Post 35: Profile of a Lone Soldier

At 6’4 and 180 pounds, Hook is not your typical magist (heavy machine gunner). The magist is a soldier that on long marches and trips into the field is charged with carrying a gun five times the weight of the normal m-16 most soldiers carry (nearly 26 pounds), and a vest weighing twice as much. But its not just his slim build that sets him apart. Hook lives 26 hours by plane from his friends, his family, and the life he once knew, and a country he hasn’t been back to in a year and a half. While all of his friends go home on weekends to their families and home cooked meals, Hook goes back to an apartment with two other lone soldiers who aren’t always there. Begging the question of “Why?” Why leave it all behind to come to a place where people tell you you’re crazy? To understand the answer, you must first understand the man.

As a sheltered Australian Jew, Hook attended a prominent Jewish day school in his early years. At 13, the year of his Bar Mitzvah, Hook made a decision that would change the course of his life; he decided to leave Jewish day school in favor of a public school where he knew no-one. While his parents were not happy with his choice, they respected his decision, determined to let Hook choose his own course within the realm of reasonable parenting. At his former school, Hook had been among the most popular of his classmates. He had a comfortable set up, a good group of friends and a good life. What his 13 year old mind couldn’t possibly have fathomed was just how difficult it would be to start from the beginning with no friends in the 8th grade, which in Australia is all ready a year into High School.

Very quickly, Hook realized that it wasn’t just his status as a new comer that set him apart at his new school. As it happens with the newcomer in High School, people became fascinated with Hook. He began to get questions about where he was from, and the answer, a neighborhood known to be Jewish, more often than not elicited the same response: “your not Jewish, are you?” His affirmative response was most often met with a subdued “oh,” which ended the conversation. With time, Hook came to realize that he was no longer in a sheltered Jewish school. In fact, in a school of 1000 students, Hook was one of 3 Jews. In a not so sympathetic environment, Hook’s social life got off to a bad start. For the first time in his life, Hook found himself a social misfit, and for no reason other than the fact that he was Jewish. In 2006, things took a turn for the worse, as the start Holocaust studies in history class coincided with the start of the Lebanon war in Israel. At a school with a large Lebanese population, being the only male Jew made Hook an obvious target. Classes on the Holocaust became tutorials for Hook’s antisemetic classmates. They learned about how Jews had been treated in the years leading up to the holocaust, and in a quite opposite than intended affect, began to emulate the behaviors they learned about. Hook often came back from trips to the bathroom to find swastikas drawn on his notebooks and assignments. On the day they learned about the gas chambers, one of his fellow students asked Hook if that had happened to him, eliciting snickers from most of the class. As the war in Lebanon picked up, so did the aggression of Hook’s classmates. What started as verbal assaults turned into physical ones. People would trip him in the hallways and slam him into lockers. Perhaps what bothered Hook the most throughout this period was the complacency of his teachers and supposed friends. His teachers saw the swastikas on his assignments, and yet they did nothing. Friends watched as he was tripped and sometimes jumped, and they too did nothing about it. It reached a point where Hook woke up in the morning afraid to go to school.

One day, while Hook was walking to class, he was approached by a large Lebanese student whom he had never met. The student slammed a newspaper into Hook’s face and pushed him into a locker. When he recovered from his shock, Hook opened the newspaper to find the story of an Israeli missile that had gone astray into a Lebanese village.

That summer, Hook reconnected with his Jewish friends. Perhaps it was this that sparked something within him, or perhaps it was his growth spurt, but whatever the cause, Hook began to fight back. He recounted to me stories of playing soccer early in the following school year. Inevitably, someone allegedly trying to steal the ball would blind side him in the back of the head, take the ball, and call it a tackle. Hook, with a new sense of confidence, would get back up swinging, trying to take on as many of his tormentors as possible before inevitably being taken down. Hook recalled another instance where he was thrown into a locker without cause as per usual. No longer the scared, short 14 year old boy he once was, Hook bounced back, grabbed his aggressor by the shirt collar, and threw him into an adjourning locker. And then, quite suddenly, one of Hook’s classmates, who had until then not involved himself, stepped up and slugged the aggressor in the face. “I can’t believe they’re always doing this shit to you,” he said, and walked away. And in that moment Hook made an important realization: People help those who help themselves. Slowly, people began to talk to Hook and more people had his back. And the more he defended himself, the more others seemed to defend him as well.

In Australia, and in other places around the world, their are organizations not entirely known to the public that exist to defend Jewish lives and the Jewish way of life. It was about this time that Hook became involved in one such organization. it was through them that Hook realized that he wasn’t alone in his predicament, and that he became aware of the dangers facing the larger Australian Jewish community. He learned of the rampant and unpublished anti-semitism in Australia. As a volunteer, Hook witnessed violence against Jews, anti-Israel protests, and the razing of a Jewish store; activities that one might expect to see in the 40s, not in the 21st century. Hook’s first trip to Israel at the age of 18 in 2008 changed him. In Israel, people walked in the streets with keepote, Israeli flags were not only hung behind barbed wire enclaves, and religious Jews walked at night without escorts. And Hook saw something else in Israel. An army not only dedicated to the defense of Jews in Israel but of Jews throughout the world. After so many years of feeling helpless, Hook yearned to be a part of an army that fights to make sure “never again” means “never again.” And that’s why we fight. It’s why we leave our homes, friends and family in Australia, America, England, South Africa, and all over the world to come to a place that’s just a speck on the map. Because while Israel may be one of the smallest countries in the world, it’s our country. And if we don’t defend it, who will?

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3 Responses to “Post 35: Profile of a Lone Soldier”

  1. Sweiney Says:

    Proud of you raf.. Miss you

  2. The Mamams, The As, The Aces, The best Says:

    That’s the spirit we raised you honey….. the MAMAS

  3. Andrew solomon Says:

    Great entry, as far as hook goes. One of the strongest motha f$&@ers I know. Keep on fighting buddy.

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