Restless Beginnings

 

We’ve all been there. You wake up on a Friday morning with 5 minutes to get to class because you kept hitting the snooze button. Your head is thumping courtesy of the shots of tequila you took at the bar last night and your mouth is as dry as the Sahara. As you rise to your feet and stumble over to the closet mirror, you are not happy with what you see: your eyes are bloodshot, your hair is half up and half down. You ask yourself out loud: “What the – am I doing with my life?”

I ask myself that question a lot, and it’s not just because I have a deep-seated love of tequila. At this moment, somewhere, two people are falling in love. Somewhere somebody is stuffing their face. Every two seconds someone dies of starvation. Stop reading for 2 seconds. That’s another one. Africans are being systematically exterminated in Darfur simply because they’re black. But what can one person do anyway? Why are we here? To make a difference? To make the world a better place? Whose idea of better? To Hitler a better world was one without Jews. I’m not really trying to find an answer so much as I’m trying to find a place where I can look at myself in the mirror and say I’m not living only for myself.

I was born into a life of privilege in Scarsdale, New York, blessed with a loving family consisting of both parents, 2 sisters and a younger brother. I worked my tail off in High School, which translated into good grades and my acceptance in 2006 to the University of Pennsylvania where I am currently completing my Junior year. My experience at Penn has been amazing.  I’ve had great teachers, great friends and a great social life.  While I participate in activities that serve the greater good, they revolve around my schedule. I live with an unshakeable feeling, while arguably unfounded, that I am missing an overall sense of purpose.  Because what am I really doing with myself?

As Diaspora Jews living in America, and particularly at the University of Pennsylvania, it is understood that every step of our lives is grooming us for the “Real World.”  We work hard to get good grades and then we trade the 3.7 on our transcript for a “good job” which will earn us a high salary. From there, we make yearly donations to the IDF, attend the occasional fund raiser, and go about our business. Israel needs Jews in America to do exactly that, make no mistake about it, but I personally reject the premise that it is “good enough” to donate money to Israel at one’s convenience. I feel an obligation to the Land of Israel, my land, to do more. I don’t know where I’ll be in twenty years, but I know where I will be after college, and it’s back in Israel where I am as I write this. I’ve had a dream since I was a little kid, and that dream was to come to Israel and serve in the Israeli Army. After years of going back and forth, I made the final decision today that after college I will return to Israel to join the Israeli Army.

I believe in a world in which life, liberty, and justice supercede extremist religious doctrine. I believe in a world where women don’t have to hide their faces in public and where school children can get on a bus without having to worry about it blowing up. I believe in a world where government’s don’t wipe out their own populations. The enemy at odds with everything I believe in is radical Islam, a fight the Israeli Defense Force takes on daily. While Politicians have at times used Israel’s defense force for purposes that are more political than existential, it is indisputable that there would be no Israel today if not for the IDF. Israel has been forced to to go to war every ten years since her birth in 1948: 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, 1990, and 2000. Furthermore, the re-emergence of anti-Semitism in Europe is proof of a growing intolerance that, along with the apathy that sustains it, can only lead to disaster.

The struggle facing the world today is not just a physical struggle, but a struggle against ignorance; ignorance that creates blind hatred and fanatics that blow up cafes full of civilians and drive trucks of explosives into marine barracks.

I hope that there will come a day when, as it is written in the Torah, “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,” but that day is not yet here, and until it comes, people must fight to defend the world from fanatics.  A Nation is not give upon a silver platter. In every generation our enemies have risen up to destroy us, and in every generation we have survived because of the sacrifices of those who put their people before themselves. Because of those who refused to give in to the Roman Empire’s demands that they cease practicing Judaism. Because of those who rose up at the Warsaw Ghetto against impossible odds. Because of the 1% of Israel’s population that died in 1948 defending Israel from the armies of 6 invading Arab countries. Because of 19 year old boys who stared down Syrian tanks that outnumbered them  10 to 1 without ammunition in order to hold the line.

Today the missiles fall on Sderot. But if action isn’t taken, how long until those missiles fall on Jerusalem? On  Tel Aviv? On London? On New York? Appeasement is not a viable strategy to cope with an enemy to whom the word cease-fire is only used to mean rearmament, and to whom the entire Western world is regarded as the enemy, a fact that many of Israel’s Western critics seem unable to grasp.

People have long told me that I am crazy for wanting to join the Israeli Army after graduating from an Ivy League institution. “Why you?” they all ask.

