Dangling right below my Magen David necklace is my camera, strapped around my neck. With my camera I use my creativity to freeze moments, documenting my most memorable events. I have become glued to this art – so much so that it has followed me all 6,000 miles to Israel, to the point where I am consistently taking my camera out to shoot what’s in the present to make it last a lifetime.
I am a supporter of the IDF because it has a special place in my heart. In November, I spent a day on the FIDF mission. I told my peers that I wouldn’t be in class that day because I was “shooting army bases.” Not only were they incredibly confused, they were also appalled. Little did I know that they assumed that because I am in Israel and because I am Mara Friedman, granddaughter of Dennis Seaman, the Ze’ev Jabotinsky fanatic, that I meant shooting with a gun.
It was at that moment when the difference between an Israeli teenager and I hit me. The moment I stepped onto the base in the Negev I watched hundreds of people my age, not with cameras like me, but with guns glued to their side. All of these Israeli teenagers had to put a halt to their lives to do something beneficial for an entire nation, not just for themselves. These girls my age are called to the army and serve in special forces to fend off terrorists while I'm still stuck working to avoid the curfew my mom gives me when I come home. With thoughts of admiration in my head and my Canon in hand I continued to adjust my equipment, aim, and shoot, wishing that I could be like the soldiers around me.
In contrast, the classic American mindset focuses on getting a degree and soon after a job in the most efficient way possible. There’s no room for forced maturation and unity in that. In America, if someone I’m not close with invites me over for coffee, it’s most likely to be polite and brushed off a few seconds later. Here, if anyone invites me for coffee I’m there the next day.
Unfortunately, rather than emerging into the culture through joining the army like every Israeli my age, I “needed” to join a gap-year program so I could be in Israel and still get those college credits. So far it has been a positive experience, but I still yearn for something greater.
I switched programs from Aardvark to a more structured, meaningful, and motivated version of it, Young Judea’s Year Course program. Here I am based in Jerusalem and able to have a good Judaic studies education in which could be an alternative form of Zionism. We also have a “power of persuasion” class to help educate teens on how to defend Israel in circumstances such as online and on college campuses. Here I learn more not only about Israel’s history, but the history of the Middle East from all ends of the spectrum. This is extremely necessary because while America might say it is pro-Israel, statistics say that 30 percent of its population really isn’t; and those 30 percent are incredibly loud. In my opinion, however, the government won’t be all in until it finally decides to move the American embassy to Jerusalem and recognize it as our capital. When Jerusalem is recognized as our capital, the world may be more willing to give in to helping the Jewish Nation not only remain standing, but standing at peace by stepping up in our favor. That’s when American media will, like me, come to Israel to adjust their equipment, aim and shoot to reveal progress being made rather than sympathy for Palestinian propaganda. Such a miracle could take more than a lifetime. Being at the closest point in the world to Hashem, I pray that it happens sooner than later, preferably in my lifetime. I will help by standing up against those 30 percent any way I can, for I know that Israel has the right to belong to the Jews in peace. As Benyamin Netanyahu stated, “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.”
That being the case, Baruch Hashem for the IDF, everyone in support of the IDF, and Am Yisrael Chai.
Mara Friedman is a Beachwood resident who is spending a gap year in Israel.