Spring Cleaning

With spring upon us the time was right to ‘make some changes’. Not that I could ever understand why this has to happen every spring, (‘we changed that sofa last spring’) but that’s just the way it is. This year I think I finally got to the bottom of this phenomenon. It’s a fascinating story which I would like to share.

The need to change things when spring arrives is clearly a destabilizing factor of the family structure. As such, it is contradictory to the family being a fundamental building block of social fabrics which ensure our overall well being and prosperity. How could such a strong destabilizing force still be present after so many years of evolution? One would think that the rough edges would have been ironed out over the course of five million years since early man roamed the face of the planet. ‘What if it was the exact opposite?’ I began to think to myself. ‘Perhaps it’s not that the destabilizing force is inherent maybe it’s triggered by some other imbalance?’ Could it be a kind of ‘hole in the ozone’ of the normal balance within a family?

With this on my mind I continued to observe. You can look at certain patterns for years before you connect the dots. This year it finally happened I am quite certain that I have identified a meaningful pattern which is not random. Spring-change-urge (SCU) (also stands for spring-cleaning-urge) which is not yet classified as a disease or mental disturbance is brought on by highly energized pollen! The reason it took so long to come to such an astounding conclusion is because the very notion of ‘highly energized pollen’ seems so ludicrous that only a delirious mind could consider it. However, things are not always as far fetched as one would think.

To the casual observer pollen is about the gentlest means nature uses to spawn new life and bring on change. Pollen would be the last thing that anyone would associate with ‘energy’. Energizing pollen is not an everyday phenomenon even though it can happen in the middle of anyone’s living room. The conditions have to be right. I am sure that years from now there will be better ways to energize pollen. What I am about to describe will most likely be looked at in the same way that the experiments which discovered oxygen, electricity and gravity are looked upon today primitive yet insightful.

The trigger that causes the pollen to explode into the air with high energies is non-other than the ubiquitous hold tool – the fly swatter. However a fly swatter is not sufficient. It has to be in the hand of a person who is able to inflict a blow to a pollen carrying bug in a manner which causes the bug to reach critical mass. The bug has to be one which can reach critical mass in layman’s terms it’s called ‘juicy’ In children’s terms it’s called ‘IMA!!!!’ with four exclamation marks. Not all house holds have them, and not all those that have them are of the right type. For example our cockroaches are of the right mass but the wrong density which makes them impervious to swats. What our cockroaches need is a hammer blow. The problem with hammer blows is that it’s too costly to practice perfecting them. Furthermore cockroaches rarely carry pollen. What is really needed is something that has the complexion of a mosquito only ten times bigger. Now those we have in abundance. They start showing up in February and disappear in May.

No sooner does one of these bird size bugs fly in that either Osmo or Tintin panic: ‘IMA!!!!’ the cry goes out. Everyone knows that just ‘IMA!!!!’ with four exclamation marks means. Ima rarely waits to count the exclamation marks. There is a fly swatter ready in every corner of every room. The swatters are placed in a manner which minimizes Ima’s need to reach while she focuses on the bugs on the wall. A cat stalking a pigeon is a sloppy, unfocused, lumbering turtle compared to Ima going after one of these things. Ima knows she cannot ask Osmo or Tintin to point out the bug she moves in the direction they are running away from.

With astounding speed and agility which have been honed through years of protecting her young, Ima swoops up the nearest optimally placed swatter and with moves that have not been seen since the days of Michael Jordan and Doctor Jay she leaps and slams the doomed animal. There is a thunderclap like sound and a flash of light which is the result of the poor creature being ionized, and then all settles into a blissful calm. Ima drops gently to the ground, not bothering to look back. She gathers the petrified child she was protecting under her arm as she replaces the instrument of death back in its place ready for another day. I usually continue to stare at the spot where the bird-bug was until a scant fraction-of-a-second ago, seeing small pieces of ash dropping slowly to the floor or carpet where they will be lost forever in the accumulating mounds of dust and decay which we clean in the spring.

