The Volunteer

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

James McCormick reviews Michael Ross’s The Volunteer: A Canadian’s Secret Life in the Mossad, which certainly sounds interesting:

It all started, as much of life does, with a girl. By marrying an Israeli girl, having a child, working on a kibbutz, learning Hebrew, and converting to Judaism, Michael Ross also took on the obligation of service in the Israeli reserves. In this book, he contrasts his basic training in the Israeli Defense Forces with what he received in the Canadian military. While the Canadian army is professional force with a noticeable distance between officers and men, the reserve forces in the IDF are known by name to their commanders and the men themselves form life-long bonds in the small country. Unbeknownst to most of his Israeli compatriots, however, Michael Ross had already served in Canada’s 2nd Special Service Force… a unit (since disbanded) which provided the bulk of commandos for the Canadian military. While maligned on occasion by Canadian newsmagazines as “lethal Boy Scouts” in comparison to the UK’s SAS, membership in the SSF nonetheless marked Ross as much more than an ordinary young soldier. His strength and exceptional marksmanship soon put him in charge of his platoon’s machine gun, one of three in his 150-man reserve company. With completion of his active service, he was transferred from a “regular combat engineering post” to a demolitions platoon in a reserve unit of the Golani Brigade. Again, this isn’t the mark of a JAG — just another guy. By 1985, he was deployed into south Lebanon for operations to ambush Hezbollah fighters.

Active service in IDF over, he was able to return to his young family and the kibbutz and spend time amongst the orchards and fields tended by his community. It was then he received a nondescript letter from the Israeli government inviting him to interviews for a government job. The interviews were unusual and the questions he was asked appeared aimless at times. His own imminent plans were to head back to British Columbia with his family. He was given a card with a number to call if he was still interested in a job when he returned to Israel.

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