Sunday, April 5, 2009

Haaretz Article On Yours Truly

Israeli By Day has caught the attention of a journalist from one of Israel's leading newspapers, Haaretz (The Land). Raphael Ahren contacted me some time ago about interviewing me for the Anglo File section of the English version of the paper, and I excitedly agreed. It turned out to be more of a struggle than I realized, being interviewed properly and what not, but eventually we wrapped it up.

Here is a link to the Haaretz article on the net.

And if I may, I'll post the article again here:

American blogger shares insider angle on IDF service

By Raphael Ahren

Serving in an elite combat unit makes moments of respite both brief and precious, yet Danny Brothers, an American immigrant, devotes most of his free time to his blog. In "Israeli by Day, American by Night," Brothers writes about throwing grenades and breathing in tear gas as part of his training, but also describes what it's like to celebrate holidays in the army or to miss a commander. Lengthy explanations about the brigade's inner workings take turns with tidbits about "memorable moments," such as the time a commander barked at a soldier: "Tuck in your shirt and straighten your uniform like an officer in the German army!"

Although Brothers, who immigrated at age 24 in September 2007, only had to do six months of compulsory service, he volunteered for a year and half so he could enter the Golani Brigade. He soon came to the conclusion that Anglo servicemen are much less grumpy than their native Israeli counterparts.

"It may sound weird, but I am surprised at how much these kids complain," Brothers told Anglo File about his comrades in the IDF's premier infantry unit. "I thought Israelis were supposed to be tough, that they never showed weakness. Well, all they do is complain. We work hard, don't get me wrong, but not before trudging through some whining and requesting exemptions for this and that. I feel like the Anglos are much more willing to just shut up and moan inside, as I do all the time. You think I like crawling through thorns? No, of course not, but I didn't come 7,000 miles to get out of the army experience. The Anglos are generally the most motivated group, in my estimation."

Comparing draftees with ideologically-driven volunteers may be problematic, but Brothers is used to saying things on his blog exactly the way he sees them, without always analyzing the deeper context. Right after he completed basic training, for example, he wrote: "Do you have any idea how relieved I am to be done with the high-level discipline crap?"

Brothers grew up in rural Virginia. He graduated from William & Mary in 2007 and was on his way to law school when he came to New York for some interviews and sat down for lunch with a friend's father. During their conversation, Brothers revealed that he wasn't sure whether to proceed with his applications or follow his inner voice and move to Israel.

His father's friend made the decision easy: "He's a successful businessman who had made aliyah long before and returned to America," Brothers said, "and he was really pretty dismissive of the entire [idea to skip law school]. His single-mindedness in building a career really put me off. I ended up canceling all of my interviews and made up my mind to make aliyah."

His army experience has also enjoyed some lighter moments. In a recent post, Brothers described how a sergeant "rewarded" his group, which had worked in the kitchen all day, by sticking a chocolate bar between their teeth and commanding them to go into push-up position.

"'LISTEN UP,' the commander [shouted], 'each up and each down is a mouse bite! What does that mean, you ask? Every time I tell you to go down, you go to the lower push-up position and take a tiny, A TINY BITE! UNDERSTOOD?!' 'Yephss, Cophamnder!' we shouted, or rather garbled loudly. 'Down!' Nibble. 'Up!' Nibble. 'Down!' Nibble. 'Up!' Nibble. Fifteen push-ups later I had finished nearly half the bar, hardly able to continue because of the intense laughter none of us could hold back. The sergeant stood up from his seat and walked in front of us, still on the floor with candy in our mouths. 'Enjoying your treat for hard work?' he asked. 'Aphbsoluthly, Szerghent!'"

Currently, fewer than 150 readers surf to every day, yet Brothers' texts are well prepared and eloquently written. While in the base, he keeps a journal and takes notes. Once he gets to his computer, he expands on them, working hours on each post. "I wanted to write the blog in the first place to show my audience that we have a normal but unique life here," he told Anglo File. "You know when a person is obsessed with something and can't help but singularly talk about that thing? That's me with Israel, so I had to get it out of my system and tell people why I chose to live here instead of the easy luxurious life I had in America."

While the title of Brother's blog indicates that he'd focus on his dual loyalties, most articles deal with day-to-day army life, without dwelling on his special status as a recent immigrant. Yet he's "totally convinced that the commanders treat me better because I'm American," he said. "I don't know if it's because I'm an immigrant, or if it's because I work really hard to make up for my weaknesses" - such as not being fluent in Hebrew and unfamiliar with Israeli culture - "but I think I get better assignments, better guard duty hours, nicer personal treatment and so on." That doesn't mean that they don't believe the IDF is heads and shoulders above the U.S. Army, Brothers added. "I'm not so sure, but I avoid that conversation like the plague."


Rafi G. said...

I saw the article. keep up the good work!

Unknown said...

כל הכבוד! עכשיו אתה מפורסם... עוד מעט תכתוב מאמרים אמיתיים בהארץ?

Naor said...

I have been following your blog here for quite a while Danny. It has great insight and my thanks for putting so much effort into it. After a long process, I decided not to enlist in the US Rangers, and instead I plan on doing the same thing you have, and go to Israel in order to serve. (Golani hopefully!) So reading this gives me a great heads up for whats coming my way! Good luck with the rest of your training! Keep writing, I'm rooting for ya from back in the States!

Abraham said...

Congratulations, sir! I love to read your blog--I'm making the big A as soon as I complete my degree requirements, and I dream of Tzanchanim (I know, not Golani)--and I find every post nut just informative but deeply inspiring.

Rafael said...

Hey! Great news, now you'll become a famous guy! By the way, does anyone in the army knows about your blog? Can it get you in trouble?

Israeli by Day said...

thanks everyone! What is that weird text, marissa?

Abraham & naor - good luck; and keep reading. If you have any specific questions, email me. See my pofile for the address.

Stephanie said...

I'm so proud of you Danny!!! I miss you a lot - stay safe!