For years I have been watching the swoop, the pounce, the swing, the flash and listening to the clap followed by silence and ash. Every time I would admire Ima for her skills and feel a lump in my throat thinking of the totally unselfish love and willing to sacrifice for the children. Perhaps this is why I was so amenable to comply with the ‘let’s go get something’ which followed most kills. As time went by, dumbfounded ness was replaced by awe which was replaced with admiration which allowed me to start thinking again. As more and more kills flashed before my eyes it became apparent that there was more to the flash and thunder than meats the eye.

At first each occurrence seems to an isolated, quick, harsh and fatal event. A bug died, a child was saved and life went on. After a few years of witnessing such killings, a pattern began to emerge. As the number of kills grew over the course of February and March Ima would begin to notice that more and more things in the house needed to be ‘replaced’. What had escaped me for so long was the fact that indeed there was a connection between the two. There was an explanation to this. It took me years to realize that these were cataclysmic terminations of bugs being turned from matter to energy (god knows how many chemists stared at mold before Fleming discovered Penicillin). The energy was energizing non-ionized pollen which Ima was obviously exposed to. The thought seemed preposterous at first but all the evidence was to strong to ignore.

Every child knows that there are two ways to force matter to reach critical mass. One is ‘kinetic’ and the other is ‘implosion’. It’s hard for me to say which of the two actually occur during a ‘swat’, but I think Ima knows how to trigger both. A kinetic reaction is started when the bug is squashed from front to back driving its brain thorough its ass. Implosion is caused when a bug is squashed from top to bottom making it very, very, very flat and dead. The latter is the most common house hold death of a flying bug. However if the swat is not done with sufficient force, or the bug is not big enough the result is what is commonly known as a ‘squashed bug’ something that needs to be removed from the wall with a damp cloth.

I had come to realize that after Ima swats the wall remained clean. ‘Where did the bugs go?’ The natural reaction would obviously be to assume that the animals flew off only to return another day. Not in our house. For years Ima has been killing flies in droves with a single swing. Flies are faster than mosquitoes, especially big ones such as these. So where were the mosquitoes that Ima was dispatching? And the flashes, the claps and the ashes; where were they come from? ‘Think, man, think!’ ‘You are looking at the answer, you just don’t realize it’ I began telling myself. And then one of those swats it hit me: the flash was the mosquito being ‘converted’ to energy!!!! (keeping the exclamation marks because nothing is lost in nature). Einstein, Bohr, Fermi and Oppenhiemer would have all been proud of Ima. She had found a way to obliterate gargantuan mosquitoes by triggering a limited chain reaction which ionized all but slight remnants of their mass and whatever else happened to stick to their slimy bodies before they evaporated.

These were also the forces which unleashed pollen into the air. Nature has a way of resurrecting itself. Being closest to these blasts Ima was exposed to most of the pollen which was not ionized. This pollen was in highly energized form. As the death tolls rose, so did the pollen doses. When the pollen dose reached critical mass it triggered ‘spring cleaning’. This is really the subject of the story

As I fast forward things in my head I cannot help but become more and more convinced that there is no other possible explanation.

‘IMA!!!!’, whoosh, SWAT, flash, clap, ashes and ooze, ‘Let’s go and get us some Pearl Juice’. ‘IMA!!!!’, whoosh, SWAT, whoosh, SWAT, flashes and dust’, ‘The dishwasher has breathed its last’ ‘IMA!!!!’, whoosh, SWAT, whoosh, SWAT, whoosh SWAT, flashes and ashes, ‘Dry your tears we’re going to Sears’, SWAT, SWAT, ‘What an ace, we need to build some more shelf space’, SWAT, SWAT, ‘the carpet is dirty, we need a new floor’, ‘who broke the window? We need a new door’ the sofa has mold’, ‘ the freezer’s not cold’. ‘I just burnt the cake, the oven don’t bake’ ‘Passover is coming, we have to do something!!!’.

Sometimes one simply has to step outside the immediate frame of reference and take a look from the sidelines. Ima was infected and a swell of merchandise and cleaning activity was gathering. It was a process feeding on itself. The more anxious Ima became, the more lethal was her strike becoming. The more lethal the strike, the more pollen she breathed. The more pollen she breathed, the more anxious she became. A house hold chain reaction that could lead to financial meltdown. Something had to be done to slow down the reaction.

