Paul Fix left college after three years to join the Israeli Army.
Would you leave college and a successful college football career behind to serve in the military of a foreign country whose language you don't speak?
Paul Fix did.
With only one year at Franklin & Marshall college left to go, Fix put his studies and football career on hold for four years to serve a full-term in a special operations unit of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).
"Some people help Israel by donating different things or by lobbying Congress," he said. "I felt I could help the country by being a physical body, being a soldier."
South African-born Fix grew up in a modern Orthodox home in Scarsdale, N.Y., where Israel, and a particular affection toward the IDF, held a place of great importance. Fix's South African father tried to enlist in the Israeli army during the 1967 Six Day War only to arrive in Israel after the war ended. Fix's mother became involved with Dogs for Defense, a group raising money to provide the IDF with explosive-sniffing dogs.
"[My parents have] both been huge influences with instilling that Jewish value of loving one another and taking care of one another," he said.
Fix's interest in helping Israel was sparked following a trip to the country at the start of the second Intifada. "I got to experience Israel for myself, without family," he said. "Being so close to the violence really hit me hard." Despite these desires to help, a commitment to finish college kept Fix in the States.
"I knew I had to go to college and get on with my life," he said. "As each football season went on, each semester went on, I simply monitored the situation to see what happened."
It would take another trip to Israel before Fix’s junior year at Franklin & Marshall college to change his mind. "It was three years into the Intifada and the situation was as bad as it had gotten," he said. "After the trip, I went back with a feeling of really wanting and having to do something."
After hearing about a program that sends Diaspora Jews to Israel to volunteer in the army, Fix knew exactly what he had to do. He decided to immigrate to Israel, to make aliyah, so that he could be drafted into the army for a full-term as an Israeli citizen.
So intent was Fix on joining the army that he successfully petitioned to cut in half the year he had to live freely in the country, time he spent on kibbutz Maagan Michael (pronounced Micha-yel) where he learned basic Hebrew and worked in banana fields.
Once in the army, Fix was recruited to serve in an elite special operations unit to combat terrorism. “I wanted to go there and make a difference,” Fix said, "When I left, I could honestly say that because of what my unit and I had accomplished, there were Israelis walking the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv alive."
Fix is a running back for the Franklin & Marshall College football team.
Now 24, Fix has picked up right back where he left off. He has returned to the Franklin & Marshall football team and has been welcomed back into his fraternity Sigma Pi. "Everyone I had gone to school with before had already left," he said. "It was as if I was a freshman coming in as a senior."
Fix tries not to make a big deal out of his experiences, saying he is a typical college kid. "I play football, hang out with friends, go to parties, go to class," he said. "Am I bit older? Yes. But I'm not better than anybody else. Just different."
Though back for only a short time, has he thought about moving back to Israel? "Depending on how my life goes, it’s an absolute possibility," he said. For now, Fix is concentrating on graduating and securing a job “somewhere in the business world.”
Becoming an IDF soldier is not easy, nor is it for everyone. Fix advises interested students to think deeply before following in his bootsteps.
"If you are thinking about it, there is obviously a reason," he said. "Follow your heart."