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New Jersey Teen Tries IDF

Young Judaeans from the US learn what being a soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces means after a month volunteering for two months in the IDF Marva Program.

If they were native-born Israelis, they'd be serving in the IDF. Even though the 300 American and British teens spending the year after high school in Israel aren't drafted, they can experience life inside the army while taking part in the Young Judaea Year Course by opting for an eight-week military volunteer program. That means exchanging jeans for khaki and undergoing boot camp training. They learn shooting, self-defense and navigation in a program called Marva, Hebrew for sage brush.

“Marva was a life altering experience,” said Zoe Goldstein McKay from Medford, New Jersey. “Each person does Marva for a personal reason and based on my own experience, I truly believe that Marva was everything and more than each of us thought it would be. We learned to come together from over 11 different countries speaking different languages, where the only thing in common was that we were all Jewish – and we somehow became a family."

Goldstein liked the variety of activities which included time in the base and the field. “Trying to describe a typical day in Marva, is impossible,” said Goldstein. “Each day brings something new to do. I must confess that one of my favorite days was when we shot our M16s.”

After two months in the army,Goldstein felt stronger physically and emotionally. "But the biggest thing I got out of Marva was my absolute love of Israel."

Photographer: Omer Shalev

(L-R) Dani Battat from Woodbridge, Connecticut, and Zoe Goldstein McKay from
Medford, New Jersey

Jodi Salzberg from West Hartford, Connecticut, receives her Unit Pin at the Marva graduation
ceremony while her friends, Sam Lemelman from Allentown, Pennsylvania, Eddie Allen from
Knoxville, Tennessee, and Ariella Froimzon from Hollywood, Florida, look on

(L-R) Guy Barel from Marietta, Georgia, Yuli Prizant from Fort Lauderdale,
Florida, and Bradley Litt from Balla Cynwyd, Pennsylvania

Sam Wiesenberg from San Diego, California

Year Course Section 3 cheering on their friends

Standing at attention

Ariella Froimzon

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