My immediate response was to try and save as many of the mosquitoes as possible. I would try to get between Ima and her prey as many times as I possibly could. Ima would stand and smirk as I danced around the room, clumsily hurling sandals and pillows at the skeeters. Needless to say that without DDT my kill ratio was lower than one in five. Ima did not want me to lose face in front of the children, so every now and then she throw a nonchalant swing at the doomed critters and raise the ratio back to 100% where it belonged. This was not a problem as these types of blows were while exceptionally aimed were of the ordinary non-ionizing kind. The bugs died a regular death. As they fell to the floor, their legs twitching their last I would gingerly pick them up and hastily throw them out before Ima got a better whiff of them. While this was a way to keep SCU from becoming more severe, we still had to cope with the current state of the allergy.

The first sacrifice we had to make as a family to support Ima in her helpless urge was to replace the dishwasher. For weeks Ima had done her best to cripple the poor machine beyond repair. Every now and then she would dismantle the front panel ‘just to make sure that all the wires were still connected’ ‘I didn’t know that you had to take the dishwasher apart after every wash’ I commented. ‘You cannot be too careful once it reaches a certain age’ Ima responded. Finally the machine would start no more. ‘See, I told you’ we both said Knowing what was going on I retracted my telling Ima and called Yossi to sign the dishwasher’s death certificate. I wasn’t sure exactly how Ima would handle Yossi’s fiddling with the machine, perhaps bringing it back to life, but I needed Yossi there to help me get the corpse out of the house, before Ima hacked the kitchen to pieces with a chain saw.

Yossi showed up faster than an ambulance. When I opened the door my heart sank. Yossi was fully equipped with tools designed to diagnose and fix a faltering electrical apparatus. ‘AZOV Yossi’ I said in a very load voice, knowing that Ima was listening to every word from the kitchen. ‘HALACH HAMEDIACH’ ‘and I just need your help to get it out of the house’. Yossi’s professional pride kicked in just when I needed it the least. ‘Al Tid-ag Iftach’, Yossi said in a deep calm voice ‘if it can be fixed I’ll fix it’ and he walked right past me into the kitchen. Ima greeted him with barred fangs which he mistook for a friendly smile. ‘Ma Nishma Gallia’, Ima dodged his hug and lunged for the dishwasher, hoping to break something beyond repair. She yanked the inside panel off the front door and turned to Yossi who was regaining his balance after hugging nothing but air. Yossi stared at the machine. ‘See it’s gone’ Ima said pointing in the general direction of the kitchen. Yossi must have attributed the behavior to anguish over a cherished family item, and pulled out a multi-function tester. As he kneeled to attach it to some of the exposed wires his eyes notices the charred remains of the connectors which Ima has been prying loose for months and exclaimed ‘Sh-ein ma la-asot’ The madness dissipated from Ima’s gaze and I started breathing again. Yossi didn’t have a clue what had transpired.

‘Tozzi Otto!!!’ Ima half commanded half asked Yossi and pointed to the dishwasher. ‘I guess you are right’ Yossi said, still not realizing that he was playing with fire. Ima disconnected the water and electricity to the house and for a moment we stood in the pitch dark kitchen (these things are always done at night when everyone is home from work) and then Yossi said in a calm deep voice: ‘LO TZARICH GALLIA’, ‘we can unplug the machine and just turn off the water feed under the sink’. Ima was damn serious about getting the dishwasher replaced and was not taking any chances, but the nice thing about SCU is that the person is still rational. Ima turned the lights back on and Yossi began to gently dislodge the dish washer from the cavity in which it had so faithfully stood for the past nine years.

