After graduating from Columbia last year, Adam May, CC ’11, headed to Israel to volunteer in the Israel Defense Forces. On his blog, he chronicled his journey through basic training and assignment into Dover Tzahal, the Army’s media division. Now, he works as a military journalist, writing articles about the IDF for an international audience.
Bwog: Are you an Israeli citizen?
I am, actually, because if you’re the son of a first-generation emigrant, then you have citizenship. My mom’s Israeli. I would go almost every year to Israel to visit family, my grandparents, aunts and uncles.
My dad’s family is like 4th or 5th generation American Jews. So the way my dad met my mom is he went to medical school in Israel. He was there for four years, they met and fell in love, got married, dragged her back to America kicking and screaming.
Do you consider yourself Israeli or an American?
That’s a good question. I don’t know. I think dual-citizenship is pretty right, because I’m very much both. I come to Israel and I don’t quite fit in there. I’m still an American.
Did you go to public school?
Actually, I went to religious yeshiva, which I hated very much. For the start of high school, I moved to public school. It was a great change. The town [Livingston, NJ] was like 40% Jewish, one of the densest Jewish populations anywhere. My mom has a lot of Israeli friends who live in the area, and there are a lot of Israeli expats who live in the same area, and a lot of their kids end up going into the Army.
Has anyone from Columbia ever joined the IDF?
I actually know a bunch of veterans. GS has a bunch of Israeli Army veterans. And there’s another kid from Columbia who also went to Israel after Columbia. So I don’t think I’m the first, but it definitely isn’t a common thing that people do.
Why didn’t you decide to go into the IDF for a few years after high school and then go to GS?
To be honest, I didn’t really know that much about GS at the time. When I deferred [my Columbia College acceptance], they offered it to me and I didn’t know what it was. I just knew it wasn’t Columbia College. My parents really thought it was a good idea for me to get an education first. After a lot of discussions with them—it was a big decision, probably the biggest decision I’d ever made up until that point.
I think in the end, now that I’m there now, it was a good one. Because while I’m having difficulty adjusting to dealing with 18-year old kids while I’m in the Army, I think it would have been harder if I was in a college setting, where it’s less rigid, it’s more actually having to integrate yourself into a social setting.
How long is your tour of duty?
[If you're an Israeli citizen,] there’s a three-year commitment for men and two-year for women, unless you do certain jobs. My tour is only 14 months because I volunteered. I enlisted in October, so I’ll be done at the end of this year.