Joseph Joins the Army


My brother joins the Israeli military tomorrow.

My main emotion is sadness, which is saying a lot because I don’t usually let myself feel much sadness.

Yosef is joining a special-forces unit, which means he’ll be doing harder, more brutal training, get exposed to more dangerous situations, and do all this for an extra year longer than most Israelis.

I’m sad because I don’t want him to lose four years of his life to an institution, where you alternate between sheer boredom and risking your life, emerging at the age when most Americans have graduated college with nothing to show but trauma and a burning desire to get of Israel, at least for a while.

I’m sad because of the training he’ll be going through. Another brother who also served, was traumatized just by the training. Of crawling until you bleed. Of soldiers crawling through their own vomit. I have no desire to see the army make a man out of my brother. I prefer he stay the boy, the joker, the computer game playing socialite that I know him to be.

I sad because I don’t want him to die. Yosef is the best. He has less edges. Hilarious, intelligent, and easygoing, he’s beloved by all who know him. If this sounds like a eulogy, it’s because it seems like its the best that die young. The assholes live until they are 95, chain smoking and harassing the rest of humanity.

Yosef Daniel is named after a soldier who died, killed by a sniper while conducting an arrest in Jenin. The killer was arrested, and then released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap. This tells you all you need to know about the futility of serving in the Israeli army.

You get looped into the endless cycle of violence that is the Middle East in general and Israel in particular. You become part of the endless trauma that is the large population of men who’ve seen combat, or oppressed minorities, or who lost their friends, all so that we can supposedly “never again” experience just that.

I know Yosef felt a duty to serve his country, to sacrifice on behalf of others just as others had sacrificed before him.

To me, it’s incredibly arbitrary. Speaking with him, a fluent English-speaker, well versed in the ways of TikTok and gen-z, you could easily imagine him growing up in New York. Where even Jews don’t serve in the army, especially if they were raised Orthodox like we were. The fact that he’s sacrificing so much because of where my parents chose to live – a sacrifice which my parents themselves never made – infuriates me.

I don’t believe Israel is worth dying for. I don’t believe it’s worth giving up years of your life for. I don’t believe it’s doing anything to preserve the continuity of the Jewish people, nor do I believe that there is anything inherently valuable about the Jewish people sticking around as a distinct identity.

All this to say, if Yosef is killed, I will never forgive my parents. For placing him in harms way. For moving to a war-torn country to make a point.

There, I’ve turned the sadness back into anger.

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