— Mikey Weiss, Excel Business 2014
Hi Excel family,
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Mikey Weiss (Excel Class of 2014), and following my graduation from Johns Hopkins University in May 2016, I made aliya and enlisted into the IDF in the November 2016 draft. Two months ago, I completed 17 months of training for Sayeret Nachal, the reconnaissance and commando team of the Nachal Brigade, and most recently, begun an almost two-month long sniper course.
I always anticipated the most challenging part of the IDF to be the brutality of training itself. But it’s not. I can tell you with certainty that the hardest parts about serving in the army are emotional and mental. It’s being far away from your family, and after your toughest week yet in the field carrying more than half your body weight across over 100km of Israel’s mountainous terrain and hearing your teammates talk about how excited they are to eat their mother’s schnitzel this coming weekend, knowing that when you get home on the weekend none of that awaits you. Instead, it’s piles of laundry, complicated Israeli bills, and errands to run. And that’s just the tip of it.
If it wasn’t for Birthright Excel, I truly do not know where I would be. My Excel Mentor, Roy Heldshtein, has become my adopted dad here in Israel, his wife has become my adopted mom, and his four beautiful children have become my little brothers and sisters here. The six of them along with their grandparents and relatives have taken me in and consider me one of their own. They’ve given me a room in their home, attended all of my military ceremonies, and continue to visit me on base on the weekends.
Most Israelis will similarly agree that Yom Hazikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day, is one of the most difficult and powerful days of the year. Yesterday, I accompanied my adopted family to the Kiryat Shaul military cemetery in Tel Aviv for the annual ceremony of Yom Hazikaron. It was a powerful portrait: thousands of civilians were interlocked with thousands of soldiers where every beret, insignia and ranking could be spotted. Whether it was a young recruit or a most senior ranking officer, he or she had the same mission: to offer support and strength to those whose loved ones have fallen in the defense of the State of Israel.
While Israelis disagree on literally almost everything, what they uniquely agree on is that their soldiers are their children. I was humbled to be there yesterday; it reinforced my decision to leave so much behind and to put on the same green uniform that I do each and every day.
On Yom Hazikaron we’re reminded of the many lives cut short and sacrifices made that has enabled 70 years of statehood. To the men and women who have fallen and their families who carry forward their legacies each and every day, I salute you.
Mikey Weiss participated in Birthright Israel Excel in 2014. He is a recent graduate of The Johns Hopkins University (May 2016) where he studied International Studies with a concentration in the Middle East and triple-majored in Economics, Islamic Studies and Jewish Studies. He interned with Excel in Investment Banking at Stifel Nicolaus, and prior spent 7-months in Tel Aviv, Israel where he studied at Tel Aviv University and worked at Check Point Software Technologies (NASDAQ: CHKP). In November, 2016 Mikey enlisted in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and currently serves as a Special Forces Combat Soldier in Sayeret Nachal.