Thrity seconds into it Ima was all up in arms again: ‘TIMSHOCH YOSSI!!!’ ‘TARIM OTTO KTZAT HU TAKUA!!!’. Although Ima was giving very sound technical advice I was starting to get nervous. Ima giving technical advice to Yossi I figured that at some point Yossi would humorously blurt out a ‘MA KARA LACH GALLIA’ and that would be the end of him. I quickly stepped to the machine, grabbed a corner and made load grunting noises. Ima seemed to calm down. ‘REGA IFTACH, HU TAKUA’ ‘Oh, so now I’m the idiot’ ‘better this way I thought to myself’. ‘ULY TENATKU ET HATZINOROT?’ Ima suggested impatiently. I was amazed at what SCU does for the technical skills of people. Ima was never that plumbing savvy and yet HALAYLA HAZEH SHTIE PE-AMIM!!!

Suddenly I felt crushed. Perhaps it was PASSOVER, not SCU, the whole theory was a flake. Ima simply needed a dishwasher which was ‘KASHER LEPESACH’. The first shock of dismay passed. As I quickly reviewed the evidence I realized that had it simply been Passover Ima would have replaced the dishwasher every year, yet that didn’t happen. ‘Passover could be a catalyst, but my theory was still sound’ I calmed myself.

With the pipes disconnected the dishwasher slid out of its space only to expose a rotting floor board beneath it. Still not getting it Yossi made another reckless remark ‘ATA Ro-eh Iftach’ he said pointing to the rotting board, ‘Biglal zeh ani mabsoot sh-habayit lo sheli’ ‘What do you mean’ Ima snapped and grabbed a knife. Yossi thought that she was going to use the knife to free up the rotten wood and kept talking: ‘Zeh ma she-koreh k-sh-yesh retivoot’ I moved between Yossi and Ima. He tried to move me aside, but I held on for his sake. Ima seemed to notice me in front of the knife, turned her attention to the floor board and started hacking it to pieces.

Yossi gathered his tools and helped me move the gutted washer to the front of the house where it would stand until Sunnyvale’s mayor sent the entire city into SCU. ‘If it happens to the Goyim, it can’t be Passover’ I continued to reassure myself. Through the emotional haze which I was experiencing, having saved both my theory and Yossi’s life, I could hear Yossi giving me advice how to fix the floor board and how to connect a new dishwasher. While I barely listened to what he had to say, there was one message in his monolog which did register in my mind: he was giving me instructions in a manner which clearly indicated that he would not be there to help. This was the greatest bad news I had had all evening. I did not want Ima and Yossi in the same kitchen when Ima was racing to install a new dishwasher three feet from the silverware.

Ima opened the Price Club (Costco) the next day and took home a dishwasher. It was waiting patiently next to the microwave when I returned home that evening. Not having Yossi there would mean that I had to install it twice. The first time was somewhat delayed because I had to replace the floor board and almost super glued myself to the inner panels of the kitchen counter in the process. Fearing that if I did not free myself from the hole Ima would have pushed the washer in regardless, I said final farewells to the skin of my finger tips and yanked myself from a would be grave and sat with my back to the cupboard nursing my raw fingers. ‘Zuz Bushy’, it was not a request. There would be a future time for healing. ‘The pipes are not tightened to the bottom of the machine’ I tried to warn. ‘They are as tight as you could make them aren’t they?’ Ima asked. ‘Yes, but I didn’t use the wrench, I used my fingers when I still had them’. ‘Well you cannot use your fingers anyway so it doesn’t matter wrench or no wrench’ was the cold blooded answer. Something inside of me started thinking that perhaps mankind needed to do something about SCU before someone really got hurt.

The dishwasher started leaking as soon as it was turned on. ‘You can fix that in the morning when (but not if) your fingers feel better, let’s go to bed’. I did not argue, I was overwhelmed by the pace and brutality of the personality changes. I woke up early and took six Advil so I could work at a reasonable pace. The drugs were starting to take effect just as Ima woke up. ‘Bushy, atta ro-tze le-ho-tzi et he-mediach?’ ‘Sure’ I lied. ‘How are you hands?’ ‘I’ve seen better’, ‘Good’ was the chilly answer. I really could have used some pity, ‘I guess I’ll have to feel sorry for myself‘ I strained to bring on waves of self pity as I set to work on the pipes. An hour and some Teflon later the new dishwasher was installed without leaks, on top of a new floor board.