Why not me? I didn’t choose my IQ or more relevant to my acceptance at Penn, my work ethic, but I will choose my own fate. Israel needs soldiers…there is no question about that. Would they be fine without me? Probably.

But as much as this is for Israel, this is for me. I’d rather take the gun out of the terrorist’s hand than preach to an American audience about why the terrorist is wrong. To me, Israel is more than just a physical location because it stands for something. Israel is a sign of the persistence of the Jewish people, and our survival for 4000 years despite the attempts of our enemies to destroy us.

I recently heard from a friend of mine that while he was at a Hanukah party in the Old City of Jerusalem, the Rabbi, from whom they expected to hear a long sermon about the significance of the holiday, asked only a simple question. The question was: “What would you fight for?”

At what point do the stakes of remaining a bystander outweigh your intervening? What would you risk life and limb for? To people who have grown up in backgrounds like mine, we have had little to fight for. The High Schools we went to were safe, we didn’t have to walk home looking over our shoulder every night, and the people we hung out around didn’t treat us differently because we were Jewish. We have never really had anything that was worth fighting for and so it’s hard for us to recognize something when it comes along. But now there is a fight worth joining. That is the fight for the Jewish people. People of my generation need not look further than our parents and grandparents to know that the America we live in today is not the same one they grew up in. For our parents but especially our grandparents, they had to defend their Judaism. People at school treated them differently. Country clubs excluded them. People jeered them on the street when they wore keepot. For my generation in America, these are events of the past. But in the rest of the world those things are very much a reality. Anti-semetism is on the rise and terrorism continues to threaten the existence of the Jewish state as Hamas and Hizbullah are armed and then rearmed by Iran.  Israel is under attack.  The missiles may come and go but when their are lulls, it is only because our enemy is rearming, waiting to seize the first opportunity to strike. It is only because the enemy is planning terrorist attacks against civilian centers. It is only because the enemy is reinforcing his trenches. So I know where I draw the line…I draw it right here.

I will not stand on the sidelines while the enemies of Israel threaten the right of Israel’s citizens to live safely and exist in a Jewish state. I draw the line when bomb shelters must be built in playgrounds. I draw the line when buses must be searched for explosives before they enter the central bus station in Jerusalem. I draw the line when mothers worry about their children going to night clubs in Tel Aviv because of the threat of terror. I draw the line when schools are closed not because of incoming snow but because of incoming missiles.

Abraham Lincoln once said that in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count, but the life in your years. When I die, I will die a man that believed in something and fought for that belief.

11/25/08

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30 Responses to “Restless Beginnings”

  1. Lilly A Says:

    Corey, what you wrote is beautiful.. and after reading it, the first thing that comes to my mind is the same thought i had the first time i ever met you.. you’re going to make a difference in this world and it will be one that impacts the lives of many.. that is something to be very proud of..
    hope all is well,
    Lilly

  2. Sam Says:

    hey, cuz. i’m not sure i knew you were actually doing this, but if you really feel strongly about it (which is evident from your post) i’m glad you are.
    i think a lot of people our age are having huge issues finding meaning in life. it’s a struggle i’ve seen a lot of my friends go through after graduating. the weird thing is, in this day and age it seems that there are more things to fight for, more reasons to get out there and make a difference, than ever before.
    at the same time as i’m glad you’re doing this, i have to say something, which is that there are many other ways to make a difference in this world than putting yourself directly into the fray. you could get into politics and try to change laws, or become a public speaker. you could organize protests or rallies or join a non-profit organization that benefits jewish people. there are a lot of people who work behind the scenes to help fix the world; they probably don’t get as much recognition, but they also don’t get shot at as much.
    i know you’re probably really excited that you’ve found something to be passionate about. but it worries me that you want to channel it in a way that is so life-threatening. at the same time, you’re very good at a lot of things, primarily interacting with other people; that is a key skill in a situation where you have to trust and support everyone around you.
    so i can’t say that the israeli army isn’t the right choice for you, just that i think you could still fight for what you believe in in a way that doesn’t threaten your personal safety as much.
    you can still find meaning in life in a way that doesn’t make your family afraid that they’ll lose you.
    that said, whatever you decide, it will be interesting to see what you do with your life. feldmans are pretty damn influential, and i can’t wait to see where we all end up and how we change the world. 😀

  3. Liz Says:

    Hi Corey, My brother is also joining the IDF through the Machal program this summer. As proud as I am of his decision, I never really understood his motivations, feeling of purpose, etc. He is not the expressive type, so his explanations were not enough to convince me or help me understand. Your writing gave me perspective. I know that everyone has their own individual motivation and personal story, but reading yours gave me the mindset to better understand my brother’s. Best of luck, and congratulations on deciding to make a difference and do something so fulfilling and meaningful.

