An interview with Professor Alan Leventen, vice president of a multinational corporation and a soldier in Jenin. Leventen, an American Jew which was stationed in Jenin, reveals his motives for volunteering to the IDF reserve forces and discusses American public opinions in the aftermath of the terror attack on the WTC.
How would you describe your relationship with Israel?
- Every Jew in the world has his own unique relationship with the State of Israel and it's very difficult to really describe it in an objective way because it's so personal, it's almost indescribable. My relationship is just as indescribable as every other patriotic Israeli.
Would you describe yourself as a Zionist?
- I always describe myself as a Zionist. I was born a Zionist and I will die a Zionist I come here [Israel] as a part of my work and a lifestyle. It's like a second home to me. I've always felt that I'm a part of this country.
How do you recall your regular service in Israel?
- It was the greatest challenge of my life. I've never had a challenge like I had when I was in the regular service. Every bit of my strength, every bit of my energy, every bit of my skills was put to the test. They took someone who was wild and hyperactive and developed it into a disciplined soldier in a very comprehensive way. When I left the army, my whole life had changed in a positive way because my comrades and me, a little bit wild and full of hormones were converted into disciplined adult men.
How did you become a medic?
- I became cross-trained as a medic not so much because I took the medics' course I studied in my free time how to be a medic.
Did you use this knowledge later in your life?
- All the time. I use it when I'm in the US and there's a traffic accident or somebody collapses I try and help people as much as I can. It's something which I've used many times since the army.
What drove you to volunteer to the reserve service?
- There are many reasons [for volunteering]. We are doing it part in response for the refuseniks, because as a matter of principle, we feel that that was a grotesque abrogation of their duty as soldiers and citizens of the country, so our response to that grotesqueness was to stand forth and stand up for what we consider to be freedom and the ongoing existence of the State of Israel. The other part is because we know that the country is at war, just like the world is at war, and we wanted to do what we can. The third thing is we have a dream that maybe, just maybe, we might stop a terrorist attack. You have a tremendous sense of satisfaction to be able to have stopped the murder of innocent people who are your fellow citizens. And the other thing is that I think all of us feel that we can take some of the pressure off of younger regular soldier.
Where were you stationed?
- I was in Jenin.
Had the terror attack on the US influenced on your will to volunteer?
- Yes it did. First of all, had September 11th never happened, I still would have volunteered. The terror attack on the US made it a moral commitment. When I found out about the program for the volunteers, I knew I have to do it. What happened in Nine-Eleven just brought home the issue that this is a global war on terror. It's not just Israel's war, it's a war between two civilizations, two cultures. It's a conflict of two different belief systems in the core of the belief systems. When I come here to fight for Israel, I was also fighting for my wife, colleagues and fellow citizens in NY. It doesn't matter where you fight them. You can fight them in Afghanistan, you can fight them in Jenin: it doesn't matter - it's all a part of this global war on terror. The difference is that as a Jew and also as an Israeli it became much more poignant to me to want to do it here.
You mentioned your colleagues. How did they react to your volunteering?
- Almost everybody in my department was extraordinarily supportive. Everybody feels strongly that this is a war for freedom. I never heard of felt any [objections] whatsoever. If anything, I feel overwhelmed by the amount of support from the people that I work with and the NY community. I feel that when I fight here as a soldier I'm also fighting as a representative of the firemen and policemen of NY. We are all on the same ship. One must protect it to continue sailing.
What about your wife? How did your family react to the situation?
- My wife suffers, like thousands of people, from trauma related to September 11th. She has felt very strongly about this thing just as I do, but the difference is, in her case she's also dealing with rage. Doing what I'm doing is therapy not just for me but it's also therapy for her.
You're 49 years old. Don't you feel limited by your age?
- I've always been a very good soldier. Yes, I can't run as fast, and do some of the things the regulars do. But all of us volunteers were very proud to personally give a personal example. I felt perfectly capable of doing the job I did.
How do you deal with the switch from being a professor and the vice president of a multinational corporation to being a soldier?
- When I was a soldier in the paratroops I was taught to be professional, to be devoted. Today, when I teach as a professor I try to be the best professor I can be; When I'm working in Wall Street I try to do the absolutely best job and I'm committed to doing the best job that I can and when I'm a soldier I act in the most professional way that I can as a soldier. This commitment to every detail of what you're doing came from when I was in regular service 30 years ago.
Do you feel there is a greater awareness among American Jews regarding Israel?
- I think there's not only a greater awareness among American Jews, but there's also a greater awareness and commitment to Israel by many American Christians. I think it's an American ideal as opposed to just a Jewish-American ideal.
Would you like to deliver a personal message to the people of Israel today?
- The message that I would make is this: for the first time in history we have a president of the US and a Prime Minister of Israel who understand the big problem in the world today. Whenever you have leaders who understand the problem, you're probably 80% along the way to solving the problem, which is the reason why I'm optimistic.
What has been your contact with the local population? How would you describe the attitude of the Palestinians towards you? - I did have a lot of interaction with the local population in the area around Jenin. They don't love us, that is clear. [However,] I think many of them feel very frustrated with their own leadership or what they thought was their leadership. They may feel a little bit abandoned by their own leaders. At some point I think it's likely they're [the Palestinians] going to become much more realistic about their situation and realize that Israel has not been the source of their problems [but] a co-victim of their problem, which has been their leadership. Until they get leadership which is going to truly represent their best interests, they, like the Israelis are going to be in a state of mutual suffering.
The translation from IDF site was done by Gil Eyal PRAVDA.Ru Israel
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