Letter From a Reserve Israeli SoldierWritten by Moriel Administrator
My name is Aron Adler.
I am 25 years old, was born in Brooklyn NY, and raised in Efrat Israel.
Though very busy, I don't view my life as unusual. Most of the time, IÃ‚Â amÃ‚Â just another Israeli citizen. During the day I work as a paramedic in MagenÃ‚Â David Adom, Israel's national EMS service. At night, I'm in my first yearÃ‚Â of law school. I got married this October and am starting a new chapter ofÃ‚Â life together with my wonderful wife Shulamit.
15-20 days out of every year, I'm called up to the Israeli army to do myÃ‚Â reserve duty. I serve as a paramedic in an IDF paratrooper unit.
MyÃ‚Â squadÃ‚Â is made up of others like me; people living normal lives who step up toÃ‚Â serve whenever responsibility calls. The oldest in my squad is 58, a fatherÃ‚Â of four girls and grandfather of two; there are two bankers, one engineer,Ã‚Â Ã‚Â a holistic healer, and my 24 year old commander who is still trying to
figure out what to do with his life. Most of the year we are just normalÃ‚Â people living our lives, but for 15-20 days each year we are soldiers on the front lines preparing for a war that we hope we never have to fight.
This year, our reserve unit was stationed on the border between Israel,Ã‚Â Egypt and the Gaza Strip in an area called "Kerem Shalom." Above and beyondÃ‚Â the "typical" things for which we train "“ war, terrorism, borderÃ‚Â infiltration, etc., - this year we were confronted by a new challenge.
Several years ago, a trend started of African refugees crossing theÃ‚Â Egyptian border from Sinai into Israel to seek asylum from the atrocities in Darfur.
What started out as a small number of men, women and children fleeing fromÃ‚Â the machetes of the Janjaweed and violent fundamentalists to seek a betterÃ‚Â life elsewhere, turned into an organized industry of human trafficking. InÃ‚Â return for huge sums of money, sometimes entire life savings paid to Bedouin "guides," these refugees are promised to be transported from Sudan,Ã‚Â Eritrea, and other African countries through Egypt and the SinaiÃ‚Â desert,Ã‚Â into the safe haven of Israel.
We increasingly hear horror stories of the atrocities these refugees sufferÃ‚Â on their way to freedom. They are subject to, and victims of extortion, rape, murder, and even organ theft, their bodies left to rot in the desert.Ã‚Â Then, if lucky, after surviving this gruesome experience whose prize is freedom, when only a barbed wire fence separates them from Israel and theirÃ‚Â goal, they must go through the final death run and try to evade theÃ‚Â bulletsÃ‚Â of the Egyptian soldiers stationed along the border. Egypt's soldiers areÃ‚Â ordered to shoot to kill anyone trying to cross the border OUT of EgyptÃ‚Â Ã‚Â andÃ‚Â into Israel. It's an almost nightly event.
For those who finally get across the border, the first people theyÃ‚Â encounter are Israeli soldiers, people like me and those in my unit, who are tasked with a primary mission of defending the lives of the Israeli people. On one side of the border soldiers shoot to kill. On the otherÃ‚Â side,Ã‚Â they know they will be treated with more respect than in any of theÃ‚Â countries they crossed to get to this point.
The region where it all happens is highly sensitive and risky from aÃ‚Â security point of view, an area stricken with terror at every turn. It's just a few miles south of the place where Gilad Shalit was kidnapped. AndÃ‚Â yet the Israeli soldiers who are confronted with these refugees do it not with rifles aimed at them, but with a helping hand and an open heart. TheÃ‚Â refugees are taken to a nearby IDF base, given clean clothes, a hotÃ‚Â drink,Ã‚Â food and medical attention. They are finally safe.
Even though I live Israel and am aware through media reports of the eventsÃ‚Â that take place on the Egyptian border, I never understood theÃ‚Â intensityÃ‚Â and complexity of the scenario until I experienced it myself.
In the course of the past few nights, I have witnessed much. At 9:00 PMÃ‚Â last night, the first reports came in of gunfire heard from the Egyptian border. Minutes later, IDF scouts spotted small groups of people trying toÃ‚Â get across the fence. In the period of about one hour, we picked up 13Ã‚Â menÃ‚Â Ã‚Â - cold, barefoot, dehydrated - some wearing nothing except underpants.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Their bodies were covered with lacerations and other wounds. WeÃ‚Â gatheredÃ‚Â them in a room, gave them blankets, tea and treated their wounds. I don'tÃ‚Â speak a word of their language, but the look on their faces said it allÃ‚Â andÃ‚Â reminded me once again why I am so proud to be a Jew and an Israeli.Ã‚Â Sadly,Ã‚Â it was later determined that the gunshots we heard were deadly, killingÃ‚Â three others fleeing for their lives.
During the 350 days a year when I am not on active duty, when I am justÃ‚Â > another man trying to get by, the people tasked with doing this amazing job, this amazing deed, the people witnessing these events, are mostlyÃ‚Â young Israeli soldiers just out of high school, serving their compulsoryÃ‚Â time in the IDF, some only 18 years old.
The refugees flooding into Israel are a heavy burden on our small country. More than 100,000 refugees have fled this way, and hundreds more cross theÃ‚Â border every month. The social, economic, and humanitarian issuesÃ‚Â createdÃ‚Â by this influx of refugees are immense. There are serious securityÃ‚Â consequences for Israel as well. This influx of African refugees poses a crisis for Israel. Israel has yet to come up with the solutions required toÃ‚Â deal with this crisis effectively, balancing its' sensitive social,Ã‚Â economic, and security issues, at the same time striving to care for theÃ‚Â refugees.
I don't have the answers to these complex problems which desperately needÃ‚Â to be resolved. I'm not writing these words with the intention ofÃ‚Â taking aÃ‚Â political position or a tactical stand on the issue.
I am writing to tell you and the entire world what's really happeningÃ‚Â downÃ‚Â here on the Egyptian/Israeli border. And to tell you that despite allÃ‚Â theÃ‚Â serious problems created by this national crisis, these refugees have noÃ‚Â reason to fear us. Because they know, as the entire world needs toÃ‚Â know,Ã‚Â that Israel has not shut its eyes to their suffering and pain. Israel hasÃ‚Â not looked the other way. The State of Israel has put politics asideÃ‚Â toÃ‚Â take the ethical and humane path as it has so often done before, in everyÃ‚Â instance of human suffering and natural disasters around the globe.
We JewsÃ‚Â know only too well about suffering and pain. The Jewish people have beenÃ‚Â there. We have been the refugees and the persecuted so many times, overÃ‚Â thousands of years, all over the world.
Today, when African refugees flood our borders in search of freedom andÃ‚Â better lives, and some for fear of their lives, it is particularly noteworthy how Israel deals with them, despite the enormous strain it putsÃ‚Â on our country on so many levels. Our young and thriving Jewish peopleÃ‚Â andÃ‚Â country, built from the ashes of the Holocaust, do not turn their backs onÃ‚Â humanity. Though I already knew that, this week I once againÃ‚Â experienced itÃ‚Â firsthand. I am overwhelmed with emotion and immensely proud to be a memberÃ‚Â of this nation.
With love of Israel,
Aron Adler writing from the Israel/Gaza/Egyptian border
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