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Daniel Schachter, Paratrooper


IDF paratrooper on Israel's 6oth birthday.photo by Rhonda Spivak

 
WINNIPEG’S “LONE SOLDIER” DANIEL SCHACTER

HOW I DECIDED TO BECOME A PARATROOPER IN THE IDF?

Daniel Shachter

I made aliya to Israel, just over a year ago in December 2008. I remember that is was the first day of Hanukah, and making aliya was pretty good Hanukah gift.

I'm 19 years old, and currently in the Paratroopers unit in the IDF.

My whole family lives in Winnipeg-my mom, brother and sister, and my dad spends about half his time in Vancouver and the other half in Winnipeg. My baba, cousins, and most of my relatives are also in Winnipeg.

I decided to make aliya for are two reasons: I went to Kelvin High School, and I was in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. In high school, every time we came across any subject that somehow related to Israel, or Judaism, it fell to me to explain it, especially in English class, where there were plenty of references to the bible. Since  I was the most knowledgeable about Israel, I was constantly asked questions about Israel, or the Arab-Israeli conflict, and I think that made me realize that even though I could read books about Israel, I was representing something that I have never experienced. I felt like I couldn't accurately represent Israel. I could spit out certain facts, but I didn't actually have any connection to Israel.

The second reason, is that I had some friends in university who kept saying that sometimes they regretted going straight to university, and in particular, someone told me that if you don't know exactly what you want to study, don't rush it, and do something else until you figure it out.

My first week in Israel, before I found a place to live, I stayed with my friend Avi Posen, who was studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Now I'm living in Moshav Even Yehuda, near Netanya, with  former Winnipegers Michel and Danita Aziza and their family. The Azziza family "adopted" me, because I am a lone soldier in the Israeli army.

I decided to become a Paratrooper by hearing other soldiers talk about their jobs and units in the army. During my first 3 months in the army, I was in a special base called "Michve Alon". Soldiers go there to learn about Zionism and new immigrants who don't know how to speak Hebrew well also go there.  There  I had a chance to talk with  soldiers from  the Nahal infantry brigade, or commanders from the  Paratrooper ("Tzanhanim") infantry brigade.. Lots of the soldiers I was with at "Michve Alon" wanted to be paratroopers, and they was a certain hype about it. I guess I just got swept up in the hype of everyone going try out to be a paratrooper.

In Israel, lots of people see the paratrooper brigade as the  "poster boys" of the army, because of their special uniform , their battle history (most famously the re-unification of Jerusalem in the Six-Day war) and because one needs to pass  physical and mental testing to get accepted  to the unit. Israeli paratroopers are instantly recognizable with their red boots, and paratroopers unit, "Yerkit", which is different then the rest of the IDF infantry.

It is pretty difficult to become a paratrooper.  I had to pass a one day "gibbush" (physical and mental test) to be accepted. Only a small handful of guys who try out for the paratroopers get selected to join the unit.  From my battalion, only 2 of the 40 guys who tried out were accepted. At the "gibbush", we did lots of crawling, sprinting in a circle and holding sandbags over our heads. It was a great experience, although probably one the toughest physical things I've ever done.

As with other infantry brigades, I underwent the first "tironut", which is basic training. After that there is advanced training, which is specific to your job with-in the unit.  For example, snipers, have different advanced training than someone who operates the MAG (heavy machine gun). What separates the paratroopers from others is that at the end of advanced training, we do a two week jump course-training to jump out of planes. After completing a few actual jumps, you get awarded your "wings" which is a prestigious pin for your uniform.

I was one of 4 soldiers from my platoon to be sent to the medic course, to become my unit's medic, a course which is held at a separate base for three months.

I believe that the morale in the paratrooper unit is one of the highest in the IDF. Because it is a 'volunteer' unit, almost everyone there wants to be there, and has their reason for joining. After being at the base, I've already made some good friends, who really respect my decision to come to Israel.

After the army, I plan to stay in Israel, and study in university.

You might wonder how it is that I came to be "adopted" by the Azziza family here?  I wrote on facebook, asking if 'anyone was interesting in adopting a lone soldier in the Israel Army' and after a couple days, a got a message from Tali Aziza, saying that she had talked with her family, and they were more the willing to have me some stay with them. So I met them at there house when I get off the base one weekend, and talked to Michel and Danita, and I moved in a few weeks later. I didn't actually think I would find results from facebook but I did, and really happy, because living with the Azizas has been really great for me. They treat me so well. I'm really glad that they offered to take me in.

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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