IDF-bound: 125 New Immigrants from North America to Join the IDF

The youngsters who decided to immigrate to Israel through Nefesh B’nefesh will participate in the special Garin Tzabar program, as the largest delegation since the program’s start. Most of the new recruits will serve in combat units.

More than a hundred future recruits to the IDF landed at Ben Gurion Airport Tuesday (August 14). The 125 future recruits arrived as part of a delegation of 331 new North American immigrants who immigrated together with the help of the Nefesh B’Nefesh organization. Among the future recruits are 63 boys and 62 girls ranging between the ages of 18 and 22.

Members of the Garin Tzabar program saluting before their flight on Monday. (photo credit: Shahar Azran/Nefesh B'nefesh)

Members of the Garin Tzabar program saluting before their flight on Monday. (photo credit: Shahar Azran/Nefesh B’nefesh)

Immediately following their disembarkation from the plane, the new immigrants were welcomed at a special ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport. Over a thousand special guests and well-wishers came to welcome and celebrate the new immigrants and future soldiers, including Head of the IDF Manpower Directorate, Maj. General Orna Barbivai, Absorption Minister Sofa Landver and Minister of the Interior Gideon Sa’ar.

The Garin Tzabar program

Garin Tzabar is a unique project that began in 1991 in cooperation with the Israeli Scouts (Tzofim) and the IDF Education and Youth Corp, supporting Jews and young Israelis living abroad who were interested in moving to Israel and serving in the IDF.

The program begins before the future soldiers arrive in Israel. While still in North America, they begin to meet with their “garin” or seed – a term used in Israel for a group of soldiers who go through their military service together as a social unit. A garin will function either by living together, or by simply being a group that can act as an extended family and support group.

Before coming to Israel, the group meets for preparation seminars throughout the year, during which all issues pertaining to the move to Israel are discussed and reflected upon. Preparations include studying the cultural, political and social characteristics of Israel and a thorough introduction to the IDF and its social role in Israeli society. Each individual is encouraged to undergo a personal process of maturation towards moving to Israel and joining the IDF.

Once in Israel,  the participants are usually given accommodations in kibbutzim for the duration of their military service, where they can continue to be with their garinim

The number of teens joining the program as well as the number of Garin Tzabar soldiers taking on commanding positions increases every year. This year saw the largest number of recruits join the IDF through Garin Tzabar – an impressive 350 soldiers came through the program.

The vast majority of Garin Tzabar members seek to serve in combat units: for the men, there was high demand for elite units that require extended service, including Duvdevan, Sayeret Matkal, Shayetet 13, paratroopers, elite paratroopers and the pilots’ course. Women tended toward service in such areas as the Oketz, medics course, education instructors, and shooting instructors.

Though the future soldiers will be far way from home, they will not be on their own. They will receive assistance during their military service from Nefesh B’Nefesh, Garin Tzabar, the Ministry of Absorption, Friends of the IDF (FIDF), the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund.