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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A couple of months ago I asked a friend of mine whose daughter had just made Aliyah right out of high school if she would be interested in writing about her experiences. - EoZ

I begin writing this while chilling in my Youth Village apartment where I currently live with my international contingent of flatmates. It is 6:23am and I've been up for a while since I was unable to sleep last night. After two months since my Aliya flight, all of this is only now starting to be common and ordinary. Getting to this point was a long and convoluted journey.

My whole life I knew that after finishing high school, I would go directly into the IDF. I always felt that I had an equal obligation to everyone my age living in Israel and coming up in the United States was no excuse. I was born to Jewish parents therefore I must serve in my homeland. My father served in the Nachal brigade as a lone soldier and I looked up to him my whole life and respected him for his service.

At the beginning of 12th grade I began looking into different options for me to make Aliyah and draft into the army in "the best way possible". I discovered a program through Nefesh B'Nefesh called Garin Tzabar. It is a program for Olim who are drafted into the army. There are about 80 18-24 year old men and women, religious and secular, from any of a dozen countries, living here. We have ulpan in the morning and army preparation activities in the afternoon. We are given a tremendous amount of support and our group has become a family.

Now moving back I mentioned this journey wasn't simple and that is because when I originally applied for Garin Tzabar, in October of 2015, I had never been to Israel, my Hebrew level was quite poor, and I was 16 at the time of application. After interviewing with the East Coast coordinator it was clear all of these were issues. I was rejected.

I was quite disappointed. However I still knew this program would be the best plan for me and I set about to do what is necessary to meet its requirements.

In January of 2016 I took my first trip to Israel with my mother. It was an incredible trip and afterwards I was 100% certain that Israel is the only place for me to live. The whole year I stayed in touch with the coordinator pushing him politely and reminding him of my existence. In September of 2016 I reapplied to Garin Tzabar and booked my second trip to Israel. This time I participated in Sar-El, a volunteer program on an army base. While in Sar-El I was given the IDF uniform to wear which got me excited for my future.

Upon returning home I had my first Garin Tzabar weekend seminar in the US. I met an amazing group of people and knew I had to be a part of it. I impatiently waited but eventually I got the letter informing me I was invited to the second seminar. At the second seminar I was interviewed by a highly ranked army officer which was quite intimidating. A few days after the second seminar I finally received the letter informing me I was accepted into the program. This news came December 7th 2016, exactly three weeks before my Aliyah flight.

That Aliyah flight is a whole other story because like all the bureaucracy in Israel it was a long and grueling process. I won't bore you with the details but in short all the issues centered around my age. I wanted to make Aliyah as soon as possible upon graduating from high school but as a November baby I had to wait until I turned 18.

Fortunately everything worked out for the best. I have an amazing support system and have met incredible people. I will be drafting into a more intensive army ulpan in April. After this I plan on drafting into palchatz (search and rescue), a unit that I believe suits me well and will enhance my service.

I want to write about my experiences because I hope my story inspires you. Maybe not to join the IDF,  but perhaps to take on one thing for the state of Israel and for the Jewish people.

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.


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