  4. Sean Says:

    Not only am I incredibly impressed with what you are going to do, something very admirable, but your articulation is quite poignant. At a time when so many people are just concerned with short term and often material concerns you seem to be making some great decisions. Lots of respect from me.

    Keep it real

  5. Andy Says:

    Hey Corey,

    If this is what you want to do, go for it. I wish you safety and the best of luck in your defense of Israel.

  6. Adam Says:

    Best of luck brother. Keep it up and maybe I’ll see you over there

  7. Jon Says:

    Corey I have all the same views. Those same views are what inspired me to join the U.S. Army last year as a hopeful infantry officer. Same fight, different country, same goals. Radical Islam has been our biggest threat since Soviet Russia and appeasement surely has not worked (Thank you Jimmy Carter. Idiot)

    Remember those Haji bastards blew up a Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon and killed 280 people, including Army soldiers, sailors, and civilians. They hate the U.S. just as much, if not more than they hate Israel and the Jews. To those savages, Israel and the U.S. are synonymous because we all share a belief in freedom, liberty, peace, and the value of human life. The fact that there are a few million Jews in the U.S. also spurs there hatred on even more.

    I couldn’t be more proud that you are joining the armed forces, and I couldn’t be more proud that you are joining for the reasons you stated. We grew up in peachy old Scarsdale, and most of us will only make a difference in the business world. Thank God there are people like you and me who are prepared to defend our world from tyranny and hatred.

    May God guide you on your journey and help you find the discipline, skill-set, and courage to complete your quest. God Bless America and Israel.

  8. Terence Says:

    My man,
    I wish I was as passionate about anything as you are about this. You are, and you been a good friend, and I clearly hope everything goes well for you if you really decide to stick to this, but I got to admit that I agree wit your friend Sam, you’re one of the most gregarious, outgoing and intelligent dudes I know, and I feel like you could def put that to use in politics, but hopefully, ideally, you’ll be able to do both if you so please.
    Hope to see you soon my dude

  9. Evan Says:

    Corey, I could not support you more in what you are doing. Standing up for Israel is a great thing, and I am glad you found the perfect outlet for that passion. Best of luck to you and do your best to be safe, of course. I will see you in Israel if not sooner.

  10. Ashley Says:

    You summed up a lot of what I have been feeling for a very, very long time. I am so impressed by the decision you made, and I only wish that I find something that I am just as passionate about pursuing after we graduate next may…wow I can’t believe I am actually saying that. Time flies. But honestly, that sounds like it will be an incredible opportunity and experience for you. And who knows, maybe I’ll even see you in Israel.

  11. Adin Pearl Says:

    Corey,
    After spending a year volunteering and learning in israel before I started school at UPenn, a lot of the same thoughts were running through my mind. If Israel really meant all the things to me that I preached it did, then how come I wasn’t doing something practical about it? It is obvious that your heart and your head are in the right place. As Jews living a safe and cushiony life in America, we forget that Israel is the actual, political embodiment of Judaism. It is not something that can just be ignored or swept into the back of the mind of an assimilated Jew. If Israel is fighting the good fight for Jews all throughout the world as it has for the past six decades, then the Jews of the Diaspora should so the same. I found your blogpost inspiring and accurate. I hope we can discuss this further in my interview with you.

    -Adin

  12. Michael San Soucie Says:

    Last year, I took a gap year and went to Israel for the year. Everything that you’re talking about I’ve seen with my own eyes. Regardless of whether or not you think you would objectively be of use (whether Israel actually needs one more soldier), the morale that you’re going to bring to all the guys you come into contact with can’t be overstated. When Israelis hear that an American came all the way to serve for the Jewish homeland, it fosters an unbelievable amount of pride in their nation and strengthens their resolve. So don’t think you’re the only one that’s going to benefit through this in the absolute sense. When you start, you’ll quickly see that you have the potential to do an intense amount of good for the people around you. Best of luck, but I know you’ll kick a ton of ass.

    • Max Rappaport Says:

      I grew up in an extremely reform Jewish household, so I am not terribly up to date on Israeli and Jewish affairs. Reading this post made me really stop and think about my beliefs and what it means to be Jewish. It’s true that growing up in a sheltered city in America can isolate you from tragedies going on around the world. Like Michael said, whether or not one soldier will make a difference is not the issue here. It’s making a statement that you will not sit back and watch but rather take control and fight for your beliefs. You will inspire many people. Good luck man.

