Yael Mark is one of Boston-Haifa Connection’s 2015-2016 Shinshinim Young Ambassadors from Israel. Yael grew up in Haifa and graduated in 2015 from the Leo Baeck High School. She is spending a year of service living and volunteering in the Greater Boston community before returning to Israel in June to serve in the Israel Defense Forces.

“Ohh, I don’t like guns”
By Yael Mark

Well, it might seem strange, to open a blogpost with this quote. This quote is simple, what is there to like about wars, blood, and guns? However, being an 18 year old Israeli joining the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) next year, hearing someone say this moved me, and probably will stay with me.

Lucy, my 13 year old host sister, is the one that said it. I am 18, and she and I will start college the same year — again for the same reason. The IDF. When she said it, almost casually it hit me, the fact that when I was her age it was clear to me that I will serve in the army. Several acute questions rose in my mind; was my childhood corrupted by this situation? Am I unlucky because I am Israeli? And even, do I want to raise my future children in Israel when it’s a well-known fact that when they are 18 they, too, will serve in the IDF?

After a while some wise conclusions replaced the panic. No, my childhood was not corrupted. I was raised by wonderful parents and an educational system that taught me to love Israel, but not to love Israel blindly. I was taught to remember to always criticize the injustice in Israel, but also to adore its greatness.

I might not have grown up innocent, maybe I grew up faster than others around the world. However, I grew up in a different reality, I grew up in a society that prays constantly that the next generation won’t have to go to the army; not due to lack of interest in contributing to the society but because Israel is in pursuit of peace. Therefore, I am not unfortunate. Israel is my country and I’ll fight for it.

I admit that I am still torn by this question. Of course the setting of your life influences who you are and how your life will be, so to be born and raised in Israel has a significant impact on my personality and my future. Therefore, I cannot say that I am unlucky. This is my life – it’s an axiom. The beauty in an axiom is that it is an absolute and you cannot change it, but you can definitely build structure and grow from it. My axiom might say yes, I need to protect my country, so what can I learn from that? To fight to change this fact for the ones who come after me. Not by just going to the IDF, but by being a good citizen, by helping my neighbors when needed, and by staying hopeful that peace will come.

There is no doubt that I want to raise my children in Israel. Just being here in Boston, I see Israel in a different perspective as I am living here and representing my country. The experience has reassured me that Israel is my home and sometimes you need to fight for your home, and you need to protect it. But you shall never, and frankly you can’t, leave your home.

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