1 (from left to right) Yonatan Xue and Gideon Fan, Chinese immigrants and newly drafted IDF soldiers, at Ammunition Hill (courtesy)

(from left to right) Yonatan Xue and Gideon Fan, Chinese immigrants and newly drafted IDF soldiers, at Ammunition Hill (courtesy)

Israel attracts Jews from all over the world who want to connect to Judaism while in their historic homeland. Subsequently, many of them go on to join the IDF to help protect their beloved country.

On 10th of December, on Ammunition Hill – the site of a major historic battle during the Six Day War, two of the IDF’s most unique soldiers were present. The two soldiers-to-be came from the ancient Jewish community of Kaifeng, China. They made aliyah in 2009. I had a chance to speak with Gideon and Yonatan, the two soldiers, who were brimming with excitement and could not contain their enthusiasm for donning the IDF Olive green.

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Draftees waiting for their call at Ammunition Hill (courtesy)

So what brings two young men of such a unique and seldom -heard of community to Israel, let alone the IDF – at the age of twenty six? It turns out that they both have a burning desire to reconnect with their Jewish roots and help their people. They started on this path over 5 years ago.

“We spent the past two years studying in a Yeshiva. We learnt to speak Hebrew and English, thanks to the diverse group of students present there. ” They explained carefully in English. While their Hebrew was fairly decent for new immigrants who spent the past few years living in Israel, their English was the real shocker. It was fairly proficient and quite clean. “We feel more comfortable speaking English because our Hebrew is not yet fluent, but we’re eager to work hard in order to improve our skills. So from now on- only Hebrew”

A soldier from the Nachal brigade checks the draftees’ ID (courtesy)

Right now, based on their age, the IDF’s official requirements ask that they perform half a year of service. However, these young men are determined to pursue a longer track in the army and perform at least a year and a half of service. For reference, Machal volunteers- soldiers who volunteer for service without making Aaliyah- are now required to serve for 18 months, or a year and a half.

When Yonatan made Aliya, he wanted to continue repairing dentistry equipment, which was his profession in China. Now, Yonatan “would be happy with every position granted to me by the IDF. As I am looking into staying in Israel after I finish my service, I think my experience as a soldier can help me truly integrate into Israeli society”, he said.

“I wanted to see if I could continue with my job at repairing dentistry equipment. It used to be my job in China, but I would be happy with every position, granted to me by the IDF. As I am looking into staying in Israel after I finish my service, I think my experience as a soldier can help me truly integrate into Israeli society ” -said Yonatan.

“I am hoping, praying, to get accepted to Golani!”, said Gideon, with a large grin on his face. “This has been my dream ever since I started the process for joining the IDF.”

We wish these boys the best of luck, and if you are an officer in Golani reading this – please help Gideon fulfill his dream!