I Am a Sar-Elnik!

I am a Sar-Elnik.  Every year I come to Israel, put on an IDF work uniform and go to work in a hot warehouse on an IDF base somewhere in Israel.  I work hard, I sweat, and my back aches so I take pills.  After all I am 70 years old, I wouldn’t do this at home. 

 I am a Sar-Elnik.  Every year I sleep on a thin matress as do five other guys my age in the barracks who snore.  I snore too I am told.  I take cold showers as do the other guys.  I wouldn’t do that at home.  I leave my family for weeks at a time.  I’ve never done that before, but we are all OK with that. 

I am a Sar-Elnik.  At my age I get up three times at night to visit the bathroom.  So do the others.  We have our best conversations at 3 AM on the walkway to the latrine.  That’s right, the bathroom is in a different building.  We talk about our children and grandchildren.  

I am a Sar-Elnik.  We take orders from teenagers.  I have managed hundreds of employees and millions of dollars; I have fought in a war and raised a family.  We take orders from teenagers.  What a great feeling to know that we trust them. 

I am a Sar-Elnik.  We eat with the soldiers in the mess hall.  They insist that we go first in line.  We insist that they go first.  They win, we go first.  We love these kids; I don’t know how else to say it.  

I am a Sar-Elnik.  I spend a great deal of time explaining to the soldiers why I pay my way to come here every year to help them.  They think we are crazy, they actually say that.  They say they would gladly pay to go home and not have to do this dangerous and difficult work.  But I think we know that they are actually proud of their service and understand the existential importance of their work.  At home, our 18 to 20-year olds are joining fraternities and sororities.  In Israel, they are joining brigades and battalions.  The most sought-after positions are the combat jobs. 

I am a Sar-Elnik.  I now have friends all over the world; those I have served with.  We have reunions everywhere; it’s like having an ever-expanding family.  We can always use more family.  

I am a Sar-Elnik.  Once a year I return to Israel, the place of our ancestral roots, and make a contribution of Avodah (work).  I will continue until I am no longer able.

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