‘Let’s go get the new bookshelf’ Ima said as she started the washer with a load of dishes With tears in my eyes I showed Ima my bleeding fingers and begged for more time. ‘We can go when you come back from work’. I was really getting scared. At this pace I would be dead in a week, and it would all seem like natural causes. No one will know about SCU and many other innocent people will be hurt. Ima continued to explain: ‘They have these bookshelves in the Price Club which are really nice.’ ‘I would like to get one of them and throw out the ones we have in the hallway in front of Yeela’s room’. For one it’s not a hallway, it’s a connecting space four times the size of a phone booth. Secondly, Yeela does not live here anymore, so why would she care about the pretty or not bookshelf that’s outside a room that is in a house she cannot see because she is not even in the damn country? And finally how do you get a seven feet tall, five feet wide by one and a half feet deep bookshelf into a room which is only six feet long, with less of five feet of floor space to work with. ‘You don’t play Tetris with closets and bookcases’. ‘Let’s go’ was the answer.

When we got to the Price Club Ima was razor sharp and arrow narrow. She zoomed in on the bookshelf like a hawk, and led the way right back to the cashiers not even stopping to fill her handbag with food sample handouts. ‘In and out of the Price Club in ten minutes with one item only’ I couldn’t help but quiver at the determinations that was driving such behavior on Ima’s part. She helped me hoist the oversized carton into the car as though it was a gallon of milk. My plan to lower all the seats along the right hand side of the car was immediately overruled: ‘Lets lower the back seats, slide the middle seats apart and then slide the box along its narrow side all the way to the front between the two front seats’ Ima suggested. I had to admit it was a way better idea. Ima’s three dimensional vision was superb, perhaps she had also envisioned how we would get the assembled bookcase into the hallway as well. As for me I would deal with the spatial issues inside the house when the time came. I was talking what life was dishing out one step at a time, hoping to live to see better days.

The assembly of the bookcase followed the usual do-it-wrong-dismantle-do-it-right routine. I had grown so accustomed to these do-it-in-spite-of-yourself kits that I did not expect anything else to happen. Somehow I could never understand what drives people to get these kinds of furniture and other home improvement kits such as dishwashers and toilets which they have to assemble on their own. Between the option of trying to be all you cannot be by assembling something that has been disassembled on purpose so that you could try it on your own, and admitting to what you cannot be and have someone who is all that you are not do the job right the first time I prefer the second option. However one does need to consider the fact that we are surrounded by idiots Idiots think that they can be by trying to do what you think you cannot, and you find yourself being all they cannot be proving to yourself that you are what you thought you were not. The bottom line: I had to assemble the bookcase.

On the second try the frame was assembled properly. I had Titin help me drag it into the tiny hallway which needless to say Ima had cleared of the old bookcases and books. We were fooled into thinking that it would somehow fit into the room by the fact that the frame twisted a bit without the back panel which we had not yet assembled, allowing it to be erected in a room with a height which was half a foot shorter than the length of the frame’s diagonal. I think its six grade geometry that’s needed to figure out the length of the diagonal of a seven by five foot rectangle. It’s a little more than nine feet. The room’s height was a little over eight feet which in other words means a little less than nine feet…

Cheated by the optical illusion of the distorted frame we returned the frame into the living room. Karma had us assemble the back panel. This required driving thirty or forty screws into the frame a process which one does not want to undo and redo. I keep saying ‘we’ but it was my entire fault Tintin was an innocent bystander caught in the SCU tornado which was sweeping through the house. With the back panel assemble we dragged the bookcase on its side into the hallway and tried to stand it up there was no way that was going to clear the ceiling.