  13. Max Epelbaum Says:

    I’m really proud of you Corey. A lot of people will always talk about joining the IDF and then never do it, but you are actually going to fight. I work at a Jewish sleepaway camp, and every year they get counselors from Israel who have already served their time in the army. These are some of the best people I have ever met in my life, the Israeli army builds a lot of character and should be a terrific experience for you. I wish you the best of luck in your endeavor.

  14. Jerome Vivino Says:

    Corey, that’s really an incredible thing that you’re doing. I cannot completely relate to your situation because I’m not Jewish but I have the utmost respect for you. To be able to finally find yourself and your purpose is a great accomplishment especially at such a young age. You have incredible amounts of courage to not just say you support Israel but to actually be willing to stand on the front line and fight for it. Not many people are willing to take matters into there own hands so kudos to you. Your fight for peace and the freedom from fear are truly inspiring. I can tell you passion burns deep with intensity and that it will take you places. Stay strong and be safe. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

  15. Shane Curry Says:

    This is an inspiring post. I’m Catholic and have little idea about Jewish culture. The blog was relatable though when I began to think about what I would be willing to fight for. The fact that you are willing to put yourself in harm’s way to protect your beliefs is awesome. Good luck over there.

  16. Ben Roberts Says:

    My O My…from young adult playing pool in Puerto Rico, to Soldier. I could’ve never placed it. Either way, you’ve always been a man of considerable character; whose genuine deeds always complimented his jovial manner. I’m lucky to have you as a friend all these years, and the Israeli people have truly gained an asset. Good luck with everything, my friend and you know your safety will be at the forefront of my mind.

    B

  17. Patrick Murphy Says:

    Corey – It was an honor to meet you in Washington today and I’m proud you are joining the military profession. It made me a better son, a better brother, and later a better husband and father because it taught me to put the soldiers on my left and my right first. Selfless service and a deep love of country and homeland will be forever stamped on your heart. Thank you for stepping up.
    You’ll do great things and I’m proud to have gotten to know you. Michael Levin is up in heaven smiling down on you brother. Be safe and stay in touch. -Patrick

  18. Kathi Ice Says:

    Dear Corey,
    God Bless you, Take Care and I will pray for you every day.
    Kathi

  19. NANCY Says:

    Dear Corey;

    You were amazing when we use to join you for Friday night dinners and you would put money away for children who didn’t have anything. You are an inspiration to anyone who has the privilege of knowing you. You have taught alot of people that if everyone felt like you do about Israel we wouldn’t have to worry about war. I’m so proud of you and the man that you have become. Stay safe and always know how special you’re. You inspire us all. We love you.

  20. Tara Says:

    So well done Corey

  21. Ron Says:

    Exceedingly strontg, Corey.
    Chazak chazak ~

  22. Meredith Weiss Says:

    Kol Hakavod to you. Proud of your service to Am Yisrael. May you go from strength to strength. Keep doing your thing brother. We are all with you. Meredith

  23. NANCY Says:

    Corey we’re so proud of you and what a fabulous young man you have become. Enjoy the Holidays with your parents and family. WE LOVE YOU

  24. gill katz Says:

    Lovely lovely lovely!!

  25. lynda burak Says:

    Hi Corey…greetings from America. I am the “lady” you met at the JLI dinner last week. I tried your email address but it was not correct. I did speak with your mom and sent her the photos of that night.

    I have told everyone about our meeting and hope you will keep in touch. Please send me your email and I will send you the photos.

    Stay safe!
    -Lynda

  26. Beth Hassid Says:

    Bravo! Your parents and all Jews should be very proud of you

  27. Lexah Ashlee @ The WRITE World Says:

    You are an admirable man, and I thank you for protecting our people. Hashem should guide you and protect you in all that you do.

  28. Elana Heideman Says:

    Corey, I am writing to you on behalf of The Lone Soldier Project of The Israel Forever Foundation http://www.israelforever.org. I hope this email reaches you personally, as there is no other contact info provided. We would love to share your piece with our global community, increasing awareness to the experiences of lone soldiers such as yourself and helping people around the world understand the importance of the dedication and commitment you so eloquently express. Kol HaKavod! Please be in touch with us!

  29. The Lone Soldier Project Says:

    Hi Corey – thank you for your service. I run an organization called the Lone Soldier Project (www.thelonesoldierproject.com) that spreads awareness of Lone Soldiers – who they are, what they do, and how we can support. Would love to share your story – please be in touch!

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