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Gadna: An Eye Opening Experience

Dylan Kohn is a junior from East Brunswick, New Jersey. He is a member of Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple, a member of NFTY-GER and is a chairperson on the regional board.

Since Israel declared its independence in 1948, all Israelis became involved in keeping the state protected from their enemies. While in the United States, less than .5% of Americans are currently a part of the US Military. Today, every Israeli is required to join the Israel Defense Forces after they finish high school. This past week we went on a trip to a few southern sites in Israel including Eilat, Kibbutz Lotan, and the most inspirational stop, Gadna.

Gadna was without a doubt one of the most thrilling and tiring things I have ever done. Gadna is a 5-day long simulation of what it is like to be in the Israel Defense Forces. During the simulation, we had very strict schedules and we were tested both physically and mentally. I did things that ranged from learning about how Jewish values play a role in the IDF to putting mud on my face and crawling through the desert. With that being said, Gadna was a very “eye-opening” experience. Since this program is typically attended by Israeli teenagers, I was able to gain a much better understanding of what Israelis are thinking about during high school and after. In America, after high school, the majority of people go on to continue their education either at a small community college or a large university. Whereas in Israel, teens are not thinking about what school they want to get into, but rather what unit of the IDF are they are going to join. In Israel it does not matter if you are rich or poor, if you live in Jerusalem or if you live in Eilat, everyone is required to join the IDF. Therefore, if you want to be able to understand how the Israeli lives are different than your own life, you must understand the IDF.

Gadna was empowering and showed me that there is a lot more that I can think about when I finish high school other then trying to get into a good school. Before the simulation, I was thankful for the people that serve in the Armed Forces, but after getting a small taste of what the Army is like I have gained a greater appreciation for the people that join the military after high school. Because of the sacrifices those individuals have made, I am fortunate enough to live free, safe, and have so many options of what I can do when I graduate high school next year.

-Dylan Kohn