I was ready to go to the army. I was preparing my bag when I suddenly got a phone call from the supervisor of my program who told me that there was some misunderstanding and I actually had two more months until my draft. It was a few months after my dad died, a few months before I lost my virginity. I think I smoked my first joint during those two months, at a festival with a few strangers. It made me laugh a lot. My second joint was inhaled during the second Intifada, about a month before the end of my army service. (I’ll never wear a soldier’s uniform again). A friend came by while I was patrolling the northern Jerusalem Hill that was our army base, between a settlement and an Arab village. It made me fantasize. I told him, let’s pretend I’m Arik Einstein and you are my musical partner, Shalom Chanoch. I arranged my hair accordingly and sang into the night. I don’t remember if he sang with me. In a southern industrial hill of Jerusalem, a little later, in some weird art school, I still had no sense of control over my life. Only when I returned to Brooklyn, a seedling of mine already in Ana’s belly, I got some
I didn’t want to supervise Palestinians so they told me to do some office work instead of manning checkpoints. The office was a trailer with an old couch, a broken chair and a table. The soldiers who did checkpoints told me ID numbers of men they had arrested over the distorted phone and I was supposed to call someone who would decide what to do with them. I might have misheard some numbers.
My life was at risk twice during my army service. The first time was something very close to a suicide (which in many armies, including the IDF, is the highest cause of death when not at war). I had a gun and no sense of control over my life. During the daily communal ritual of cleaning it, on an isolated desert army base, a few steps from Egypt, more than an hour away from civilization, a few months after losing my virginity, I unintentionally found myself deep in the ‘what would happen if I shot myself’ kind of thoughts. The second time my life was at risk was when I was guarding the border between Israel and Jordan on a canal that divides the Dead Sea in two. It was nighttime and the Jordanian soldier and I were the only ones awake for miles, me and him, him and me. I thought for a moment that the only thing that made sense would be for me to leave my gun and uniform and walk naked into Jordan. The scene was about to take place. There was nothing else for me to do that night besides acting out this scene. I didn’t do it.
The first time I was supposed to shoot a gun I started crying intensively. I couldn’t control it. It was the most intensive cry I ever cried and I don’t think I ever saw someone crying like I did that day. I couldn’t stop for a very long time. I still remember the beating sound of guns shooting while I was outside, someone offering me water. It was was the most meaningful event of my army service, I wasn’t meant to be a soldier. For about a week they didn’t know what to do with me, I remember talks about transferring me into another unit and then I just started shooting, shooting and not crying anymore. Only once more did I cry during my army service, about a year later. For long periods of time during my service I told my officers I couldn’t shoot a gun and they had nothing to tell me besides sending me to do kitchen or office work. I was a coward, but a brave one.
Photos by M. Zipory