Six members of the Class of 2019 at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS) in Rockville, Maryland, will join the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) this summer. National military service is required for all Israeli citizens over the age of 18; but every year, people from countries around the world voluntarily commit two to three years of their lives to the IDF. Some attain Israeli citizenship at the start or after completion of their service.
The six students below recognized different ways their CESJDS education prepared them for this next step in their lives — not least by equipping them with Hebrew language skills.
Omer sees his future in Israel and, for the love of his Jewish homeland, wants to serve in the IDF alongside his peers. He is looking forward to living in Israel for the first time ever and having members of his family so close by.
He is conscious of the fact that many people are not supportive of the IDF’s mission, and wants to see the conflict firsthand rather than solely through the news. Omer feels that CESJDS has taught him to keep an open mind and respect others’ opinions, which will be critical as he embarks on this new experience.
He plans on studying in Israel after his service.
Lily has always felt a connection to Israel, which was strengthened by her involvement in the Israel Club at CESJDS, where she was a very active member and changemaker. She felt inspired by her interactions with lone soldiers, which further propelled her decision to enlist.
She is looking forward to meeting new people, hearing stories from both Israeli nationals and enlistees from around the world, and diving into her work responsibilities. “These types of opportunities are one of a kind, and I can’t get them anywhere else,” she said.
Lily took both the “Modern Israel” and “Arab-Israeli Conflict” classes taught by Aaron Bregman at CESJDS. She feels that these classes gave her a deeper understanding of Israel, and enabled her to form her own opinions of different issues.
An aspiring filmmaker, Lily deferred an acceptance to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Upon completion of her IDF service, she plans to move back to the U.S. to pursue her degree.
Hadas knew as a young child that she wanted to join the IDF post-graduation. Hadas’s brother, Isaac (Class of 2015), enlisted after graduation. As she entered high school and built upon relationships with Israeli relatives, she began to feel the necessity and urgency of joining the IDF.
“Probably what prompted me the most has been knowing that I will be defending my family and my people,” she said.
While moving to a new country is daunting, she feels encouraged and well-supported by the family and friends she has throughout Israel. Hadas is confident that she wants to raise a family in Israel, but is unsure whether she will stay in the country for college or if she will return to the U.S. to attend school and then relocate back to Israel.
Justin grew up in a passionately Zionist household, which instilled him with a deep love for Israel. He remembers visiting Israel from an early age and the feeling he had while looking at IDF soldiers — looking at them as heroes. “After visiting Israel for two months this past summer, I discovered the rich history, beauty, innovations, and more the land has to offer,” he said.
Justin has spoken to numerous alumni who have answered his questions and reinforced his reasons for joining the IDF. A recurring theme of those comments is to never give up and to remember the reason he is there and is needed.
His post-IDF plans are presently open-ended and he will see where his service takes him.
Jonah previously lived in Israel for two years. During his time there, he remembers seeing soldiers wherever he was, and he wants to have the opportunity to defend the people who defended him and everyone in the State of Israel.
“I am looking forward to defending a country that I love and making everlasting bonds with my fellow soldiers,” he said.
Unsure of his post-service plans, Jonah hopes to see how his experiences unfold prior to deciding what to do next.
Eli’s decision to join the IDF was not sparked by a single discussion but instead by a love of Israel and a wish to serve the Jewish state. “I’m looking forward to being in Israel and serving my new community even though I know that the army itself is going to be grueling,” he said.
Eli will make aliyah and plans to stay in Israel after his service.