How I Am Standing Here Today: Ariel Frank, Reserve Soldier in Israel Defense Forces

This post to “If Not Now, When?”  the interactive blog of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple is excerpted from the remarks of Ariel Frank, a reserve soldier in the IDF, Israel Defense Forces, when he spoke at Shabbat Services of Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple on Friday, August 28, 2015, in gratitude for the scholarship support he received through FIDF, the Friends of Israel Defense Forces, and to help raise awareness about the challenges and opportunities for young people in Israel, as they defend Israel in military service. You may feel free to make comments or share responses below.

I am 28 years old, and I was born in Russia and made Aliya with my sister and my mom at 1991. My parents where divorced since the day I can remember my self, and my mom thought it is highly important for us, me and my sister, to grow up in Israel.

I grew up in the city of Bat-Yam in the center of Israel. We started financially from scratch, it wasn’t easy, but step by step we seceded in establishing our home in Israel. At the age of 18 when I just finished my high school I got a sapient for my military entry exams. As my family have always been very Zionist, I wanted to have a meaningful service at the army and of curse, make my mom prod. so I decided to be a combat soldier at the IDF. I chose to enlist to the combat regiment.

As you all may know, the basic training, to become a combat soldier, lasts for 3 months, There we got our basic combat tools and knowledge about weapons and survival skills. And after the months of boot-camp, we had another three months of advance training where we learned to counter terror warfare, open field battle, marksmanship. There I discovered I am not a bad shooter at all. My commander noticed me as a good shooter and suggested going out to a sniper curse. I was thrilled and very happy. Of course, I agreed. After my sniper course, my commander took me and a few other recruits under his wing, and trained us to be the best of the best!  After the rigors of training, we went to the northern border in the Golan heights there we watched for the northern frontier of Israel. In our platoon the marksmen were a vital role at that point of time. We did the most complicated missions that other troops couldn’t. After several months, we made our way to the veterans platoon of the battalion.

After a year at the army, we made our way to the Gaza-strip, where we served for 4 months. My friends and I where skilled with our weapons, combat knowledge and we were more experienced. We did the most dangerous missions we can get: stopping terrorists from crossing the border, our platoon made arrests in the middle of the night and took-out some of the wanted terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

Gaza was the first true baptismal fire for me and my fellow platoon mates, the first but not last. In one quiet morning in 2006, two reserve soldiers were captured by Hezbollah at the northern border of Israel. That was the starting point for the second Lebanon war. Later that day we found ourselves climbing back to the northern border of the Golan heights with all of the battalion, deep down knowing that some of us wouldn’t come back.

We regrouped at a Kibbutz, got our orders from our commanders, made final adjustments and then entered to Lebanon. The feeling was unreal. rockets flying over our heads, bullets “whistling” near our ears. Fear and anger took over us as we were inside Lebanon’s mud. My company and I were in charge of covering other companies, acting as search and rescue of the battalion. My crew and I where covering for the leading company, all the while trying our best to keep them safe and alive by taking down at least fourteen terrorists. We fought, trying to do our best, but most importantly, with minimum casualties.

The orders we got were vague, even though my team did not lose there sense, they kept cool and stuck to the plan. At a certain point during the fight in a village in Lebanon, grenades were thrown over a wall and towards the second company. Then in front of my eyes, I saw ten of my good friends killed. On top of that our deputy battalion commander  jumped on a grenade saving five of his men. He got the medal of honor for his bravery and sacrifice. Me and my friends, we were scared for life from this war, losing friends and companions to die or get injured is never easy. This experience is part of me and will be for the rest of my life. Their memory will last for a lifetime.  During my military service, I lost friends and fought a fair share of battles. But in the end I felt that I served my country right and was and still am satisfied that I have become a combat soldier in the IDF.

A few years after I had finished my service and wanted to start a higher education. But as I was financially helping my parents and wasn’t able to pay the high tuition fees. I then turned to impact and asked for help , and through them I found my scholarship – my helping hand. Then my future became more promising then ever. From day one I was able to start fulfilling myself and began my communications and business management degree at the College of Management Academic Studies. My dream started to come true. Soon after the degree, I decide to continue my studies to Real estate appraisal so one day, hopefully, open my own business.

Soon after I started my degree, I started to volunteer at organization that changes the culture of the young Israeli drivers and makes a difference of how younger people drive in Israel. My part at the organization was to come to families and show a presentation on “safe driving” and explaining the meaning off studying the theory of how to drive right. This experience from working with young people was very satisfying. The materials I brought with me seems to be falling to bright minds and open ears. Little by little I sow the change at every seventeen years old teenager.  I have the privilege of giving back to the community in the organization I’m volunteering at, and it gives me a lot of satisfaction, knowledge and to know i can give back.

I want to say thank you FIDF, Friends of Israel Defense Forces, from the bottom of my heart. I am thankful to Impact and of course my amazing sponsors…for opening their hearts for allowing me to focus on my studies, get good grades and to keep my head over the water. Thanks to FIDF and them I’m standing here before you.