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In Melbourne Shabbat begins Fri 26 May 2017 04:53 PM and ends Sat 27 May 2017 05:52 PM

Serving in the Kfir Brigade far from home

בס׳ד
כ"ב אלול ה' אלפים תשס"ח

Dan came to Israel to get away from French anti-Semitism. Ronen left Sao Paulo to experience firsthand what the IDF was fighting against in the territories and not to just watch the conflict on Brazilian television. Shraga had just completed a year in a yeshiva here and felt the need to contribute more to Israel before returning to Australia.

From left to right: Ronen Galante, Shraga Aron and Dan Elkaim
Photo: Yaakov Katz

All three are lone soldiers, meaning that unlike most of the IDF they do not have parents in Israel or family to go home to for the weekend.

 

Ronen Galante, 22, moved here four years ago to serve in the IDF. While his friends were beginning their university studies, he was manning checkpoints near Hebron.

He had actually lived in Israel as a young child and even though it took 12 years to return, he never gave up the dream of serving in the IDF, despite his parents' concern. Since making aliya, Ronen has had four friends follow in his footsteps, all slated to join the IDF in the near future.

The desire to serve in the IDF burned in Dan Elkaim from a young age but, he admitted Sunday, the growing anti-Semitism in France and his hometown of Nice was what finally helped him make the decision.

"My friends thought I was crazy," the 21-year-old recalled Sunday. "They are today graduating from university and I still have a year-and-a-half left to my military service."

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Dan initially asked to serve in the prestigious Paratroopers Brigade but when he arrived at the Tel Hashomer Induction Center he was informed that he was being placed in the Kfir Brigade, a unit he had never heard of but quickly learned was made up of six battalions, each responsible for a different area of the West Bank.

There are 180 lone soldiers currently serving in the brigade.

Over the past year, the brigade has come under public criticism after a series of incidents involving the abuse of Palestinians. The most serious took place in the village of Dahariya last year, where a platoon commander commandeered a Palestinian taxi and ordered his soldiers to shoot an innocent Palestinian bystander.

Dan said that he was in shock when his unit was deployed in the West Bank, not due to the abuse of Palestinians but the exact opposite.

"I was shocked how well the Palestinians were treated at the roadblocks," he said. "The soldiers are in a very difficult situation and nevertheless do all they can to treat the Palestinians with respect."

Shraga Aron, 20, said that after being in the IDF for several months he couldn't understand how news stations from his hometown of Melbourne dared to broadcast false information about Israel and the IDF.

"On TV you only see the Palestinian boy and the Israeli tank," he said. "But when you're here, serving in the IDF, you get a better and more real perspective."


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