9 reasons why I want to enlist in the IDF (and a few questions I still have)

Although the army is extremely challenging on a personal level, it’s an obstacle that I won’t go through alone.
IDF Infantry Instructors pose for a photo after completing their training on December 4, 2006. (Photo courtesy: IDF)

I’ve known my entire life that I will eventually end up in Israel, but it was only recently that I decided I want to enlist in the IDF.

As a senior in high school, I’ve spent the past couple of months applying to colleges and seminaries for a gap year in Israel, which has given me an opportunity to reflect on my future.

I’ve decided to enlist in the IDF after a gap year, and eventually make aliyah and move my life from South Florida to Israel.

Serving in the canine unit “Oketz” or becoming a fitness trainer are two possibilities I’m considering, although I cannot say for certain what role I want to have. What I do know is that I have enough reasons to join the IDF and make aliyah even though I still have many concerns and fears. 

1. My brother inspired me.

In the fall of 2020, my older brother officially enlisted as a lone soldier in the Israeli Defense Force. Toward the end of his service, the Hamas-Israeli conflict increased to an all-time high, tip-toeing on the brink of war. 

His paratrooper unit was sent as the first line of defense — 1 kilometer from the Gaza border — and he told my family he would have little to no contact with us for the next week or so. 

As much as my family and I were terrified for his well-being, I’m sure it didn’t even compare to how he was feeling. However, he managed to put on a brave face and tried to downplay the gravity of his situation in order to reduce my family’s uneasiness. 

Thankfully, tensions eventually decreased and he was able to return home safely. However, the pride my family has for him has yet to diminish. Although being a soldier can be an extremely frightening responsibility, I hope to follow in my brother’s courageous and selfless footsteps. 

2. I’m passionate about fitness and eager to challenge myself. 

IDF Infantry Instructors pose for a photo after completing their training on December 4, 2006.

Fitness is a huge part of why I want to join the IDF. Between soccer training, volleyball practice, weight-lifting, and even simple runs around my block, staying active has always been a priority for me. 

I genuinely enjoy challenging myself and pushing my boundaries. I know that training and serving in the army will push my limits both physically and mentally. As daunting as this is, I’m excited to tackle those obstacles head first. 

3. Enlisting in the IDF is a step toward making aliyah.

Although I’ve only ever lived in North America, when I think about where I see myself getting married and raising a family, Israel is the only place that comes to mind. Not only is the land itself beautiful, but the entire environment is where I feel the most at home. 

I love the feeling I experience in Israel of being surrounded by Jewish culture and community. With my grandparents and many aunts and uncles already there, my parents are currently counting down the days until they can make aliyah as well. 

However, I would be lying if I said moving to a foreign country on the opposite side of the world isn’t completely terrifying. But my hope is that the army will improve my Hebrew skills so that the language barrier won’t be as big of an issue. I also hope it will help me become acculturated to life in Israel. 

4. I am eager to break boundaries and prove myself.

So far, the most common response when I tell people that I plan on going to the army has been something along the lines of: “That’s nice, but let’s see if it actually happens.” 

With their half-hearted smiles and incredulous faces, it’s clear that many people refuse to believe that I, as a girl, will actually make it to the army.

Little do they know that women make up 40% of conscript soldiers in the IDF, and that there has been a 250% rise in the number of women serving in combat units over the past six years.

The reactions of disbelief have motivated me even more: I want to prove to both myself and others that I can do it. In fact, the first Unpacked video I ever watched was “The Wonder Woman of the IDF,” which further motivated me to reach my goals. I hope to one day be one of those few female faces that appear as the superheroes of the army.

5. I can achieve something meaningful and impactful. 

Next year, I am spending a gap year in Israel, studying in seminary. My year will be focused on personal growth and development, and will be a time of self-discovery. 

There is so much I hope to get out of my gap year, and I hope that joining the army will allow me to continue in my journey of self-accomplishment and growth. 

My only reservation is that my goals and values may shift after my year in seminary which may affect how I see my future playing out. There is a possibility the IDF will no longer coincide with where I see my life going after seminary. 

As of right now, though, I am eager to achieve something meaningful and know that I will feel so accomplished after my service. I’ll just have to wait and see what the future holds. 

6. I want to serve and protect the Jewish state. 

Although this is the most cliché reason I have for joining the army, it is definitely not the least valuable or sincere. I have felt a strong connection to Israel as the Jewish homeland for my entire life, so it only made sense for me to feel protective of it. 

I want to do my part in the land and contribute to its security. As a teenager living in America, I have not been able to give back to Israel in a significant way. When I have the opportunity to be part of something important that will benefit my homeland, there’s no hesitation. 

7. I look forward to making lifelong connections.

Female infantry instructors take a break from their intensive course in southern Israel on August 3, 2011. (Photo courtesy: Israel Defense Forces)

Throughout my life, I have moved to new houses, states, and even countries almost 10 times. My favorite part of each move was meeting new people and making new friends. I couldn’t imagine my life today without the connections and friendships I’ve made in each place. 

Although the army is extremely challenging on a personal level, it’s an obstacle that I won’t go through alone. I know that the people who I will meet during my service will be in my life long after my service ends. 

For at least 18 months, these people will become my comrades, my allies, my family. They will be there for me when my family across the world cannot physically. And for that, I will be extremely grateful for the lifelong connections that I will form. 

9. I will learn many new and valuable skills. 

There’s no doubt that I will learn many new skills in the army. Just learning how to get ready in the morning in under 5 minutes will be a huge life improvement from my current 20-minute routine. 

Beyond that, the discipline and the life skills that I’ll learn will 100% translate into the rest of my life, and will help me become a more experienced and well-rounded person. 

10. Olive green has always been my favorite color.

Although enlisting as a lone soldier in a foreign country with no immediate family and a different language is a pretty scary idea, at least I know that the olive green uniforms will bring out my eyes. 

Green has always been my favorite color (just take a look in my room and I think my giant green wall will give it away). So, even if all else fails and the army turns out to be different from what I thought it would be, at least I can walk away proudly making a fashion statement. 

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