Life in the IDF for Community Member Isaac Horowitz

By Frieda Schweky Jan 16, 2018 04:03 PM

Isaac Horowitz enlisted in the Israeli Defense Force just a few months after graduating from Magen David Yeshiva. Growing up, Isaac saw his father organizing trips for people to go to Israeli army bases to give soldiers and children gifts and support. From a young age, it was instilled in Isaac that protecting our homeland of Israel is a worthy cause to support.

In his teen years, Isaac and two friends of his organized multiple basketball tournaments three summers in a row to raise money for the IDF. They were able to raise up to $40,000. In his senior year, a recruiter came to Isaac’s high school to see if anyone would be interested in signing up for the pre-army program called Aish Mahal. It was then that Isaac made the instant decision to enlist without hesitation.

Training was difficult for Isaac, mentally and physically. Horowitz recalls going on hikes that could last up to 15 hours while holding 50% of his body weight on his back. Horowitz remembers stretches of days where he would get minimal sleep and have to endure a lot of sweat and pain. The longest he’d gone without showering while training was an astonishing 15 days in a row. This was when he was training in the desert, in which no showers exist.

With all of that being said, however, Isaac feels that joining the IDF was the best experience in his life. If the IDF was ever in a war situation in which they needed his service, Isaac said he would go back without a second thought if it were at all possible. 

“While you are there, you are never hoping for war to breakout, but at the same time hope you would be there if one did,” explained Isaac of his dedication.

During his time in the army, Horowitz competed basic training, advanced training, a demolitions course, machine gunners course, and a basic medic course. He served in the IDF’s Infantry Corps - Nahal Brigade, 931st Battalion as a machine gunner.

From his first day in the IDF Isaac wrote about his experiences.

“17 days Feels like one long day. It just gets light and dark out. That’s because it’s over 400 hours that I constantly have something else to do every few hours. Whether it’s guarding the border in a bunker, stakeouts near the fence, or patrols on the fence in armored military Humvees.”

“I got off base for a day and lucky me, I got a ticket for jaywalking and not shaving while in uniform. It could have been a 35 day punishment but I got out of it.

“You do a lot of thinking here. For example, on July 4th where am I and where are my friends? I’m on the Lebanon border watching cars of Hezbollah members pass by while my friends are at BBQ’s, watching fireworks and partying. If I had to see any fireworks it would probably be a mortar flying overhead out of Lebanon.”

The demolition course Isaac took lasted two weeks in the desert. Horowitz learned how to blow open doors and blow up small buildings and pillars. Isaac admittedly went in not knowing much Hebrew when he first enlisted, but still managed to pass an explosives test in Hebrew with a 90% plus score. Horowitz was taught what kind of explosives are appropriate for each situation he might be faced with. Luckily, he never had to use these skills because at the time Israel wasn’t at war.

Patrols up and down the Gaza border was a daily task. Hamas would send members to the border and have them try to knowingly cross into Israeli territory. It was presumed by the Israelis that Hamas would do this to test the response time of the IDF. Hamas would gather information this way to better plan their attacks and soldier kidnappings. Isaac and his squad were instructed to shoot in their direction to keep them from coming closer, but not to hit them. Horowitz recalls this act of shooting as a daily occurrence and not a big deal. Even so, the IDF still has the most strict rules of engagement out of any other country.

Protecting the civilians in southern Israel wasn’t a simple task by any means. At any point of the day and night terrorists from Gaza send bombs and missiles over the border and hit southern Israel. There's a siren that goes off when this happens and civilians have only 15 to 30 seconds to get to a shelter before a bomb hits. In these neighborhoods, it is common to find bomb shelters near bus stops, in playgrounds shaped as characters or castles, or bomb protective layers over schools. In America, children have fire drills while in Israel, they have bomb shelter drills. 

Since Isaac’s base was stationed right near the border, Isaac and his team only had about three seconds to run for shelter when these sirens blared. Horowitz recalls one night waking up to the sound of a siren and seconds later an explosion went off that felt very close by. He woke his team up as quickly as he could to get them to safety. The soldiers got used to the sounds and didn’t feel the urge to get up. Then they heard a second explosion and ran to the shelter. When they came out later they discovered a missile hit about 20 feet from the building they were sleeping in.

Isaac flew back home to Brooklyn in Jan. 2012. Horowitz would have happily stayed and served longer, but he made a promise to his parents when he enlisted that he wouldn’t be gone for too long. Isaac’s mother Judith was relieved when he finally came home but was also proud of her son.

“I didn’t want him to go to the army, but in the end letting him go was the best decision we made,” said Mrs.Horowitz. “I truly feel that who he is today is owed to his IDF experience. It didn’t change his personality, it only improved him in various ways.”

“Isaac gained independence, became more responsible, and now appreciates and values things more,” expressed Isaac’s mother about her son’s overall experience.

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Frieda Schweky is Sephardic.Org's official community events reporter. For inquiries and to get involved with our site, please contact Frieda via email.