Bakum. December 10, 2013, my civilian life is terminated. December 10, 2013, I’m given a gun, a haircut, a uniform, dog tags, and a reason to hate life. All at a place called, Bakum.

But, I chose this, so I can’t complain. Actually, what bothers me isn’t what I know about the army. Its what I don’t know. I feel all the uncertainty of my journey. What will the people be like?

So far, most of the volunteers I met are younger than I am. Many came here right after finishing highschool! So, I not only feel like the grandfather of the group, but the over educated guy at a job interview!

I remember in the summer, I read an article about Seal Team Six, where it said that some of those seals have PHds. So, I suppose I’m not the only degree holder in the boat. We’re all here for the same reason, we volunteered.

After two months of adjusting to the dawn of a new reality, a new me, a difficult journey, only one thing bothers me. The gun.

I think when it comes down to it, all human beings are capable of ending a life, of harming one another. I don’t feel a hesitation when I imagine someone needs to be stopped on their way to harming others, but the thought of harming someone’s father, brother, son, uncle, its quite a burden on that part of my mind that handles ethical issues. After all, no one wakes up in the morning wishing to harm others. Monsters do that. People aren’t monsters, we’re far too complicated to be monsters.

I’m ready to do what soldiers do. I just want to be completely aware of the effects of certain things, as they happen. I feel like if I’m aware of it, then maybe I can influence the impact it has on me. Emotionally, intellectually, instinctively.

I remember an article about a certain fish that once in a while, accidentally, eats fish of its own species. Either because it was very hungry, or because it wasn’t careful as it ate fish of another species next to fish of its own species. And after the fish eats its own species, it undergoes a biological and chemical change, it changes its colors and is very different in appearance from how it was before.

If fish can change so drastically from something like that, what kind of transformation would I undergo from harming someone I purposely aimed and fired upon? Yes, even if it was someone attempting to kill women and children. Such people need to be stopped. But I worry even the good guys pay a price.

I’m actually very happy I’m a lot older than everyone else here, because I feel like at 23 years of age I am a lot better equipped to handle issues like the kind I wrote about here. Especially after all that good ol’ college education in the social sciences. I think if I give some thought to this stuff, I’ll be able to make sure I don’t let myself change colors like those fish.

As always, my conscience will guide me. At the end of the day, I’m in one of the most ethically sound armies of the world.

5 thoughts on “Bakum

  1. You remind me of an incident in the Sinai when you talk about education. The Sinai was not a fun place to serve. Boiling hot in the day and freezing at night, we lived in pup tents with terrible food.

    One day, a Sergeant came up to the group and asked “Who here speaks English well?” My immediate thought was, Great, I’ll get to escort some diplomats or tourists in an air-conditioned vehicle, eat fancy food, no training,

    My hand shot up. “Great, Naftali, go to the kitchen for KP duty” I forgot the Army lesson, don’t raise your hand to volunteer. 😉

  2. Go in peace and know that while the road will be tough, you are doing a great mitzvah. While you may one day be forced to make a decision about taking one life to save another, you will make the best decision you can. You will learn to make impossible decisions quickly and to act deftly. I am so grateful for the former soldier who retained his gun license and shot and killed the man who was aiming at me in his forklift. He had already hit a bus full of school girls on a field trip and was aiming for other cars, mine among them. Had he not participated in the training you are embarking upon, he would not have had the skills to think and act so quickly and my daughter would have been an orphan. Instead, she is on the same path as you, studying in university before her (B”H) enlistment in the IDF. Bless you for choosing to contribute to our people in the way that your neshama led you. Doubtless your training and experience in the IDF will color your future in ways you cannot yet imagine. May you realize your full potential in the service of our people.

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