therapy—how much do you really love hummus?
Maybe you’ve read Exodus way too many times.
Maybe you’re doing it because you’ll feel left out of the society you’re transitioning into if you don’t do it.
Maybe you’re doing it because you’re escaping something else.
Maybe you’re doing it because you simply can’t live with the regret of not doing it.
But maybe, just maybe, all the reasons I just listed don’t matter. Because the truth is, it doesn’t matter why, it matters that.
That you’re willing to sacrifice everything to benefit everyone. That you’re ready to put your time on hold. That you have the courage to make a contribution that only you can make.
How aware are you of this? It won’t become clear until you draft. Until you cuddle for warmth with a bunch of sweaty dudes on a G-d forsaken mountain. Until you walk so much that you feel like you’re walking backwards. Until you’re packed like a sardine into a giant steel box and don’t sleep for days on end. Until you understand that perspective is gained in retrospect rather than in the moment; by looking in from without, rather than viewing the outside world from within.
But this is why you do it, and this is why we’ll all be rooting for you like hell when you do.