Perhaps the most typical Israeli quality is the need to contribute to the country. For Israel’s 67th Independence Day, Israel Gay Youth’s website caught up with Yamit, a mentor at IGY, and two other IGY students: Nadav who does national service and Liad, a combat officer, for a talk on contributing to the country, its independence and pride.
“Before the army, I was a guide at the Working and Learning Youth. I felt I was doing very important things,” says Liad, an officer in the intelligence corps, who in his spare time also managed to come to IGY’s young adults group activities in Tel Aviv. “Also, being a warrior officer is a privilege, and I’m glad I was able to fulfill it. I feel like I take responsibility for a significant part of the things that happen in the country. I think that being a commander in the army is the last chance to influence the education of people within a required framework, just before coming out to real life, and this is why it’s important to me ”
Yamit (in the picture, with her colleague Daniel) feels that the very fact that she is in a year of service, is a contribution to the state. “I chose to give a year of my life to the people who live in Israel. Some people call it a waste of a year, but I see this as an opportunity to contribute to the country beyond the military service that in any case I intend to do. I think that after military service a lot of people are scattered and mainly deal with themselves- work, study, start a family, raise children and somehow forget the contribution to the state. If I fall into that state of mind, which I hope I do not, at least I’ll know I made one more year of service to the state, beyond what I had to do. ”
Nadav, a graduate student in Haifa, contributes to the state through national service. He does Clalit Health Services, a single regional service provider for retirement homes in Haifa and the area. He adds that even though he was told to take advantage of an exemption from the army and begin his BA at 18, he would not. “If you don’t serve in the army, at least donate two years to national service. So it’s long shifts, there are innumerable phone calls and sometimes you cannot wait until you go home. But at the end of the day, to help 4000 elderly people, whose grandchildren might be your friends, there are no words to describe how this feeling fills you with good. This is the reason why I get up every morning and drive an hour and a half to the office. That’s why I come home in the moonlight. This is my contribution to the state.”
The intriguing thing is to understand whether the fact that people belong to different groups affects the way in which they contribute to the state and their perspective on things to fix in society.
“I don’t think that being LGBT necessarily affects the way I contribute to the state. It’s my range of principles and features that matter,” says Yamit. “I guess that the fact that I am a part of the LGBT community opened my way of thinking and allows me to make a contribution that I might not have thought of had I not been an LGBT person. In the sense of equality or acceptance of the other, for example. The fact that I’m LGBT makes me think not to discriminate against anyone, not community and not population sector. We are all equal and should receive fair treatment in society.”
Liad says that along with his joining the organization, the aspect of being LGBT will be much more meaningful in his selections. “If it’s participating in demonstrations or becoming a tutor in the organization, I think that being LGBT automatically identifies me with some kind of world of values. Although it’s a world that I’ve always belonged to. The struggle of the community attached me to a struggle that belongs to many groups of Israeli society – for rights, equality and tolerance, “he says, adding -” I think that people in the community often give up on military service for various reasons and fears. I think that the army knows how to be inclusive to the community and most people have a place in it. The community must stop being afraid to be a significant part of the army, because if we say we are everywhere, you have to really get everywhere, even when it is not so simple “.
Nadav says: “Certainly the fact that I’m LGBT affects how I see society. There is the stigma in the Israeli public, that gays don’t contribute to the country. On the other hand there those gay people who say ‘Why should I contribute to a country which doesn’t recognize my rights?’ Precisely because of this, it is important for us to break the stigma. Precisely because of this, it was important to me to start my service. I wouldn’t want people to say about me that I left the army because I’m LGBTQ and I don’t do anything for the country “.