Creative Commons License photo credit: Giorgio Montersino

By Ohad Ben-Haim

Two days ago I read that more than 25% of the Israeli boys dodge the army. It is sad.
Ill-timely I’ve been in a medical committee yesterday regarding my profile due to some medical issues for which I’m taking pills for the last two years.

Now that my closest friends are doing their reserves duties they might count me in that same sad statistic.
You all have a right for it - but it’s MY right to say: “GO TO HELL”.

And in order to defend my reputation, I’d like to say why, just to satisfy all of you skeptics:

- That’s true that since my childhood I was terrified of anything associated with the army so much as even avoid watching “Tironut” (an Israeli series from 1998 regarding some young people in boot camp) or Lemon Popsicle (the 4th movie in a saga of three kids in 1950’s Israel) when they were in the army. But eventually I faced my fear by pulling myself together and exercising all through my high school thus removing much of the fear of the physical rigors in the army.

- While many guys in my high school raged about the security issue and acted militant all the way (“we should bomb Gaza to the ground!”, yeah and I don’t suppose you would do it yourself??), but I doubt if even a third of them got to combat corps. Even I wasn’t aware it would happen to me, I ended up in the artillery corps. Now I did got there kinda like a feather in the wind but I didn’t resist to go there unlike someone I knew who even punched the sergeant who should take us to Shivta (our basic training base).

- Once you’re a soldier and you still don’t want to be there the least you’d want to do is to screw the system like getting out to medical leaves (referred here as “a gimmel”). In all my 3-year compulsory service they gave me (and it wasn’t MY idea) gimmels only twice: One time was when I sprang my right ankle in the basic training and the other time was because a biopsy in my head, plus I resisted to take it at first because I feared it would screw up a leave of one of my closest friends with whom I’m still in touch. The only time I lied about my medical condition was in order to avoid an evening with my battery in expense of my leave.
Apart the gimmels you can ask my comrades, they vouch for me as being loyal to my assigned duties, to my commanders, to my friends… and not just them, in my “tribute-shield” (I hope I got that word right), my discharge papers, even on my wall, the evidence to the nature of my service are everywhere.

- Once I got out of the compulsory service, you can probably understand the euphoria where you think you won’t wear theses uniforms again. Plus, there was a word that the future service time would be only 30 months instead of 36, and we’ll be summoned to reserves only once in two-three years. But the war in 2006 snapped us all out of that illusion. When they re-drafted me five months later, 18 days into the war I came there as ready as I can be, ready mostly to prove I’m not that shocked-out rookie that some people still remember. Even though I haven’t seen enough of that war to write an Oscar-nominated movie about it, I still served in the field and we were under fire and just then I felt everything but shock. But that is a story for another time…

- In May, 2007 I was diagnosed with the medical problems which because of them I started taking my medications in the mornings and going through a blood tests and an endocrinologist every 3-4 months. Since then, I got recalled twice to the reserves. Once was cancelled and not by my request, but the other time 2 months later I got to training in the desert once I couldn’t cancel it. But I didn’t even consider using my medications as an excuse since I wasn’t handicapped physically, so in a way I EVEN COVERED UP MY MEDICAL PROBLEM AWAY FROM THE ARMY! I only learned that these issues may affect my medical profile only 6 months later but still, I kept requesting not to be in the reserves due to academic reasons alone, and they accepted my requests all the time. Only a whole year into my condition I updated the army about my medical issue and it took them another 8 months of a military bureaucracy until they told me to show up in that medical committee.

When I joined the army I promised myself two things: going through it absolutely without gimmels and dirty business. Although it took only a week when my first promise couldn’t be kept, I was more then loyal to the latter – 100% no dirty business!! I cooperated with the system in everything I did not in order to mess with it. I used every means available for a soldier’s welfare only when I needed for them and never misused them.

And think for a moment what that discharge means for me: true, I am glad it won’t get in the way of my studying or in anything else I’d choose to do and I won’t deny it. But it also means not seeing other guys apart from who I’m usually in touch with. It means I won’t drive a Self Propelled Cannon again. That job may have a poor reputation but damn it I love doing it! That’s one of the very few things I allow myself to boast. But mainly it means I’ll have to account for all those schmucks who accuse me of dodging the army. Save it for those doing it on “religious causes” who never spent time in the synagogues, or “conscience causes” who don’t understand politics and see it how they see fit or to those who try to fabricate medical and/or mental problems. NOT ME! I DID serve my country, willingly, PROUDLY, with all the difficulties I coped with them rather then escaping them AND I WOULD GLADLY DO MY SERVICE AGAIN!!