As CU students embark on yet another summer, Rebecca Baskin is preparing to volunteer.
However, her volunteer service will involve something very different than picking up trash or helping the elderly. Baskin is volunteering for the Israel Defense Forces.
“In February, I decided to go through with it, and two weeks ago I bought my plane ticket,” Baskin said.
Volunteering is something the 19-year-old freshman international affairs major has been contemplating for more than two years, after a trip to Israel in 2007.
“It was a really incredible experience,” Baskin said. “I can’t really explain what it is, I just really feel at home at there. It’s very strange to go to a very, very strange, very foreign country, very far away from where you born, [and] it feels like home.”
Baskin is one of two CU students who will be traveling overseas to volunteer in the IDF, the military branch of Israel.
Jeremy Darling, a 21-year-old junior theatre and Jewish studies major, is also volunteering.
Darling says that part of his affinity to the military came from his high school, which was a military-type academy, although he is additionally driven by a sense of nationalism.
“I feel like it is my duty to defend the Jewish state,” Darling said. “I plan to move there permanently in the near future.”
The service will most likely not be a light one.
In addition to the possibility of seeing armed combat, their service has a minimum volunteer period of 14 months, according to Baskin.
Both of their services are being organized by Mahal IDF Volunteers, an online group that helps people around the world.
Fluency in Hebrew is preferred, but Darling said enrollment in Hebrew classes aids people with a minimum understanding.
While service is mandatory for Israeli citizens, volunteering is a method many people outside Israel approach in order to obtain Israeli citizenship, according to Baskin.
Darling said mandatory service begins at the age of 18. Once drafted, men must serve three years, while women must serve two.
The volunteer program, which both students are a part of, typically carry a service of 16 to 25 months depending on responsibilities involved, according to Darling.
According to Darling, this is slightly similar to ‘aliyah,’ when a person of the Jewish faith immigrates to Israel from another country. It is a Hebrew term that literally translates to ‘going up.’
Baskin’s friend, Meredith Chedsey, 18-year-old freshman environmental studies major, understands their decision but remains concerned.
“I am definitely going to miss her, but I know she’s doing what she needs to,” Chedsey said. “I just want her to stay safe.”
Zilla Goodman, Baskin’s Hebrew professor, also supports her students’ decision, saying Baksin is the type of person “that has a lot of drive,” and “adapts incredibly well to situations.”
“The army is part of your life cycle there,” Goodman said. “For people wanting to live there, it is a rite of passage.”
According to the students, both of their families are supportive.
“I am really lucky with my family,” Baskin said. “There are not very [many ]parents who are supportive of [their children] moving halfway across the world to join an army. My parents are very supportive mainly because they understand why I am doing it.”
Darling said his family shares the understanding.
“They are really supportive,” Darling said. “My mom believes that any decision I make is for the right reason.”
Darling added that family members, in addition to friends, have all volunteered in the IDF.
Although they have gained support from family and friends, second thoughts still linger on both of their minds.
“Life in Boulder, in North America, is easy, and in some ways [it] is foolish to give up this easy life for something that’s way hard,” Baskin said. “There is no question that life in Israel is harder than here.”
Both students have expressed interest in continuing their studies; Baskin intends to return to CU after her service is up, while Darling is still considering his options.
“My only second thought is my educational track,” Darling said. “That’s been the big decision looming, decide to stay, do the army and finish my studies in Israel.”
Despite Baskin’s departure, Chedsey remains supportive with her friends’ decision.
“She’s different when she’s talking about Israel, and you can tell it’s her home,” Chedsey said. “I don’t want to see her be anywhere where she’s not as happy as she can be.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Esteban L. Hernandez at email@example.com