Aussie Zionists training to fight for Israel
With the Middle East ceasefire less than a week old, young Jewish Australians are preparing to go to Israel so they can join the army and fight in any future conflict.
These young Australians say they are ready to risk everything to support Israel, and the recent violence has only increased their enthusiasm.
Australia's youth Zionist groups organise activities and Jewish education programs for teenagers in the hope they will actively support Israel.
For young Zionists, the state of Israel is central to Jewish life and there is a long tradition of them leaving home and moving to Israel.
It is called 'making Aliyah'.
In the past four years, more than 400 Australian Jews have made the move and most of them have done compulsory military service.
Reuben Bolaffi oversees Australia's young Zionist groups and he says the recent conflict has strengthened the resolve of young Australian Zionists to support the Jewish homeland.
"People who have the desire to be in Israel, it's not really going to change for them," he said.
"They have a vision of how they want to see Israel, and part of the vision [is] they want to go and build the state to how they want it to be and I think the recent Gaza conflict only increase that desire."
'Risk I have to take'
Ben Milston is one of many young Australian Jews who wants to be a combat soldier in the Israeli Defence Force.
He has started training around Bondi Beach to build up his fitness for what lies ahead.
"I imagine [you need to be] pretty fit. I'm trying to build up strength and core and everything, got to get prepared," he said.
It is an ambition which will put Mr Milston on the front line in an ongoing and bitter conflict.
"It's one of those things; what are you willing to give up and what are you willing to die for?" he said.
"If I saved lives doing what I'd be doing... that's the risk I have to take."
Mr Milston works in a Jewish cafe in Bondi and lives a comfortable life.
What are you willing to give up and what are you willing to die for? If I saved lives doing what I'd be doing... that's the risk I have to take.
Leaving friends and family to take up arms for Israel was not part of his life plan, but a gap year in Israel changed that.
"I guess I realised how comfortable I am being with other Jewish people, other people that might have the same emotions or experiences, in terms of whether or not it's from the Holocaust or whether it's other anti-Semitic things that I've had throughout my life," he said.
"It's just I guess a really nice connection to be with your own people."
That sense of connection is what made Mr Milston decide he wanted to live in Israel permanently and he says that comes with responsibilities.
"If I wanted to live in that country, then I wanted to do my bit to try to defend it as well," he said.
Zionist youth camp
Mr Milston is not alone. There are other young Australian Jews - many of them members of youth Zionist groups - who are also preparing to fight for Israel.
Last weekend around 100 Zionist youth leaders met at a camp near Ballarat in Victoria.
For 20-year-old Sam Gosling, it was the last camp he would attend before leaving for Israel in less than three weeks.
He says he knows he is risking his life.
"I am putting my life on the line for Israel. I've made that decision that it is such an incredible place that I'll join the army for it," he said.
He says it has been a little unsettling watching the recent conflict on television, knowing he is going to be there soon.
"It was a little worrying but really it doesn't change anything. If anything, I want to go there more now that I see other people helping out," he said.
"I'm going because I love the country. My goal is not to change it. I'm going there to really enjoy the country."
Daniel Crook, 24, is another young Zionist about to emigrate to Israel.
Pacifism is central to his beliefs.
"I'm choosing to work towards a reality where violence is no longer an answer and where the IDF may not even need to exist," he said.
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