I was asked,”Have you thought about joining the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces)?

And now I have this naked man I met only an hour ago telling me to jump in this pool with him.

Overlooking the West Bank


by Ricky Mulvey

I just got back from the border of Gaza. It’s the second time I have been there in two weeks. I’m a little tired a little stressed and I’ve only been watching it from the sidelines, the cheap seats.

The second time I went to the border, for a sliver of a moment I though Ugh I’m going to this border again. Twice in two weeks. You know, the exact same attitude that someone has when they have to go eat at a Chili’s twice in one week.

I could never imagine going in.

[quote_right]Why not come over here and fight with us?[/quote_right]A few times since I have been over here I have been asked “Have you thought about joining the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces)?” With the kind of tone that suggests You’re an able-bodied Jew living in America. Why not come over here and fight with us?

The pressure is not overt, but it’s hard to explain to these guys that just got out of the army that I very plainly don’t want to. I don’t want to leave my university. I don’t want to pick up all of my stuff and come to Israel for three years. I don’t want to get fluent in Hebrew so I can go in the West Bank and get shot at, get rocks thrown at me, and risk my life for a country that I’m pretty certain I do not want to spend the rest of my life in. Hell, I don’t even want to sit in an office for three years for the army. I’ve been close to Gaza. I do not need to hang out there longer at the moment; thank you very much.

And yet every time I am asked this and I say “not really” I feel like I am commiting a small act of betrayal.


 Rockets straight from Gaza in Sderot

A few days ago I was in the West Bank shooting again– come to think of it I haven’t really been hitting Israel like I should. I’ve been to the Jewish settlements in the West Bank twice and still haven’t been in the Dead Sea.

Anyway, we had a shoot at a settlement and ended up shooting at the Yeshiva (the school where some Jews go to study Torah and its teachings for a lifetime). Holy hell did I feel out of place. All these orthodox Jews studying and discussing Torah (and Midrash), rocking and singing, discussing. It was strange to see and even tougher to sip on a water and act casual. These people are described (broadly) as having the same religion as me and I felt incredibly distant from them

[quote_box_right]A Torah study program brought to you by the Grateful Dead.[/quote_box_right]I kept waiting for one of them to ask me “Hey bud, who do you know here?” At which point I would shrug my shoulders and slowly Cha-Cha Slide my way out.

But they could not have been more welcoming. Sure they had an interest in really getting me into this Torah study thing, but the place ended up having a feeling like a Torah study program brought to you by the Grateful Dead.[quote_left]I have to perform these verbal gymnastics with a 6 foot 5 Orthodox Jew with sideburns (or Payot) dangling over my head.[/quote_left]

It was still intimidating explaining to these Yeshiva guys that we were filming their settlement and what my role was when I wasn’t entirely sure what the story was, and what exactly my role as a “news producer” was there, and I have to perform these verbal gymnastics with a 6 foot 5 Orthodox Jew with sideburns (or Payot) dangling over my head.

Anyway, they didn’t kill me and the it ended with a surprise trip to the Mikvah– a natural water spring/bathing ritual place, where one of the guys decided it was time to skinny dip in front of your old pal Rick and the crew. We just kind of dipped our toes in so we could participate as well.

Little did I know that the proper way was to go in there completely naked.

I thought I was a little uncomfortable before: now I have this naked man I met only an hour ago telling me to jump in this pool with him.

Yeah, I sat that one out.

Life is weird. Israel is weird. I am glad I am here.


Former Loveland Magazine Sports Editor, Ricky Mulvey is in Tel Aviv for two months working for the newswire, NewsHound, and has allowed us to post his blog reports. This is Mulvey’s second trip to Israel, his first was two years ago while still in high school.

You can subscribe, and receive Mulvey’s personal dispatches when he publishes, them at Middle of East.









  1. If you think the nude bathing ritual is weird, check out the Orthodox Jewish “kaparot” ritual performed at Yom Kippur. A live chicken is swung around their head three times while they recite a religious verse, then a rabbi slits the chickens throat and hangs it upside down so that it will slowly bleed to death.

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