July 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

A Visit With Eitan, a Nachal Charedi Soldier

I recently had the opportunity to meet with Eitan, a lone soldier visiting the U.S. along with several other young Israeli soldiers who came here to empower the audience at the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces dinner. As a Jewish mother and grandmother who has never had a child or grandchild join the IDF, I felt nothing but great pride when I saw the shining faces of each of the chayalim congregating in the FIDF office.

As I knew that Eitan was charedi, my assumption was that he was a member of a charedi family that probably was not “proud” of the fact that he was in the IDF. It turned out that I was very wrong. Eitan is one of nine children of parents who made aliyah with their then-three children in 1999, when he was 2 years old. Although he did not go to mainstream mamlachti dati yeshivot, he attended yeshivot for classic charedi American kids. He searched for his direction in several yeshivot and realized that he wanted a future and a path that he knew the army could provide for him. His parents did not discourage him from joining the armed forces and, in fact, one of his older brothers joined the IDF as well. Eitan also has a brother-in-law who has received amazing training in the army. All of these -chayalim – are immersed in the Nachal Charedi units of the IDF, where they receive great support from Netzach Yehuda, an organization which works to support soldiers specifically from more observant homes.

There are currently 400 soldiers participating in the Netzach Yehuda programs. Three of the platoons are charedi. Minyanim are conducted each day, all food is mehadrin, one hour per evening is set aside for learning and there are no women working on these bases. In the charedi units, three out of every eight soldiers is a lone soldier. The total number of Lone Soldiers is 6200; 3,348 come from abroad and 823 come from the US, about 25% of the Lone Soldiers from abroad.

Eitan explained that because he never received his Te’udah Bagrut he had much work do scholastically. Most of the young men in the Nachal Charedi are in a similar position. Bagruts, as they are commonly known, are similar to Regents in New York, or to final exams. These young people also have no preparation for SATs, etc. Netzach Yehuda teaches and encourages all Nachal Charedi participants to finalize their education in order to receive their closing Te”udah when they leave the army. Finalizing two years of army service, the young participants spend eight months studying and preparing for their next steps in life. On the battlefield and elsewhere they have seen the most broad spectrum of the technology that the Israelis are so well known for, and many decide to further their education in the field of computers, engineering or database research. Eitan will continue his studies to become a physical therapist. He is trying to decide if he should continue in the army for another year. He is already a sergeant and is considering taking advanced courses.

Continued hatzlacha to Eitan, who displayed a maturity far beyond his years; his pride in what he does is exemplary. His parents have reason to have great pride in him. We all in our wonderful communities should continue to support these amazing young men and women who are doing so much to protect our home.

By Nina Glick

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