When an 18-year-old Israeli boy or girl graduates from high school, they know that they are about to give of themselves. They are about to be conscripted into the IDF and be asked to sacrifice the prime years of their life, their “firstfruits,” to the nation of Israel and its defense – three long and challenging years.
In Israel this is our “normal.” From the beginning, the State of Israel has continually faced military and terror threats, hence the mandatory military draft.
However, in the last decade we see a new, further phenomenon. Many of these teenagers who have just graduated from high school are choosing to postpone the army and volunteer for a whole extra year. One of the main ways they do this is with the group Hashomer Hahadash – “the new guard” or “the new keeper.” For a whole year they choose to get up every day before sunrise, work in agriculture, care for flocks and herds during the day, and stay up at night to keep the farmland safe from theft and destruction.