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Graduation ceremony
Photo: Avihu Shapira
'Israel is proud.' Karni
Photo: Avihu Shapira
Making aliyah to IDF
Almost 200 soldiers from 30 states finish basic army training, among them former NASA employee

On Monday, 189 soldiers from 30 countries stood in uniform on the parade ground of the Michve Alon military base near Safed.

 

There were almost no guests in the audience, as most of them are lone soldiers who parted from their families in order to join the army ranks.

 

Recently, the IDF has reported a sharp increase in the enlistment of new olim, who do not speak Hebrew, but insist on serving in combat units.

 

In light of a worrying trend pointing to a substantial increase in the number of young Israelis who dodge military service on grounds of religious beliefs, the new immigrants are a beacon of hope.

 

More and more youngsters with academic education have been making aliyah in recent years – and despite their poor language skills - want to serve as combat soldiers, even though some may be well over 24 years-old.

 

Hours before the graduation ceremony, Base Commander Raz Karni entered the company's dining hall. "Who's going to be a warrior?" he asks the fresh soldiers. Only few hands go up in the air. "Combat. Who's going to combat?" one of the commanders quickly rephrases the question. This time, a slew of hands are waved in the air enthusiastically.

 

'Who's going to combat?' Soldiers at ceremony (Photo: Avihu Shapira)

 

"This exactly shows the nature of this group," explained Major Keren Kamerinski, who commands the olim military course, "This young gang is fueled with motivation, and come here to learn everything from scratch. They hardly speak the language, but do not give up on having a significant military service."

 

Learning the ABC's 

Some 400 soldiers stood at the base's parade ground. Alongside the new olim were also soldiers from the Harel Company, whose members have been in Israel for up to ten years. They have relatively good command of the Hebrew language, and therefore came for "only" three weeks of training ahead of their military service.

 

But the newer immigrants have just completed a three-month program, in which they combined practical army training with Hebrew lessons. They also studied about the Israeli mentality and were infused with some zionsm.


Learning about Israeli mentality (Photo: Avihu Shapira)

As part of the program, the soldiers took classes in Jewish identity, the holocaust and Israel's holidays.

 

More than half of the soldiers in the two companies are considered lone soldiers and hail from Russia, the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Cuba, Sweden, Brazil and other countries.

 

One of the program's graduates is 26-year-old Yitzhak Pinhas, who formerly worked for NASA in New Orleans. Pinchas admitted he fulfilled the American dream with "A good job, a house and a dog," but decided to move to Israel and join the army.

 

Looked for a calling. The young soldiers (Photo: Avihu Shapira)

 

"I felt I was missing out on something significant. I think it is important to contribute to Israel, in any way possible," he said.

 

Neumann, 26, was looking for the same calling. He worked for a successful firm in Boston before coming to Michve Alon. He will soon receive his red beret and join the paratroopers unit.

 

Twenty-four-year-old Ashley Fairfield came from England two years ago, and recently married his girlfriend in Jaffa. He felt it was not enough to volunteer with Zionist organizations in the UK, and decided to move to Israel and join the IDF.

 

David Ben Ari, 20, already earned his BA in mathematics and physics from Harvard University. "Now I'm taking some time off to serve in the IDF," he explained.

 

During the graduation ceremony, Lieutenant Colonel Karni addressed the soldiers: "The IDF and the State of Israel are proud of you. You are serving in the army of all people, where there is no distinction between soldiers. It is the army of the Jewish nation, an army that must always remain strong."

 

 

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