African American-Israeli Hero in the Israel Defense Forces

It is well known that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the American civil rights leader, was a supporter of the state of Israel. Dr. King once stated that “peace for Israel means security for Israel”.

Graduation form 7th Brigade of the IDF Armored Division

As an African American Jew, I decided to follow in the footsteps of Dr. King by supporting Israel. I made aliyah to Israel and enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

When I first walked into the IDF enlistment center in Jerusalem, the officer-in-charge told me that I was “too old” to enlist in the IDF; since I was 28 years old.

Upon hearing this rejection, I received a letter of recommendation from then Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert. I then wrote a letter to then IDF chief of staff Shaul Mofaz requesting permission to become an IDF soldier. Fortunately for me, General Mofaz helped me enlist in the Israeli army.

I was an IDF soldier from 2000-2005. I served in three units. First, I was accepted to the super-secretive Sayeret Golani commando unit. I then served in the IDF Legal Unit (known as Ha-Praklitut). Finally, I served in the 7th brigade of the Armored Division where I operated the famous Merkava battle tank.

Saluting in front of my “Merkava” tank which I nicknamed “Netanyahu”.

As an African American Jew in the IDF, I was an ambassador for the United States within the Israeli military echelon. Fellow soldiers and officers would ask me questions about famous American celebrities such as: Oprah Winfrey, LeBron James, Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, and Angelina Jolie.

During my time as an IDF soldier, I served during the Second Intifada. I was on the front lines of skirmishes such as the Battle for Jenin.

While in the IDF, I was referred to as “The Black Yonatan Netanyahu” due to my admiration for the late older brother of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

After my separation from the IDF in 2005, I returned to the United States where I enlisted in the United States Army. I received the National Defense Service Medal from the Pentagon in 2006.

At the grave site of my personal rabbi: Elazar Menachem Shach

So, what lessons did I learn from my military service? In short, I learned the Israel must have “peace and security.” I also learned that Israel must remain faithful to the God of Israel. The Israel Defense Forces is a military rooted in the God of the Jewish people.

As I think about my IDF experiences, I am honored and humbled to be part of inner sanctum of Israeli security. My future goal is for director Steven Spielberg to make a feature film about my experiences as an African American Jews in the IDF. The title of the movie should be: “To Israel & Back”.

About the Author
Specialist on Black-Jewish affairs. Former Rabbinical Student: Aish HaTorah Yeshiva Jerusalem and Machon Meir Yeshiva Jerusalem. Former Staff Attorney to Governor of California. Licensed Attorney. Israel Defense Forces 2000-2005. United States Army 2005-2008. Recipient of National Defense Service Medal, 2006. Israel Defense Forces Inspirational Soldier Award.
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