Ima showed up and peeked into the hallway. The bookcase was lying on its side, a third of its length well into Yeela’s room. ‘Stand it up’ Ima said. Without arguing I tried before Tintin would say something that would get him in trouble. The upper side of the bookshelf would not clear the door way of Yeela’s room… ‘Pull it back’. I did the stair at the entrance to the hallway blocked the movement six inched later. ‘Stand it up’. I obeyed and still it would not clear the opposite doorway. ‘Take it apart and assemble it here’. I stared into the eyes of the woman I loved looking for some shreds of compassion none were there. ‘Clearly it fits against the wall so if you assemble it here’ ‘How could this be happening after all the good years which we had together?’ Desperate to save the relationship and myself I recommended one final three dimensional lift-and-twist idea: ‘Let’s move it back out and then push, lift and rotate simultaneously’ I suggested. I knew it would be hard, but I also knew that Ima’s drive gave her the strength that could break the walls should the need arise. One hundred and sixty pounds of bookcase would not be an issue. ‘If I could pull this off perhaps we could work some emotions back into our relationship.’

We began to slide the bookcase from the living room back into the hallway. Just before it squashed me against the far wall I began to push it up and rotate its front towards the floor. The idea was to lift while rotating as far above the floor as the ceiling would allow, and rotated towards the floor as far as the doorway would allow. If we could get it to clear the doorway we could rotate it all the way, pull it off the stair and stand it up. It worked. ‘Get the shelves’. I did. ‘Now the books.’ I did. ‘It needs some support so that it doesn’t tilt forward when a earthquake hits’. ‘Did you realize what it took to get this to stand?’ ‘You need the same thing to get it to fall!’ ‘Get some support’.

All in all, a marvel of furniture Tetris allowed for a very nice bookcase to stand in a place in the house which no one sees at all. Tintin went to play basketball taking advantage of the last rays of sunlight. Ima went on to complete minor rearrangements here and there. I went to nurse my shoulder pondering what the future had in store.

‘IMA!!!!’, ZAP @#*,.,.,.,.

‘Bushy’, ‘Yes’ ‘The new dishwasher is too small.’

Why am I Here

Yeela speaks at the world wide convention of Jewish organizations in Jerusalem

In Israel, when two strangers chat on the street, they will always try to find how they’re connected. If they’re civilians, the first question following the introduction is likely to be: “Where did you serve in the army?” If they’re soldiers, who can identify where their comrade serves by the color of their beret, design of the tag hanging from the shoulder, and pins adorning the uniform, the conversation will begin with: “What part of the country are you from?”

It is the latter question that I always have difficulty with. Now, a year into my service, I have memorized the series of questions and answers that are repeated every time I am confronted with: “what part of the country are you from?”

“I was born in Jerusalem, but I’m not from there. When I leave the base I’m mostly in Tel Aviv, but no, I didn’t go to school there” ;.

“Why?”

“I moved to California when I was six.”

“Why?”

“My father was offered a job in the Silicon Valley”

“So when did you come back?”

“August 2002, three months before I began my service in the IDF.”

“Where does your family live now?”

“They are still in the states.”

“So you are here by yourself?”

“Yes.”

And now the most dreaded question of all:

“You left America for this??????”

To me, it is very clear why I came here, from where I drew the strength to leave my family, and why I am convinced that it was the only right path to the future that I want for my life. The problem is explaining it to the typical, cynical Israeli, who underneath the seemingly tough exterior, is moved and encouraged by the fact that people are not just leaving the country, but that a lot of them choose to come back.

I grew up surrounded by Israelis. I was active in the Israeli Scouts, a popular youth movement in Israel that branched out to the states, spoke Hebrew at home, and was taught how to read and write in Hebrew by my mother. Every year my parents would say that we would move back to Israel the following year. In reality the years passed my two brothers were born in the states, and I believed that my family would move back, together. I realized that I never developed a sense of permanence in America because of the fact that as a young child I was always told that living there was only temporary.

Twelve years passed and by the end of twelfth grade a decision had to be made. Every year sees a few Israelis who choose to return, and others that continue their lives in the states and begin their studies in a university. I knew that I would never feel complete anywhere else but in Israel. However, at the same time, I secretly feared being disappointed. I saw Israel through the optimistic eyes of the six-year-old that left 12 years e arlier. I knew Israel only during the summers when I visited and not what it felt like to live here all year round. I was afraid that it was my stubborn self who couldn’t let go of a childhood dream making the decision and not a responsible adult doing the best thing for her future. The fact that the acceptance letters from the universities I applied to didn’t change my mind convinced me that I would regret giving up this dream. I would never be happy knowing that I chose the path that everyone said made more sense rather than the path my heart and gut urged me to follow.

