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Soldier Stories: Jossi Puts a Face to the IDF Army
Soldier Stories: Jossi Puts a Face to the IDF Army

By Jspace Staff
February 28, 2013

This is the third in a series of stories told by former IDF soldiers about their time in service and life in Israel, brought to you by StandWithUs and Jossi is one of the 12 soldiers on StandWithUsí 5th annual "Israeli Soldiers Stories" tour, currently coming to locations around the United States. Email [email protected] to find an engagement near you. Read more Soldier Stories on Jspace.

As an openly gay serviceman, Jossi could have faced discrimination in the army. But because he served in Israel, his sexuality was a non-issue. Even if it meant answering calls from the Red Cross from the bathroom stall of a Tel Aviv drag bar, Jossi, now 27, was committed to serving his country and protecting his home. This is his story.

Jspace: How did you end up where you ended up in the IDF?

Jossi: I wanted to be in Coget because I wanted to be taught Arabic. Since my unit deals with Palestinians, we had very intense morning to night sessions of learning Arabic. But since I worked in international relations I never actually had to speak Arabic. I forgot everything they taught me within a month!

What were some of the challenges you faced?

Basically we are a unit that provides for the civilian needs of the Palestinians. Something comes to our attention where a small group of Palestinians, or even one Palestinian is disadvantaged, we then have to evaluate: is there any way to make this personís life better within the bounds of the security parameters we have to keep?

Do you have any anecdotes about being in this position, straddling these worlds?

We were responsible for the situation in much of the area around Hevron. Often the first people to see something happening are with these international organizations because there are literally hundreds of them, and they had to report to us.

The difficulty of them having to report to us, however, was whom do they call? I was their contact. But I would get to go home on a Tuesday night for a 24-hour leave.

I would go back to Tel Aviv to this great drag show and they would call me every single time! But then Iím dealing with a situation where I couldnít be heard because Iím in a crowded bar and Iím trying juggle my cell phone and discuss what the Red Cross saw out there.

But I have a difficult problem: if I walk out of the bar right now in front of the drag queen, sheís going to have my head and Iím more scared of her than I am of the Red Cross! So actually I ended up squatting in a toilet stall in the back and trying to handle it.

Can you talk a little about being openly gay in the IDF?

America had ďDonít Ask, Donít Tell.Ē The IDF has ďDonít Ask, Donít Care.Ē

I dealt with not one instance of homophobia in my service. I was allowed out of basic training for eight hours because I had put through a written request to march in the Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv. That was something that was authorized by my commander, who is a religious Orthodox Jew. Whether or not he approved of my sexual orientation didnít matter, because he still let me out for it.

LGBT rights have always been better here. The US got rid sodomy laws in 2003 with Lawrence vs. Texas. We did it when we revamped our criminal code in í88 and officially stopped prosecuting for it in í77. We recognized gay marriage in 2006. First country in the world to recognize one birth parent and the other same-sex adoptive parent as legal and equal co-parents.

What misconceptions about the IDF do you want to correct?

In your country you donít have a mandatory service, which means the majority of Americans arenít connected to any currently serving members of the US military. In our country, everyone does it. Every single person has been in the army; everyone has family in the army.

When youíre removed, itís very easy to make the IDF soldier into a faceless warrior. But for me, if youíre a soldier it means youíre a kid. Youíre 18-years-old and youíre still young, probably living at home with your parents on the weekends. Youíre doing the army because if you didnít, your home might not exist.

People often ask me, ďWhy did you join the army?Ē Itís a funny question to me because it never felt like a choice. I joined the army because you do what you must to protect your home. In the US, people have a secure enough country that they donít have the feeling that if they donít join the army when called up, then their country would collapse.

.ORG-Connection: StandWithUs is dedicated to informing the public about Israel and to combating the extremism and anti-Semitism that often distorts the issues.

Read more Soldier Stories on Jspace.

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