If you had the same choice as the girl from the U.S, would you have done what she did or would you have taken a different choice?
I would have done the same. I would have tried to get into the army because it’s such a basic part of life in Israel. Even if you don’t want to serve, you don’t believe in the military or you just want to have a normal life studying or working, by living here you don’t have the option to make that choice. Doing military duty is part of what it means to live here and part of the responsibility that goes with living here.
Your grandmother had different views from your parents. Did this ever make you feel like you had to take sides?
All the time! But then everybody in this country has an opinion and is never shy of expressing it. The hard part is trying to listen to and hear the voice inside yourself and figuring out where you belong.
Did you ever suspect why your bag went missing on your first night?
Never. Afterwards I realized that it always happens to at least one person in a group. I was so angry! Why me? But then, I didn’t let it get to me so that made the feeling of achievement all that much sweeter.
What were you thinking that first night that you had to stand guard alone?
How terrified I was. Every sound, every stretch of long silence was like bugs crawling beneath my skin. It was hard to think straight. I kept trying to convince myself that I wasn’t afraid. But the more you tell yourself, “I’m not afraid,” well the only thing you can think of are all the things you are afraid of, desert snakes, desert mice, hyenas, desert foxes, scorpions…terrorists. And then I was holding a gun, but I wasn’t sure I’d have the nerve to actually fire it. I kept waiting for the shift to end, to see the first rays of morning light. I just wanted it to be behind me.
What did you think of the girls when you first saw them? Did you ever think that you would have the relationship you have with them now?
I thought they were the strangest group of misfits – and if I were with them, what did that make me? Were they looking at me thinking the same thing? I thought I’d somehow make it through boot camp and then never see or hear from any of them ever again. We had nothing in common. But the strangest thing was to realize how adversity brings out the mettle in people and all those girls who I thought were so spoiled and brainless had something in them that made me realize that these were the type of girls I’d want with me in times of crisis. You know, it made me think about how we judge people so quickly without really taking the time to figure out who they are and what they’re made of. I know that Lily will always be there for me, ten, twenty, or a hundred years from now.
How was the relationship you had with Ben different than the one you had with Noah?
Ben was the first guy to show interest me, and that felt really good. He was attracted to me and Shira liked him. But Noah was different. Noah respected me in a way that Ben didn’t. When Noah spoke to me and looked at me I could feel that he was proud of the decisions I made and respected the challenges I wanted to take. I could tell Noah was attracted to me, the way he looked at me -- but it wasn’t only a physical attraction. It was as if he loved everything about me and I guess that’s what made me fall in love with him.
Do you think that living in a country where you didn't have to serve your country would have changed the person that you are?
Totally. There’s something about living here which makes you feel a responsibility for people outside of the responsibility you have towards your family and your close friends. When the country is being threatened by enemies it causes people to bond together and you feel okay, I don’t know these people personally, but we’re all in this together so we’ve got to stand up for each other. I don’t know what it’s like to grow up in a country where there are peaceful relationships on every border. In some ways, we probably all worry about the same things, homework, getting enough money to do the stuff we want, relationships, but the difference is that here there is a kind of awareness that our lives are intertwined and we have a duty to protect each other.
Aggie is eighteen and getting ready to do her service for the Israeli Army. She could get a cushy assignment—maybe pushing paper somewhere—or she could just take her chances. Only, Aggie isn't like that. Despite her small size and the fact that she needs to gain weight to even make the grade, and despite the total disbelief of her entire family (except her grandmother, who is an old freedom fighter and don't you forget it), Aggie is trying out for an elite combat unit.
Ben—Aggie's crush of the moment—isn't at all convinced that she's making the right choice. Shira, Aggie's best friend forever, is bewildered (and perhaps a bit too interested in Ben). Then there's Noah. And the serendipitous snow. And a good-bye kiss that turns into, well, a real kiss.
Luckily for Aggie, her backbreaking, sand-in-mouth, completely-lost-in-the-desert training produces an unlikely dividend: friends. The kind she never imagined she could have. The kind you'd go to war with—and for.
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