The only thing that held me back was a guilty conscience. How could I possibly leave my family behind? I would miss my sister’s sweet sixteenth birthday, seeing her when she passed her driving test, and how she is becoming an amazing young woman. I would miss my 12-year-old brother starting junior high and his first dance. I wouldn’t be able to hang up the phone on girls that begin to call him or hear how much his guit ar playing has improved. I would miss the soccer games, the holidays, the family trips, and celebrate all the birthdays over the phone. I was making the decision to leave the most loving and supportive family and my 10-year-old brother, the youngest, could not understand why I was doing this to him. The decision also included the aspect of living alone, which terrified me. I never had to make an omelet for myself, and my dad packed my lunch for me through high school. I never wanted to leave home, but I knew I couldn’t stay in the states and ignore the inexplicable emptiness inside me.

It was three months after I left home, when I joined the army that I realized how difficult it would be to be in the army without my family. At the same time, I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else. Even with tear-flooded eyes I never regretted my decision. I realized that I wouldn’t have a mom waiting for me on Fridays when I came back from the base. She wouldn’t be there to make my favorite dishes or i ron my uniform. But every evening I would see the amazing sunset falling on the base and think how the sky never looked so beautiful, that the colors never looked so real or the clouds so serene; because this was my sky, my desert, my mountains and streams. Each pebble, flower, and tree is linked to the lives dedicated to this country. Lives of generations of my people who fought to gain, and to preserve, and to shape and develop. The feeling that I am a part of something so immense, part of the ongoing legacy of the Jewish people, is my source of strength. My home is here. I belong only in Israel

Those first three months of my service were training for the job I would do for the duration of my service; part of a spectrum of duties offered by the Education Corps. My training was specific for Education NCOs (non commissioned officers). Education NCOs are stationed in every unit of the IDF and are responsible for helping commanders fulfill their roles as educators, and instill in all soldiers values set forth by the army’s moral and ethic code, known as “The Spirit of the IDF”. The ethic code demands values such as: the protection of Israel, her citizens and residents, loyalty to Israel, respect of fellow human beings, responsibility, honesty, comradeship, the importance of every human life, and purity of arms. The IDF aims to pursue national security without losing sight of the nation’s heart and soul. Therefore, even today, with budget cuts being felt in many vital areas, it continues to support the functioning and development of the Education Corps.

With every moral dilemma I hear soldiers debating or discussing with one another or with their commanders, my belief in the Education Corps intensifies. Every time soldiers see Jerusalem for the first time or learn something new from the long history of the Jewish people or of Israel, I feel proud to be part of a people’s army. When David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of Israel, envisioned the establi shment of a united Defense Force in 1948, he stated: “Our army has a responsibility and duty not only in days of war, but also and especially during times of peace. The IDF must shape the character of our nation’s youth, and by that, the character of our military. The IDF has the historic-educational role that serves no purpose and has no place in other armies: to be a nest for the renewing nation’s soul, to be a unifying and bonding melting-pot for the different diasporas, and to instill in our youth a sense of our nation’s history and the vision of the future ahead of us.”

The IDF has held on to these principles set forth by Ben-Gurion, and the idea of an educating army that defends its country in ways that go beyond the merely physical. We are a nation that built an army that built a nation. I strongly believe that the army has built and shaped me as a person. It has given me the opportunity to learn more about Israel than I ever could have through a textbook. I feel that I am constantly growing and developing rather than standing still and watching my life pass me by. I have the chance to pass on my conviction in the continuance and progress of Israel.

Most of all, the army has given me a sense of belonging that I never felt elsewhere. It has weaved me into the Israeli society and I will never be an outsider or merely a visitor. Now I may still have difficulty answering exactly which part of the country I am from. However, I’ve learned to answer with a hidden smile, thinking that a few years from now when I run into a stranger on the street as a civilian, I will be able to answer precisely where I served in the IDF.