Jerusalem - He actively demonstrated against the State of Israel as a child, burning Israeli flags and criticizing the IDF, but today Zalman Schwartz is a 22 year old member of the Israel Border Police who has successfully foiled a terror attack.
In an interview with Yediot Aharonot (http://bit.ly/2KlUk3c), the 22 year old Schwartz said that he grew up in Monsey as a member of the Neturei Karta community. He and his friends were educated to be anti-Israel, and told that it was forbidden to Jews to live in Israel or for the IDF to even exist.
While Schwartz said that he had a happy childhood, he felt that like a stranger in his own community. By age 14 he took his first steps towards the outside world, eventually abandoning his religiosity as well. Five years later, Schwartz moved to Israel, ultimately enlisting with the Israeli police.
“I had been raised to hate Israel but when I came here I realized that everything they had told me about the country was far from the truth,” said Schwartz. “I came to the Kotel and saw how they soldiers stood there and how Jews of every type flocked to the holy site and I wanted to be a part of it.”
Having personally disarmed a knife-wielding terrorist just moments before a planned attack, Schwartz said that his most trying moments as a member of the Border Police have come during demonstrations staged by the Charedi community.
“They spit at me, scream at me and curse me and sometimes I think that I was one of them and any one of them could by my younger brother or nephew,” said Schwartz. “It hurts so much to realize that people are living with hatred for others who bear them no ill will at all.”
Schwartz said that he never dreamed that he would one day become a member of the Israeli military, a role that fills him with tremendous satisfaction.
“I know so many others who left the community with me and their lives are very different than mine,” said Schwartz. “I wake up every day and instead of putting on my uniform of black and white, I proudly wear my police attire. With everything that happens in Jerusalem, I am proud to be the person who provides the security that allows others to walk around freely. It is the best feeling in the world.”
Schwartz in his teenage years in Monsey
Schwartz hopes that his story will enlighten others and make them realize that even those who have vociferously opposed Israel can still be welcomed home and even find their place in the Israeli military.
“I want them to know that they will be accepted here,” said Schwartz. “They have no reason to be afraid and should follow their hearts.”
Click to read the full story, in Hebrew,