Time in Israeli army was fun, sometimes stressful
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
In 1948, Dorit Rowe’s parents left Afghanistan for the newly established Israel. They wanted to help build this new country and make a home for their children and their grandchildren. But life took a different turn for Dorit and her sisters, who would eventually become United States citizens. Here she talks about her mandatory service in the Israeli army and her commitment to Israel.
Gallacher: What was it like to serve in the Israeli army?
Rowe: I just see positive things in everything I do, so, for me, serving three years in the army was fun, although there were very intense moments that were very stressful.
When my older sister served her time she was in the Yom Kippur War in 1973. And when my brother, who is second in the family, served his time in the army he was in the original Lebanon War. And then a few years later, when I went in, there was another Lebanon war. My youngest sister was in the Gulf War.
So all of us experienced a very intense time. Apart from that, it feels good to do something for your country that everybody does. You don’t feel that you have been forced into it, because it is a natural thing that you do. When I was a young kid and I didn’t eat my food my mom would say, “If you don’t eat your food you won’t be as strong as your uncle or your auntie.” I knew that they were soldiers at the time and I wanted to be able to defend and help and support.
It is just a part of you growing up in Israel. You don’t know any different. You gradually prepare yourself so when it is time you are excited and you are geared to it.
Gallacher: Did you feel like you were in danger when you served?
Rowe: Women don’t usually serve in combat, unless there is a special circumstance. The unit that I was in served six months in the desert and six months in the mountains. Our commanders wanted us to get a feel for everything. We would wake up every morning at four o’clock and do our exercise training. We learned to shoot three different types of guns. We did the whole thing.
Gallacher: Do your daughters want to serve?
Rowe: Probably, my oldest daughter for sure. She has a very strong connection to Israel. Everybody has something that they want to give back to Israel. It is going to be quite ironic that one generation goes in to Israel and one generation comes out and now my children want to go back.
Even though we have left Israel it is still with us. We left physically but that doesn’t mean we ran away from the place or escaped from it or that it was an awful or unpleasant experience. So when we go back to Israel to visit, my children see how much love is there. They see how everyone supports one another. It is very interesting for them. They are used to the atmosphere in Israel. When they go into the streets they see hundreds of soldiers, women and men. It is not a threatening thing for them. Actually, they feel very safe.
Some other people might feel alarmed by so many soldiers. But for my kids they actually want to be one of them, because they feel it is something special.
Gallacher: How did your parents feel about you leaving a country they helped establish?
Rowe: It was very hard for them. It took them so long to make it to Israel and help build it. But my parents are the kind of people that make sure that you know if you are happy they are happy. If there was something I wanted to do they supported me 100 percent. They were always there for me.
They are happy for us. They understand that we may be able to achieve more here than we can in Israel. It is a great comfort for my parents. They know that their children are successful and happy and have everything that they need.
Immigrant Stories runs every Monday in the Post Independent.
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