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The Israeli Defense Forces: One student’s decision

Alexandra Doulos, co-Editor-in-Chief

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While most seniors are actively awaiting college acceptance letters and making decisions about which institution they will attend for the next four years, senior Dina Bam had a much larger decision to make: an actual life and death one.  Dina had to decide whether to join the Israeli Defense Forces directly after high school at the age of 18 or to defer her mandatory service.

To be able to keep doing the work it does, the IDF requires military service from all citizens, though it does provide the option of delaying the service.  Dina, a dual citizen of Israel and the United States since birth, speaks fluent Hebrew and has elected to postpone her service even though her “college education would be paid for by the IDF” if she served at 18 years old.

“I will delay until after college because I plan on becoming a nurse, and I believe getting this training will benefit me because I would be able to serve as a nurse in any part of the IDF.”   

Though she is pursuing a college education in the United States, Dina has considered moving to Israel.  “I have considered moving to Israel permanently because of how different and more easy-going life is there. I also feel at home amongst other Israelis and Hebrew speaking people,” she said.  

However, she does not plan on moving yet, which poses a challenge for when she does serve after college.  “Most kids and my friends back in Israel are able to live at home while completing their service, but I would not have that option.”  

Perpetual unrest in the Middle East could deter many Western people from visiting, much less serving in the armed forces in the region, but Dina is not concerned about day-to-day danger.  “I have been to Israel many times and have never personally experienced any violence or acts of terror.”  

On March 9, a Senate committee approved Donald Trump’s pick for ambassador to Israel: his own former bankruptcy lawyer, David Friedman.  Despite his knowledge of, and history with, Israel and the Middle East, Friedman has made racially insensitive and unseemly comments about liberal groups and Jewish heritage in the past, which caused uncertainty regarding his approval.  

“I strongly disagree with both Donald Trump’s involvement in Israeli affairs and the UN’s involvement in regards to Israeli settlements.  I believe America is a good ally for Israel, but sometimes interferes too much with Israeli affairs” Dina said.

Traditionally, the length of compulsory service was three years for men and two years for women.  In July of 2015, the Israeli Defense Forces made a major stride towards equality when they shortened the required time of service for males and increased it for females.  Now, males are required to serve for 32 months while the length of required service for females remains at 24 months.  

“I agree with this decision because I don’t believe males and females should be treated any differently in any regard,” Bam said.    

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, the armed forces are “a highly effective equalizer” in Israeli society because “soldiers often hold ranks not necessarily corresponding with their status in civilian life.”  In fact, many soldiers even extend their required term of service into a full-length career.  However, Dina does not plan on pursuing this route and instead plans on working in a private practice or hospital setting.  

Many military experts cited in The Jewish Chronicle acknowledge the Israeli Defense Forces as the most ethical army in the world after how they effectively handled the crisis in Gaza with minimal civilian casualties.  

“I am proud of the work [the Israeli Defense Forces] have done and continue to do and have heard of many positive effects of people involved in the IDF. Other militaries should take notes.”

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The Israeli Defense Forces: One student’s decision